Train To Busan prequel bites into Seoul's soul
SEOUL STATION (NC16)
Drama / 92 minutes / Opens today
THE animation feature Seoul Station is the smart, scary, breathlessly paced prequel to the smash hit Train To Busan (2016) and also the stronger of the two.
In Train To Busan, South Korean writer-director Yeon Sang Ho put the focus on a family unit on the run. In this look at the origins of the zombie plague, the city of Seoul is the real disease; the rise of the undead is simply a symptom.
The story takes place over one night. As the homeless find rest on concrete pavements, one among them, an old man, is sick and blood-spattered.
His mentally disabled brother begs for help, but the city's gatekeepers - the police, doctors and pharmacists - see him as a nuisance; the death of a homeless man means nothing.
The maze of streets and underground stations becomes both a refuge and a hazard for teenage runaway Hye Sun (voiced by Shim Eun Kyung), who has to fight the biters as boyfriend Ki Woong (Lee Joon) criss-crosses the metropolis looking for her.
Film-maker Yeon's pessimistic take on human nature in the face of a catastrophe will feel familiar to Singaporeans. During the Sars outbreak, infected persons refused to quarantine themselves.
When Zika appeared, hoarders swept the pharmacies clean of repellent and sold them online at a mark-up. Same with masks during the worst of the haze.
Yeon's lack of faith in humans never sinks into cheap nihilism, however; this is not a midnight-madness gore flick where death is treated flippantly. There are as many flashes of altruism as there are acts of selfishness; these courageous acts keep Hye Sun alive.