The Train To Busan

Train to Busan
Revised RomanizationBusanhaeng
Directed byYeon Sang-ho
Written byPark Joo-suk
Produced by
  • 2016 was a banner year for horror cinema.
CinematographyLee Hyung-deok
Edited byYang Jin-mo
Music byJang Young-gyu
Distributed byNext Entertainment World
The Conjuring 2.
It's a mini-revival that seems to have kept on to 2017, what with the white-knuckler, Get Out, still snagging 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
118 minutes[1]
CountrySouth Korea
Budget$8.5 million[2]
Box office$98.5 million[3]

And yet, far and away, my favorite in this stretch of horror goodness is very much Train to Busan, a 2016 summer release. You may not have heard of Train to Busan because it's a foreign movie, and some folks treat sub-titles like cooties. Any self-respecting gorehound will tell you some of the best horror movies are found overseas. Train to Busan murdered at the Asian box office.

American film studios are trying like mad to acquire the rights, and I hope they don't get them. I don't see the sense in recreating what's already a masterpiece. The Raid movie agrees with me.In a zombie setting, when you hear news of mysterious fish deaths at the reservoir or a "minor leak in the Biotech District," that's the cue to head for the hills. What's so tremendous about this movie is that it presents a strong emotional core. Focus is on the strained relationship between an inattentive father and his little girl.


Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is a preoccupied fund manager. I guess he does care for his elementary school daughter Su-an (Su-an Kim), enough that he's willing to fight his ex-wife for custody of her. Except Seok-woo is a bad father, one who neglects his kid, misses her recitals, forgets her birthday.. Follows a scene that demonstrates why it's a bonehead move to have your assistant buy the gift for your kid.It's Su-an's birthday, and she guilt trips her dad into taking her on the bullet train so she could visit her mom in Busan. And, a bit later, maybe you blame the unobservant train attendant for allowing that one sickly-looking girl to sneak onboard.Man, not even roadkill is safe in this movie. As the train barrels along on the first leg of its nightmarish ride, as it hurtles from the capital city of Seoul to the southern city of Busan, the camera gravitates towards the other passengers.

And, for all the other reasons why this movie is so damn boss, it's absolutely the acting that makes us care about this movie. The characters are interesting and fully-realized. Standouts for me are the troubled father and daughter, the very pregnant wife (Jung Yu-mi) and her tough, working-class husband (Ma Dong-seok), and the selfish transportation CEO (Kim Eui-sung), this last guy gunning for the jackhole of the year award. I won't say too much about him, except I haven't hated a guy so much since Paul Reiser in Aliens. What a fink!I can't believe this is the first live-action feature film Yeon Sang-ho has directed, but, apparently, he's more a veteran of anime cinema. Guys, this is a dynamic storyteller. He draws fantastic performances from his cast. What he does in ramping up the suspense is ridiculous. He makes full use of the confined spaces on the train, not only in building up and sustaining that sense of tinkle-in-the-pants panic but also in coming up with resourceful ways for the survivors to circumvent the walkers. Thankfully, several passengers are still thinking clearly. And, by the way, these walkers are friggin' running!

And they turn really quickly! Thinks 28 Days Later or World War Z. They will chase you down like a horde of Usain Bolts. The body actors that play the zombies do a damn job. I wonder how many of these extras are contortionists or are just really limber folks? The zombies' grotesque physicality and eerie motions fall perfectly in line with the distinct Asian horror aesthetic.Maybe another reason this was so much a blockbuster is that Yeon Sang-ho didn't flinch from presenting an aggressive take on South Korean culture and politics and on the impregnable divide between the haves and have-nots. The inattentive dad is projected to be our hero, except he doesn't come off at all heroic during the movie's first act. Seok-woo is one selfish executive who early on advises his daughter: "At a time like this, only watch out for yourself." Thankfully, the little girl is made of sterner stuff.What do you do when your train is packed with zombies? You get off the train, right? It amuses me that when the passengers did get off, they ran into so much bulls---, they were like, "Let's get back on the train." It's shortly after this that class warfare breaks out among the survivors. I'm no expert on foreign affairs, but I've heard tell that this and that corporate entity, and even the government, in South Korea have recently effed with the general public.


  • This makes Train to Busan resonate that much more with its resentful viewing public.
  • That one transportation CEO? That guy I can't stand, and I kept yelling, "Why is he still alive?"
  • He's the primary instigator. So many people bite it because of him.
  • He personifies corporate greed and cutthroat ethics.
  • He may be juuuuust a bit cartoony.Snowpiercer with zombies?
  • But it's better than Snowpiercer. I didn't tear up during Snowpiercer.
  • I did here, maybe two times. But, dear gorehound, if you're not having it with the three-hanky melodrama, other attractions may sway you.
  • The special effects are rad, although, okay, most of the "special effects" are practical effects executed by a mess of double-jointed body actors and some nice make-up work.
  • The cast is peppered with some really likable and very human characters, none more relatable than the working-class husband (who is my favorite) and his pregnant wife.
  • I enjoyed the banter between those two.
  • This movie is tremendously staged. The suspense doesn't let up.
  • The cinematography is sleek. Importantly, we see the survivors come up with creative ways to fend off the zombies, so the kills aren't so repetitive.
  • I heard that Sang-Ho also made an animated prequel, titled Seoul Station, that's set one day before Train to Busan and charts the early stages of the epidemic.
  • Once my nerves settle, maybe I'll look into that.
  • And, please, please, please, no American remake.
  • Lee Joo-shil as Seok-woo's mother and Su-an's grandmother


The film team tried to reference the movements of the zombies in the game 7 Days to Die and the movements of the dolls from Ghost in the Shell, and also reviewed the movements from the nurses in Silent Hill.[12] The film was filmed in various stations from Daejeon, Cheonan and East daegu.[12] The water deer in the movie was created using real videos of water deer and 3D modelling.[12] The scenery that is seen outside the train in the film was shot with an LED plate rear screen technique behind the set and by focusing on the characters.[12] The blood vessels of the zombies were drawn with an airbrush. The zombies were styled differently depending on the progress of the infection of zombies.[12]


Box office[edit]

Train to Busan grossed $80.5 million in South Korea, $2.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $15.8 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $98.5 million.[3]

It became the highest-grossing Korean film in Malaysia,[13]Hong Kong,[14] and Singapore.[15] In South Korea, it recorded more than 11 million moviegoers[16] and was the highest grossing film of the year.[17]

Critical response[edit]

The review aggregatorRotten Tomatoes reported that 94% of 118 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The website's critics consensus states: "Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique — and purely entertaining — take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skillfully staged action."[18]Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, assigned the film an average score of 72 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[19]

Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly wrote that the film "borrows heavily from World War Z in its depiction of the fast-moving undead masses while also boasting an emotional core the Brad Pitt-starring extravaganza often lacked," adding that "the result is first-class throughout."[20] At The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis selected the film as her "Critic's Pick" and took notice of its subtle class warfare.[21]

In a negative review, David Ehrlich of IndieWire comments that "as the characters whittle away into archetypes (and start making senseless decisions), the spectacle also sheds its unique personality."[22] Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist wrote: "[Train to Busan] doesn’t add anything significant to the zombie genre, nor has anything perceptive to say about humanity in the face of crisis. Sure, it lacks brains, and that’s the easy quip to make, but what Train To Busan truly needs, and disappointingly lacks, is heart."[23]

British filmmaker Edgar Wright highly applauds the film, personally recommending it on Twitter and calling it the "best zombie movie I've seen in forever."[24]


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef(s)
Asian Film Awards21 March 2017Best ActorGong YooNominated[25]
Best Supporting ActorMa Dong-seokNominated
Best EditorYang Jin-moNominated
Best Visual EffectsJung Hwang-suNominated
Best Costume DesignerKwon Yoo-jin and Rim Seung-heeNominated
Blue Dragon Film Awards25 November 2016Best FilmTrain to BusanNominated[27]
Best Supporting ActorKim Eui-sungNominated
Ma Dong-seokNominated
Best Supporting ActressJung Yu-miNominated
Best New DirectorYeon Sang-hoNominated
Best Art DirectionLee Mok-wonNominated
Best ScreenplayPark Joo-seokNominated
Best EditingYang Jin-moNominated
Best CinematographyLee Hyeong-deokNominated
Best LightingPark Jeong-wooNominated
Technical AwardKwak Tae-yong and Hwang Hyo-gyoon (special make-up)Won
Audience Choice Award for Most Popular FilmTrain to BusanWon
Buil Film Awards7 October 2016Best FilmTrain to BusanNominated[30]
Best Supporting ActorKim Eui-sungWon
Best Supporting ActressJung Yu-miNominated
Best CinematographyLee Hyeong-deokNominated
Best Art DirectionLee Mok-wonNominated
Yu Hyun-mok Film Arts AwardYeon Sang-hoWon
Fangoria Chainsaw AwardsN/ABest Foreign-Language FilmTrain to BusanWon[33]
Best ActorGong YooNominated
Korean Association of Film Critics Awards24 November 2016Technical AwardTrain to BusanWon[34]
Saturn Awards28 June 2017Best Horror FilmNominated[35]
Baeksang Arts Awards3 May 2017Best FilmNominated
Best Supporting ActorKim Eui-sungWon
Ma Dong-seokNominated
Best New DirectorYeon Sang-hoWon
Chunsa Film AwardsMay 24, 2017Technical AwardKwak Tae-yongWon[38]
Special Audience Award

