REVIEW: Seoul Station
– By Dave Dubrow
SEOUL STATION is a cartoon movie about zombies. So if you’re not into cartoons or zombies, neither this movie nor the review of this movie are likely to do a lot for you. Unless you’re into my writing, in which case read on, because you’re about to be treated to several paragraphs of it.
Billed as the prequel to the highly acclaimed Train to Busan, Seoul Station follows the standard zombie movie plot: ordinary people trying to survive the extraordinary circumstance of cannibal zombies rising up to eat them. You don’t need to watch Seoul Station to enjoy Train to Busan, and vice-versa: both movies show that the zombie genre, despite its recognizable tropes in every form of media, still entertains.
It’s subtitled and I don’t understand Korean, so as far as the voice acting is concerned, Seoul Station gets top marks. Everybody in the movie was scared pretty much all the time and sounded like it. The art was exactly like an animated comic book: consistent, clean, and gory when necessary. Heavy Metal it ain’t, so if you’re looking for mind-ripping artwork, go elsewhere. Like, you know, to Heavy Metal. (Sorry. It’s the only other cartoon movie I’ve ever seen, aside from my son’s TV shows.)
This is a character-driven story, and the characters are, for the most part, not nice people. They live on the fringes of society: homeless men, prostitutes, pimps, and one particular figure with significant anger issues. I liked that there was little heroism to be seen from anyone: fear, denial, and personal gain were the driving forces, which made sense considering who was on screen and what they were dealing with.
Huge, thick cables of social commentary were woven through the story, and like the vast, vast, vast majority of movies that try to promote a Message, it was heavy-handed and unwelcome when it took itself seriously, which was pretty much all of the time. Early on, two guys talk about the value of instituting a universal welfare system, but when one guy sees a homeless man in obvious distress, he declines to help him because the homeless guy stinks too much. For every ironic bit like that there were ten others that you would have to be South Korean to properly appreciate. As much as I love bulgogi and bibimbap (who doesn’t?), I found those parts difficult to swallow.
At one point in the film things get very, very dark, as though the theme of zombie apocalypse wasn’t grim enough. In a movie with familiar themes, this is what made Seoul Station stand out. If I say anything more I’ll ruin it.
After years of zombies permeating the horror genre, it’s understandable that you might want to give this movie a pass. That would be a mistake. This blows World War Z, The Walking Dead, and everything else in the post-Romero era out of the water. Sit yourself down, grab a bowl of kimchi, and get watching.