Eye For Film >> Movies >> Seoul Station (2016) Film Review
A prequel to the hugely popular Train To Busan, Sepul Station has an eager audience guaranteed. Some viewers, however, are likely to be put off by the fact that it's animated. They shouldn't be. This is one of the strongest zombie films for years.
Can a zombie film really work in animated form? Perhaps not if, like many, it sells itself primarily on blood and gore, but Seoul Station has a lot more going on upstairs. It also communicates exhaustion and the lasting impact of falls, bruises and other minor injuries far more effectively than most action films, thanks to Sang-ho Yeon's direction and some superb voice acting work (dubbed versions should not be accepted). This is important to its underlying themes - it's also one of the most political entries in the genre for a long time.
Yeon has said that he wanted to tell stories about Seoul Station through this film, and despite the framing, those stories have powerful real world relevance. They're also universal - one can find populations like these in and around stations in major cities all around the world. As such, they imply that the central story is one that could take place anywhere. A homeless man, bitten by something, ignored by passers-by, unable to get medical help in a shelter because of the defensive hostility of its established residents, dying in the street - and coming back. Disease or revolutionary sentiment breeding among the neglected, suddenly exploding. Is there a point at which the struggle to remain human becomes too much? However we interpret it, it's bigger than the individuals affected, and it's out of control.
Caught up in all this is teenager Hye-Sun, a runaway living with a boyfriend who can't make the rent, enough for anyone to deal with without a zombie outbreak too. She's been running from her troubled past or a long time and now she must also run from the living dead. Along the way she is forced to throw in her lot with strangers, not knowing who will help her and who may wish her harm. As others search for her, she must constantly keep moving just to stay alive - an experience that the homeless people running alongside her know well.
Into this larger story, Yeon has woven a myriad little stories, told obliquely in passing. Again and again, we witness the kind of mental health problems that have led people into destitution, and the fragility of commitment among many better off people who like to see themselves as helpful. Given greater force by a sucker punch of a twist near the end, these stories combine to make this one of the bleakest genre films ever made. Its essential grimness never makes it frustrating or slow, however. Yeon is a master of building tension and despite the simplicity of some aspects of the animation it's easy to get sucked in and feel real fear for the characters.
Seoul Station is a superb piece of work which blurs lines between Them and Us in complex ways, breathing new life into the undead in the process. It deserves a wide audience.Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2017