Film reviews

Film review: Seoul Station – animated prequel to Train to Busan is a message-driven horror flick

Director Yeon Sang-ho addresses his country’s class issues, rampant misogyny and heavy-handed use of the military through this animated zombie prequel

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 8:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 October, 2017, 11:48am

3/5 stars

Hot on the heels of monster hit Train to Busan, which is on track to become the most successful Asian film of all time in Hong Kong, it’s no surprise that director Yeon Sang-ho’s small-scale animated prequel to his zombie-infested juggernaut is getting a release in this city.

Similar in tone and style to Yeon’s hard-hitting animated dramas The King of Pigs and The Fake, Seoul Station follows a handful of ne’er-do-wells existing on the fringes of society as they become embroiled in a zombie outbreak at the South Korean capital’s central transport terminus.

Train to Busan is highest-grossing Korean film in Hong Kong box office history

Like all the best horror films, the grisly events unfolding onscreen are merely a cypher through which the filmmaker can address prominent social issues. After tackling bullying within the education system and corruption in religious institutions in earlier films, Seoul Station sets its sights on Korea’s classist prejudices, rampant misogyny, as well as the heavy-handed manner with which the government wields its military.

Seoul Station follows the fates of a former prostitute (voiced by Shim Eun-kyung), her loathsome boyfriend (Lee Joon), brutish father (Ryu Seong-ryong) and a desperate vagrant (Jang Hyuk-jin) over the course of an increasingly chaotic night. A mysterious virus spreads like wildfire through the city’s homeless community, culminating in a stand-off at the eponymous station.

Film review: Train to Busan – Yeon Sang-ho’s inventive zombies-on-a-train thriller is just the ticket

Yeon employs a number of familiar genre traits along the way, including rooftop chases, military blockades, and slow-working bite wounds, but never quite reaches the energetic enthusiasm of Train to Busan. Seoul Station is always looking to lash out at the establishment and condemn the authorities for their treatment of the underclass, resulting in a bleak yet beautifully executed mix of message-driven drama and somewhat by-the-numbers horror flick.

Seoul Station opens on September 22

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook