I’ll take you to mom no matter what.
The first twenty minutes of Train to Busan is excruciatingly anxiety-inducing. The introduction of its main characters while giving brief glimpses of foreshadowing as they get aboard the titular train is nerve wracking. It makes the film much more believable and terrifying later on as the characters are established formally with ordinary backgrounds.
The zombie outbreak acts as a catalyst for the human psyche to undergo stress and force people to make decisions. The central characters are ordinary citizens living in society, and they are handled in a realistic way. They aren’t suited for a disaster of this kind. They make decisions, sometimes decisions that make the audience frustrated, sometimes decisions that make the audience relieved, but these decisions are built on realism. They develop as characters throughout the course of the film, giving them a layer of depth and sincerity despite the adrenaline-filled pacing of the movie. The film manages to give a sense of realism that is surprising given the nature of its premise, and, despite the many significant and equally sad deaths of certain characters, manages to give them life and a personality that goes beyond their initial impression. This helps in elevating the drama from being bland and typical. While it is predictable, it is coming from a place of credibility established earlier on from the ordinary backgrounds of the characters making it all the more sorrowful.
The movie’s usage of tight claustrophobic spaces is exceptional and make the film much more terrifying as hoards of zombies come toppling over themselves trying to get to the train’s remaining passengers. Even when the movie shifts into the external space outside the train, it never goes so far beyond its main setting. The surviving passengers are holed up in the confines of a tight mobile setting, heading for who what seems to be the said safe haven. The only problem is that they’re stuck with their undead friends, only being separated by a sliding glass door, which makes the act of imagining yourself in that situation even more terrifying.
Train to Busan is a zombie movie that goes above and beyond its premise. It still very much follows a typical format for a zombie movie with a few of its own little quirks, but it distances itself away from the formula by establishing characters that are easy to like and understand and a story that moves, literally and figuratively, as the train heads towards a safe haven. Executing a terrifying concept and giving it a human-like charm, Train to Busan is arguably the perfect, if not, the closest to being a perfect zombie film.