As Train To Busan continues on its unwavering course to gather fans and box office revenue, writer / director Sang-ho Yeon releases his second zombie-epidemic-horror-thriller in a year, Seoul Station. Filmed in real terms before the frantic Train To Busan, this film serves as an animated prologue of sorts, reflecting events directly before the latter’s dramatic departure, and focussing on Yeon’s continuing interest, and comment, on South Korea’s social situation.
Much smaller in scale, Seoul Station begins in the titular terminus as an old homeless man staggers to his regular evening spot. Bloody and ill, he is dismissed as just another “stinky homeless guy”, as the man’s younger brother strives to find help but is met with sniffy resentment from the police and social workers. Predictably, the old man soon turns into a ravenous fiend and the outbreak is underway.
Following on from his earlier work The King Of Pigs and The Fake, Yeon doesn’t hold back with his political views. The central story of Seoul Station involves a dysfunctional family unit comprising a reformed brothel worker, her low-life boyfriend whose idea of support is to pimp her online, and her vengeful, over-protective father. As the outbreak spreads, it is the journey of these three characters across Seoul that pushes the narrative along, as they encounter various disparate groups struggling for survival. Only in the final act does Yeon finally reveal his cards as government forces seek to contain both the increasing number of zombies and the rising unrest in the city’s residents.
Not as thrillingly, exhaustingly engaging as Train To Busan, Seoul Station is an interesting work in its own right as it establishes, with less subtlety, themes present in both films. A fractious, unfair class system is laid bare as the protagonists struggle to survive when battling against the social disease of a zombie infection without assistance, and often with active obstruction, from those empowered to provide it. The messages and morals are clearly written, in bold and underlined, and yet never does Seoul Station feel like an inescapable lecture. The characters are given depth despite the brevity of their screen time, with the motivations of each clear if often abhorrent. Hope still exists, but is extinguished before it can really provide any respite from the suffering.
As a standalone film, Seoul Station is both interesting and entertaining, but it is as a companion piece that it really finds its place. If you haven’t yet seen Train To Busan – and, honestly, why haven’t you? – seek out this animated accompaniment, set an evening aside, and settle down for a true cinematic double-bill.
SEOUL STATION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SANG-HO YEON / STARRING: RYU SEUNG-RYONG, SHIM EUN-KYUNG, LEE JOON / RELEASE DATE: 3RD APRIL