As a zombie virus surges through the homeless community of Seoul Station and soon spreads to the city, a former prostitute tries to survive in the rapidly escalating chaos, while her would-be pimp boyfriend and anxious father search for her in the blood-and neon-soaked streets of the South Korean capital as swarms of ravenous undead continue to rise.
Like Yeon Sang-ho’s debut feature The King of Pigs (which premiered in the UK at EIFF four years ago, unfortunately marred by atrocious subtitling), Seoul Station delves into the darkened recesses of human nature, unflinchingly laying bare the results of our basest instincts. As a zombie movie it also continues the tradition began in Romero’s classics, using its themes to make observations about the human condition, in this case the way we often perceive others as lower in the natural order and thus place greater value on certain lives due to merely their place in society.
Had the infection not originated amongst the homeless it might well have been identified and dealt with far sooner, but as homeless are often treated as a tolerated blight whose presence people are consciously aware of but at the same time pointedly ignore, the spread of the infection goes unchecked until it’s too late. Where and how the initial victim was bitten is never revealed; he only appears staggering down the street with a bloodstained bite wound, people soon walking past him bleeding out in the gutter without acknowledging him or giving him a second thought.
The animation is at its most impressive in the realisation of the undead. With stretched translucent skin scored with black veins and bloodshot feral eyes wide and unblinking, they are nightmares made flesh, and one chilling moment in particular sees a horde turns as one to glare impassively at a riot squad, pausing almost for dramatic effect before descending on them in a flail of snarling hunger. To make them more of a horrifying threat, they are not traditional zombie movies’ shambling corpses but the sprinting bloodthirsty rage monsters of the likes of 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake.
For much of the film there are no true heroes or villains, just desperate people trying to survive in a city that won't help them, in this regard much like the existences homeless people live every day. It’s also no accident that the main character was previously a prostitute, someone whose plight would have gone equally unnoticed by the masses.
When a large group of survivors is located, they are found cloistered behind a makeshift barricade, their route to freedom obstructed by a blockade of police buses. Their desperate and frustrated shouts for help are treated like the actions of rioters, with the authorities either unaware or uncaring of the true nature of the situation (and either way would likely have reacted the same).
Seoul Station is first and foremost an animated zombie movie – and a pretty damn good one at that – but its seething contempt at the way the underclass of Korean society is treated (which could also be applied to any country in the world) elevates it even higher.
SEOUL STATION / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: YEON SANG-HO / STARRING: SHIM EUN-KYUNG, RYU SEUNG-RYONG, LEE JOON / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10