SEOUL STATION (2016)
Starring Seung-ryong Ryu, Franciska Friede and Joon Lee
Written & Directed by Sang Ho-Yeon
OUT NOW on UK DVD & Blu-Ray from Studiocanal
“Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul“.
Let’s get this out of the way. I have a confession to make.
I still haven’t seen Train to Busan.
I get it, every other horror fan in the whole entire universe has seen it and raved about it, I’ve seen the trailer and it kicks ass, and as far as I know it’s been available in the UK for a while. I just haven’t gotten round to it, I’m going to soon, I swear. Stop giving me evils. Stop the hate mail. I will watch it eventually.
“So why the hell would I want to review the prequel?” I hear you ask. Well, after a quick bit of research I discovered the animated Seoul was actually made before the live action Busan, yet released later. This is only after a google search so may not be true, but I thought this must be more than a cash in like expected, and I really wanted another good zombie movie.
And let me just say, animated or not, Seoul Station is a VERY good zombie movie.
Seoul Station unfolds predominantly from the point of view of four characters: young runaway prostitute Hye-sun; her useless computer geek boyfriend Ki-Woong; Hye-sun’s desperate father Suk-Kyu; and a nameless vagrant who is desperately trying to get help for another homeless man, who happens to be patient zero…
Just from the brief character descriptions you can see that Seoul Station is not interested in conventional heroes. Everyone here is damaged, even if they don’t at first appear to be. They are each victims of society before the zombie outbreak, and this is shown best in the early stages as we see seoul Station as a nocturnal haven for the most desperate of society. Homeless, the mentally ill, all abandoned and left to suffer in the building. It’s because these people are ignored by society, the film suggests, that the outbreak is allowed to spread so quickly. Like the best of Romero, Seoul Station effortlessly provides a fascinating social commentary, and goes to some very dark places indeed to make it’s point.
But skillfully the film never becomes preachy or stops in it’s tracks to relay anything too heavy handed. One big difference compared to the low-budget Romero flicks of the past is the set pieces, no doubt helped largely by the freedom being an animated movie allows. Ho-Yeon creates some truly imaginative and visually arresting sequences, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before. Moreover, he truly “gets” zombies, and their behaviour, their expressions of pure hunger, are something to behold. As is the gore, which is plentiful and rightly so.
While I doubt the story is as propulsive and energetic as Train to Busan, which I’ve heard described as a rollercoaster, Seoul Station is still a finely paced dramatic horror that milks it’s situation for every bit of action, tension, terror and subtext it can. It often feels choreographed, almost like a dance, the result of a filmmaker using everything in his toolbox.
After this, Ho-Yeon went onto make Busan, his first live-action feature, and if he’s taken half the craft he displays here with him, well, I’m not surprised it’s gone down so well.
Any complaints are very minor. The score is a little non-descript and doesn’t always compliment events onscreen. Also, some of the animation can be a little rough around the edges. But it’s nothing really.
A dark hearted and socially aware thriller interrupted by the relentless undead, Seoul Station is an excellent zombie movie, and I can’t wait to see how it plays alongside Train to Busan.