Yeon Sang-ho’s latest zombie film is a gritty animated feature that questions who the real monsters are – the zombie’s or the humans? The “walking dead” plot is subverted when the human characters demonstrate the perversity of their natures. In this movie the capital is the real monster and the mass outbreak of the undead is simply a symptom of this. Seoul Station does not revel in the blood, guts and violence of the average zombie movie, nor are the humans the heroes; it shows a diseased country that is crumbling in on itself.
Over the course of one night, Seoul is transformed into a city of the walking dead. The action begins with a wounded pensioner hobbling towards the hi-tech railway station, which becomes a refuge for the homeless and the zombies. His appearance breaks up the conversation between two, well-dressed young men who discuss the merits of healthcare. The film goes on to undermine the supposed social services put in place as their representatives fail to believe people about the outbreak or turn civilian to protect their own backs. The pensioner is not admitted to hospital because of a lack of beds – a scenario that is especially relevant to us in the UK – and the subsequent undead uprising is almost a metaphorical depiction of a social revolution by those who society has forgotten. Alongside this plot runs the story of teenage runaway Hye Sun who, having argued with her boyfriend over pimping her out to pay the rent, becomes entrapped in the zombie riots in the street. As her boyfriend searches for her through the maze-like infrastructure of the city, we are given intricate animations of trains and Seoul’s futuristic buildings.
The movie is consistent with the European bande dessinée with its engagement in political ideas and social commentary. The final scene leaves us in a show flat above the city, comfortless and utterly abandoned: Seoul is revealed to be a high-tech show room that looks good but stifles and oppresses the ordinary inhabitants. This is an understated film that rarely uses twists, making them all the more impactful when they occur. Perhaps not Yeon Sang-ho’s best zombie feature, this is not a violent bloodbath; instead it is tactful and subversive. Seoul Station makes human the inhuman – treating the deaths and sufferings of the animated characters with gravity. A really scary animated horror.
Seoul Station is released in selected cinemas on 17th March 2017.
Watch the trailer for Seoul Station here: