Last year’s thrilling ride, Train To Busan was one of the best horror films of the decade – fast paced, emotional and packed an incredible punch. Alas it wasn’t going to be long until Busan’s prequel; the animation, Seoul Station was to be released. Also by director, Yeon Sang-ho, Seoul Station looks at what happened in the world before the zombie infestation of Busan.
Sadly it doesn’t necessarily have the same excitement or interesting characters that Busan had but perhaps this viewing wasn’t aided by the fact that Seoul Station was watched so long after Busan. It really is worth considering this film as its own entity – something separate so that your expectations aren’t too high.
From the off it is worth nothing that Seoul Station looks incredible – the colours are vibrate, the action is plentiful and the zombies themselves look horrifying. The film is a smaller affair as it takes place in and around the synonymous station – starting with a homeless man collapsing (ultimately the catalyst for the infestation) whilst two younger guys talk about the merits of universal healthcare. Yet they ignore the man on the floor and write him off as a “stinky homeless guy”. From the off Sang-ho is letting the audience know this isn’t a straight forward horror story but instead deals with some of the social ambiguities and inequalities in Korean society. After being ignored by social workers and the police, the man soon turns savage and the action truly begins.
With this as the background to the storytelling – Sang-ho then introduces the central three characters; Hye-Sun (Shim Eun-kyung), Suk-gyu (Seung-ryong Ryu) and Ki-woong (Lee Joon). Hye-Sun has recently run away from her life at a brothel and is now living with her down and out boyfriend, Ki-woong. The best idea he can come up with to make money is to pimp out his girlfriend on the internet. They separate after an argument near the station but just as the blood thirsty outbreak is about to start Ki-woong meets Suk-gyu, Hye-Sun’s father who has been searching for her. The pair then have to try and save Hye-Sun before it is too late.
As everyone tries to save themselves and flee, they discover what the authorities have put into place and find themselves up against barricades manned by soldiers with tanks and ammunition.
It makes sense to see what was going through Sang-ho’s mind when he was building this world and the zombie outbreak that followed – all this can be seen as a setting up of an even bigger world with higher stakes in Busan but there is something that is missing from Seoul Station and whether that is the emotional connection to the characters, the sense of dread or suspense or literally because having the animation makes it feel so separate and unreal but it doesn’t quite have the lasting effect that Busan has.
Still, it is worth a watch for fans of Busan but I wouldn’t recommend watching it beforehand as a way to sell your friends Busan afterwards.