Review: Seoul Station (EIFF)


Starring Seung-ryong RyuJoon LeeEun-kyung Shim

Directed by Sang-ho Yeun

Reviewed at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival

An estranged father searches for his runaway daughter, with the reluctant help of her boyfriend, amid a zombie outbreak.

Zombies and the zombie apocalypse have long been seen as a heavily metaphorical narrative trope, certainly since White Zombie (1932) and—a bit more recently—in Night of the Living Dead (1968). For many, the zombie is an overdone figure having been (pardon the pun) done to death across so many comics, film, and television right up to The Walking Dead—one of the most popular programmes on US television. [See also: The ReZort].

The Korean animated feature Seoul Station wears its metaphorical intent on its sleeve: the zombie virus outbreak (its origins unexplained) begins among the homeless who congregate nightly around the transport hub of the title. The initial symptoms are ignored, as is their behaviour which is explained away as just the usual activities of a dismissed underclass. That’s a fatal oversight, as the outbreak spreads rapidly among the population. The most interesting sequence sees the (military) police power of the state turned not on the zombies but on the ordinary people struggling to escape the creatures, as they appear to those in power to be little more than an out-of-control rabble.

Starting out interestingly, Seoul Station soon starts to follow the usual zombie beats, before coming to something of an downbeat conclusion. Those the story follows are not always whom they appear to be, and the grim turn the film takes towards the conclusion may pull the rug out from under some viewers. Those who are attracted by the ability of the zombie trope to reflect real world concerns might see Seoul Station as dealing with topics not usually reflected in animated movies.

While breaking some new ground in dealing with sexual exploitation and people trafficking, Seoul Station is perhaps too tied to the zombie genre to really do anything too innovative. It does posit a zombie outbreak as the almost natural evolution of a despised and downtrodden underclass… perhaps a warning in the guise of animated horror. One point: this subtitled Korean film can be difficult to sit through if you are at all sensitive to the plaintive wailing of the Korean language.

Verdict: Zombies are people too, 5/10

Brian J. Robb

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