for Best Film

Train to BusanWon

Home media[edit]

American distributor Well Go USA released DVD and Blu-ray versions of Train to Busan on 17 January 2017.[39]FNC Add Culture released the Korean DVD and Blu-ray versions on 22 February 2017. It is also available on Rakuten Viki, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video streaming. The Indian version is a minute shorter than the original version due to a few violent zombie shots being censored.[citation needed]

Animated prequel and standalone sequel[edit]


An animatedprequel, Seoul Station, also directed by Yeon, was released less than a month later.[40]

Standalone sequel[edit]

Peninsula, a standalone sequel set four years after Train to Busan and also directed by Yeon, was released in South Korea in July 15, 2020, to mixed reviews.[41] Yeon has stated that, "Peninsula is not a sequel to Train to Busan because it's not a continuation of the story, but it happens in the same universe."[42]

American remake[edit]

In 2016, Gaumont acquired the rights for the English-language remake of the film from Next Entertainment World.[43] In 2018, New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster and Coin Operated were announced to be the co-producing partners for the remake, with Warner Bros. Pictures distributing worldwide. Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto is in talks to helm the film, while Gary Dauberman adapts the screenplay and co-produces the film alongside James Wan.[44][45] In December 2021, the film's official title was revealed to be The Last Train to New York scheduled to be released April 21, 2023.[46]


  1. ^"Train to Busan (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 20 September 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
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  3. ^ ab"Busanhaeng (2016)". The Numbers. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
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  15. ^Wai Yee, Yip (24 August 2016). "Train To Busan is No. 1 at Singapore box office and top Korean movie to date". The Straits Times. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
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  25. ^"South Korean cinema leads nominees at Asian Film Awards". Yahoo!. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  26. ^Frater, Patrick (11 January 2017). "'Handmaiden,' 'Bovary,' 'Train' Lead Asian Film Awards Nominations". Variety. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  27. ^"Hollywood Local Productions Dominate Nominations for South Korea's Blue Dragon Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  28. ^"박소담 연기한지 3년만 여우조연상 "솔직히 부담돼" 눈물 펑펑 - 스포츠투데이 - TV보다 재밌다". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  29. ^"[제37회 청룡영화상] '곡성' 쿠니무라 준 "한국영화의 힘 알게 됐다" 남우조연상 수상 (2016 청룡영화제) - 스타서울TV". 25 November 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
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  40. ^Conran, Pierce (7 April 2016). "YEON Sang-ho's SEOUL STATION Debuts in Belgium". KoBiz. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  41. ^Choi, Jin-sil (28 February 2020). "강동원 주연 '반도', 런칭 포스터 공개…'부산행' 그 후 4년". Sports Seoul via Naver (in Korean). Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  42. ^Noh, Jean (20 February 2020). "Train To Busan' follow-up 'Peninsula' scores raft of sales (exclusive)". Screen Daily. Media Business Insight Limited. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  43. ^"'Train to Busan' English-Language Remake Rights Go to Gaumont". 7 December 2016.
  44. ^"James Wan to produce remake of South Korean zombie movie 'Train to Busan'". Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  45. ^Kroll, Justin (18 February 2021). "New Line Taps Timo Tjahjanto To Direct 'Train To Busan', Its Remake Of South Korean Box Office Hit". Deadline. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  46. ^D'Alessandro, Anthony (17 December 2021). "Warner Bros Dates 'Blue Beetle', 'Last Train To New York' & 'Toto' For 2023 & Beyond". Deadline. Retrieved 17 December 2021.

External links[edit]

  • Train to Busan at the Korean Movie Database
  • Train to Busan at IMDb
  • Train to Busan at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Train to Busan at Metacritic
  • Train to Busan at HanCinema
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