If you haven’t caught “Train to Busan” (seriously, why haven’t you?), you would be still be able to guess what sort of roles the main characters will take up in the film. This is because all zombie films have the same set of character archetypes, though they may come in different shapes and forms.
That’s not to say “Train to Busan” isn’t awesome though! It’s just that using easily recognisable character tropes cuts down on the exposition and allows you to jump into the frightening gore quickly. And now that you’ve been alerted to it, you’ll quickly find these same stereotypes in other zombie films too!
So here they are. Once you recognise these stereotypes, you’ll never watch a zombie movie the same way again.
Yong-Suk (Kim Eui-sang) in “Train to Busan.” (Golden Village Pictures)
1. The Selfish Bastard (Yong-suk)
Yong-suk should be called Yong-suck when they do the American remake of “Train to Busan.” He’s constantly shoving other people into the path of zombies, and is one of the most utterly selfish characters around. The Selfish Bastard is just cowardly in other zombie films, but here, Yong-suk is actively trying to feed the zombies.
In other zombie films: Mr Wickham from “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” Don from “28 Weeks Later”
Will Su-an be eaten in “Train to Busan?” (Golden Village Pictures)
2. The Innocent Child (Su-an)
The Innocent Child doesn’t literally have to be the child, but is most defenseless and guileless member of the party. Su-an fulfills that role in “Train to Busan,” but in other films The Innocent Child can also just be a character who’s small and weak, or less intelligent than the rest. Not to be confused with The Cute Chick, who’s always very physically attractive.
In other zombie films: Peter from “Shaun of the Dead,” Scout Leader Rogers from “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”
Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) in “Train to Busan.” (Golden Village Pictures)
3. The Strong Guy (Sang-hwa)
This is the guy who massacres the most number of zombies in the film. He doesn’t have to go hand-to-hand with them as long as he’s a zombie-killing machine. Sang-hwa beats zombies to death with his bare hands, but other characters employ copious amounts of gunfire or lethally sharp implements.
In other zombie films: Tom from “Cell,” Mr Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”
Jin-hee (Ahn So-hee) feels for her life in “Train to Busan.” (Golden Village Pictures)
4. The Cute Chick (Seong-kyeong)
The Cute Chick is there to provide eye candy for the audience, who are predominantly male. If you’re lucky, she can also double up as one of the other roles, but her main purpose is to provide a break from all that zombie killing. It’s also ostensibly to show that the cast has gender diversity. Seong-kyeong plays this role in “Train to Busan.”
In other zombie films: Denise from “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” Alice from “Resident Evil”
Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) cradles Su-an (Kim Su-an) in “Train to Busan.” (Golden Village Pictures)
5. The Cool Dude (Seok-woo)
Finally, we have The Cool Dude. He or she is usually the protagonist of the movie as well. This character also excels at killing zombies, but unlike The Strong Guy, finesse and tactics are used to destroy the zombies. The Cool Dude is also the best-looking character in the cast (with the possible exception of The Cute Chick). That’s Seok-woo in the film, who also looks way too fit to be a hedge fund manager.
In other zombie films: Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” Doyle from “28 Weeks Later”
So what other stereotypes have you found in zombie films?
Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.