Monday, September 11, 2017

Seoul Station

* spoilers *

Seoul Station is the animated prequel to Train to Busan that details how the infection started and spread. Patient zero is a homeless man who sleeps in the train station. His friend tries to get him help from multiple places, but is always soundly refused. The homeless are always seen negatively, as an inconvenience at best and vermin at worst. The train authorities hear the commotion and threaten to kick out all of the homeless because of the noise instead of seeing what's wrong. The man's friend, whose behavior is erratic, approaches the police, who threaten him with incarceration, and a free clinic. The nurses are sympathetic, but it's the other homeless who drive the man away, not willing to give up their warm beds for a night outside even though they are recovered. The man ends up dying alone on the street due to the callous treatment of authorities and other homeless people alike and he becomes the first zombie.

At the same time, a young woman named Hye-sun is being exploited by her scumbag boyfriend Ki-woong. She recently ran away from a brothel to be with him, but he's quick to try to pimp her out when he runs short of money. He assumes her past as a sex worker and her dependence on him allows him to take ownership of her. Ki-woong is one of the most odious characters I've seen and almost every scene with him made my skin crawl. After a huge fight where he tries to guilt her, Hye-sun storms out of the house and becomes entrenched in the growing zombie outbreak situation. Hye-sun, as a runaway and past sex worker, is seen by the general public through the same lens as the homeless: as disposable, as an inconvenience, and as possessing no power. Ki-woong and Hye-sun's father Suk-gyu follow her around the city, trying to find her.

The zombies are the country's lowest and most vulnerable people rising up against those who suppress them, ignore them, and keep them poor. So many people asked one another what district they were from, choosing to value them on the place they grew up over who they are as a person. It's as if they don't even see the other person until they have that information. The zombie plague spreads farther than it should have because the homeless were the only ones aware of it for some time. The police completely ignored their concerns and their obvious terror at being attacked. The homeless also see threats in each other sometimes over the zombies and that doesn't help things either. The city is overrun pretty quickly, although a pocket of survivors are fighting them off. The police come in to keep the humans inside the quarantined area instead of saving them. Again, this is a callous choice that proves to hurt them more than help them, similar to how they have treated the problem of homelessness: allowing the numbers to grow without any attempt at aid.

Hye-sun's journey to try to find safety lasts through most of the film. Her "father" turns out to be the pimp she recently ran away from looking to force her back into sex slavery. The hero we have been following almost the entire movie is actually an abusive misogynist. He holds on to his goal even as the world falls apart around him. Early in her adventures, Hye-sun was scratched on the ankle by a zombie and succumbs to the disease as Suk-gyu tries to rape her. She savagely attacks him right. It's satisfying, but also sad. These vulnerable and ignored people only have power as the undead. The zombie plague doesn't discriminate or ask where you're from. It's the great equalizer that affects everyone equally and makes everyone the same. The end of the film shows the zombies spreading outside the quarantined area.

Seoul Station is a much more bleak movie than Train to Busan. It shows the flaws in society and how those flaws will affect society. I enjoy Train to Busan more because it's surprisingly emotional and the characters are well drawn. This film has the same emotional quality, but sympathetic characters are few. I only had a few problems with it. While I understood her emotional state, I grew frustrated with Hye-sun blaming herself for Ki-woong's behavior and her wish to be back with him despite his abusive ways. The zombie also didn't have the unique twitchy movement that they had in the sequel. I'm not sure if that decision came later, but it set those zombies apart from others. While Train to Busan is hopeful at its core, Seoul Station simply shows harsh realities with no survivors at the end.  

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins 

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