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Train to Busan (Golden Village Pictures)

Review: ‘Seoul Station’ a desperate attempt to cash in

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 92 minutes (~ 1.5 hours)

“Seoul Station” is an animated Korean zombie horror movie that’s the prequel to “Train to Busan”. It sees an estranged couple struggling to make their way to safety after a zombie outbreak erupts all around them. It features the voice talents of Ryu Seung-ryong (Suk-gyu), Shim Eun-kyung (Hye-sun), and Lee Joon (Ki-woong). It is rated NC-16

"Seoul Station” is a shining example of how South Korea is technically proficient in creating animated features, but completely lacks the art design and vision to execute a good story. It has all the elements required to be a good animated film, and individually the elements work (except for the art direction, which is downright ugly). Yet it’s put together in such a patchwork manner that the end product is, at best, a watchable film. It’s no “Train to Busan” and its release now feels like a desperate attempt to cash in on its far superior sequel.

Highlights

Some humour elements in an otherwise bleak show

It’s odd that there are comedic moments in a zombie movie, but it works well in the context of “Seoul Station”. It comes across as dark humour, but it’s also quite obvious that this is an unintentional effect. Nevertheless, it helps to give "Seoul Station” its own character, rather than just being a film that’s related to “Train to Busan”.

Letdown

Ugly character designs

There’s no doubting that the animation quality in “Seoul Station” is top notch. But the art director has some of the ugliest character designs ever to grace the big screen. The problem is that the characters don’t look realistic either, which is usually the reason for ugly designs. This means that we’re watching a group of unrealistic, unappealing creatures prance around avoiding zombies, which defeats the purpose of watching anime (which is to see a romanticised view of the world).

Inconsistent zombie mechanics with “Train to Busan”

“Train to Busan” had pretty specific rules for its zombies. They don’t attack you if they don’t see you and infections are almost immediate. “Seoul Station” has zombies which act contrary to this, which doesn’t make sense. Why watch a movie about a different species of zombie when you’re here to specifically see the “Train to Busan” zombies in action? For all intents and purposes, “Seoul Station” is just another, unrelated zombie film that also happens to take place in Korea.

No scares and no tension

The zombies are not scary, chiefly because they don’t have that awkward gait they did in “Train to Busan” and they don’t come at you like tsunamis. These were the very elements that made the zombies horrifying then, and they’re not here. Instead, we get… close-ups of zombie faces.

Random insertions of meaning and symbolism

The film plays out like a regular zombie apocalypse movie until the last Act, when it suddenly turns into a social commentary about the downtrodden in society. Suddenly the characters develop intense urges to make up for their childhood losses, and random Christian imagery pops up. It’s like they completed two thirds of the animation when the director suddenly realised he needed to add some symbolism into the film, and dumped it all in at the last minute.

“Seoul Station” is a huge disappointment after the masterpiece that was “Train to Busan”.

Should you watch this if it’s free? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? No.

Score: 2.5/5

“Seoul Station” opens in cinemas:
- 29 September 2016 (Singapore)
- 29 September 2016 (Malaysia)


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.