Animated horror movies are exceedingly rare in western media, mostly due to the age-old stereotype that cartoons are for children, despite a few notable exceptions. Luckily, eastern animation tends to provide more variety for mature audiences, and Sang-ho Yeon’s prequel/companion to Train to Busan, Seoul Station, is a welcome addition to this rare breed of horror.
Featuring an ensemble cast of original characters, Seoul Station takes place during the beginning of the zombie outbreak featured in Train to Busan, revealing how the virus spread from patient zero to the population at large. As this terrible night goes on, we see the outbreak progress from the point of view of several ordinary citizens of Seoul, who must slowly come to terms with the carnage ensuing around them.
From a retired call girl to a worried father and careless boyfriend, the stories here are gracefully intertwined, as normal people must fight to stay alive, creating unexpected bonds as the undead population grows. In spite of the apocalyptic setting, this is a character-driven survival story at heart, exploring far more of how these regular people react to the bloodshed around them than the origins of the epidemic itself.
To those unfamiliar with this style of animation, the curious blend of 2D and 3D elements may take some getting used to, especially with the peculiar framerate, but the story is definitely worth the effort. The visuals are appropriately gruesome when they need to be, especially when gore is concerned, but there’s also a certain urban beauty in the way Seoul is presented, not to mention the extremely expressive and well-designed characters.
The connections to Train to Busan are superficial at best, with the two films only sharing a few common themes and the director between them. Strangely enough, Seoul Station is, tonally speaking, a lot darker than its live-action counterpart, with a bigger focus on eerie atmosphere rather than zombie-butchering fun. Nevertheless, both films might benefit from a double-feature, and could be interpreted as different sides to the same coin.
Much like its companion, however, Seoul Station doesn’t really do much to stand out from the massive horde of zombie apocalypse movies. The only real difference here is the overall quality of the film, which is a far cry from the unimaginative schlock that usually populates this sub-genre. Then again, not every movie needs to reinvent the wheel. There’s a certain twist towards the end of the film that could prove divisive among moviegoers, but other than that there isn’t much to complain about here.
Overall, Seoul Station is a thoroughly entertaining and competently made zombie movie, and a worthy companion piece to Train to Busan, despite not quite reaching the same heights. The animation style may seem off-putting to some viewers, but a compelling story and realistic characters more than make up for that. Adrift in a sea of generic zombie movies, what more could you ask for?
Seoul Station will be available on Blu-Ray and VOD starting April 3rd!