Fantasia 2016 Review: Seoul Station

Arriving soon on a track near you - zombies! An image from the Korean animated film Seoul Station, written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho. The film is being presented at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Arriving soon on a track near you – zombies! An image from the Korean animated film Seoul Station, written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho. The film is being presented at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Want some social commentary with your zombies? Anyone who’s seen Yeon Sang-ho’s earlier, animated films The King of Pigs and The Fake would be expecting as much.

Seoul Station is an animated prequel to the live-action feature Train to Busan. (Zombies are notably slow-moving, so I guess that’s why they need a train!) Both films are on the menu at the Fantasia International Film Festival and both feature hungry zombies.

Before those zombies show their scary faces we see how quickly bystanders lose their sympathy for a sick, elderly man when they realize that he’s “just a homeless.”

I’m willing to bet that “a homeless” is not sloppy subtitling, but a way to indicate that the more fortunate citizens see the man in question as just a smelly problem, and not a fellow human being. He is defined by his status alone, and has no other identity for them. His work, back when he still had some, would have helped to make Korea the successful country that it is today, and since military service is compulsory for all able-bodied men, he served his country that way, too. Now he’s just one of the many people, mostly men, who spend their days hanging around Seoul station, where the train and subway lines meet, and sleep there at night.

Despite being in the same predicament, there’s no unity among the station dwellers – they only seem to care about people who come from the same part of the city or the country that they do. In this, they are just like the more prosperous citizens, who like to deal with people from their own home towns, from their universities, etc.

The old guy is slow-moving, weak and sweaty. It is obviously a hot day, but maybe he’s suffering from something more than the heat? His younger friend struggles mightily to get help for him, but nobody cares. When the friend can’t find the old guy where he left him, he searches all over until he discovers that the old guy has become Zombie No. 1. (Or is that Zombie 0?)

At the same time, runaway Hae-sun and her boyfriend Ki-woong are way behind on their rent and facing eviction. Rather than look for a job himself, he’s hanging out at an Internet café, playing games and creating an online escort ad so he can pimp out Hae-sun. She says she’s not having any of that and stomps off. As a newly homeless person, she might have to join the others at Seoul station. There aren’t enough shelters to meet the need, so the authorities let the homeless sleep in the station if they stay quiet.

Hae-sun’s tough-guy father sees the ad, tracks down Ki-woong and they try to find his “little girl” while keeping one step ahead of the zombies.

The police and the military are called out, but they’re worse than useless because they haven’t got a clue about who’s really dangerous and who needs their protection. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Montrealers can see Seoul Station at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at the Hall Theatre of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival.

The film’s live-action sequel Train to Busan, will be shown at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 31, also at the Hall Theatre.
The first Fantasia screening, on Thursday, July 21, was sold out.

Seoul Station, written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho, with the voices of Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung and Lee Joon, is 92 minutes long, in Korean with English subtitles.

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