Yeon Sang-Ho, the South Korean director who brought us animated thrillers The King of Pigs and The Fake, returns to with zombie film Seoul Station. Yes, zombies might be done to death (couldn’t resist) but there’s still room for fun in that swamped sub-genre.
As a zombie film, Seoul Station is hampered by the fact it follows a relatively tried-and-tested formula. That’s not to say its not enjoyable or sometimes impressive. There’s a good flow to the story and Sang-Ho successfully cuts between different characters across town as the pandemic takes hold, unravelling social order and character backgrounds through solid storytelling.
There’s also a whip-smart relevancy to Seoul Station that gives it more gravitas than it could have had. This is, as with the best zombie films, an angry open letter about social injustice, tailored to the plights of Seoul and South Korea as a whole. Sang-Ho’s central characters are all disillusioned outsiders dealing with varying forms of exploitation, from the homeless who crowd Seoul Station at night to the constant sexual exploitation of women by culture and, more specifically, loved ones.
The style of the animation seems messy at first, almost lazily rendered, but as the film progresses you can see what works and what doesn’t. Crowds of zombies look great, the near-fuzzy outlines and jittering movements manage to give a nightmarish eeriness to the whole thing. Running zombies don’t always work, but since these once also leap hella far, it all comes together. No matter how derivative parts of the story may be, Seoul Station sports some believably dangerous undead and with that sense of danger, the film remains a tense trip start-to-finish.
Sang-Ho’s third feature film is an enjoyable turn on the zombie merry-go-round made fresh by keen-eyed social commentary. His debut live-action feature Train to Busan had its premier last month at Cannes, and is a follow-up to Seoul Station taking place during the same outbreak. It’s an intriguing prospect and one that will be worth a look if Seoul Station is anything to go by.
Dir. Yeon Sang-Ho
Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Lee Joon