Sunday, December 18, 2016
"Busan-haeng" is South Korea's offering to the zombie-horror genre. In terms of shamblers versus runners, the film's zombies are runners. Part horror, part action, part disaster movie, "Busan-haeng" is watchable but painfully predictable, with an undistinguished musical score punctuating the proceedings (I keep waiting for a great Korean film composer to appear). As a disaster film, "Busan-haeng" isn't very deep on characterization; we learn barely enough about the main characters to feel some twinge of sympathy for them when they die. The story follows a selfish, divorced father (Gong Yoo) and his daughter (Kim Su-an) as the daughter insists on taking the KTX bullet train to Busan to see her mother because it's the daughter's birthday. As father and daughter board the train, a zombie apocalypse hits the entire peninsula, with one infected woman managing to get aboard without being noticed. You can imagine the rest from there: we meet other characters, then watch them get whittled away, one by one. The movie tries for moral commentary about not being selfish; it also has unkind things to say about rapacious corporate bigwigs who will sacrifice everyone around them to stay alive (one particularly unsavory character felt like a sly nod to Burke from "Aliens"). What makes "Busan-haeng" unique among zombie flicks is its total lack of blades and bullets. In this movie, you fight the zombies with your fists, your feet, and maybe with a baseball bat. Not a single shot is fired; not a single beheading-by-machete occurs. This being a Korean movie, there's plenty of screaming and crying and swelling, sentimental music by the end. "Busan-haeng" somehow enjoys a solid 72 over at Metacritic, as well as an incredible 95% at Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe it's that I find all zombie movies hilarious and not a bit scary, but I didn't think the movie deserved that sort of acclaim. Maybe I'm the zombie.