There’s certainly been a number of quality movies coming out of Korea in recent years … from the acclaimed films of Park-chan Wook (‘Old Boy’, ‘Sympathy for Mr Vengeance’) to quality horror like ‘I Saw The Devil’. So I thought after enjoying such movies, I’d better seek out some more Korean cinema. So we come to this much talked about take on the 28 Days Later formula of a virus outbreak and a hoard of ‘infected’. This time during a routine train journey.
We’re introduced to a businessman (Yoo Gong) going through a messy divorce and trying to retain some sort of relationship with his daughter. However on a train journey to take her back to her mother, said business man and a group of interesting characters soon discover that a virus has broken out and is spreading like wildfire. This is classic stuff, not dissimilar to a disaster movie where the viewer is introduced to a range of personalities each with their own agendas and back stories. However with the threat of a growing number of infected on the train and not knowing if the destination is safe, a battle for survival quickly ensures with tension cranked up to 11. I felt this brought back genuine thrills and intensity to horror that seems to have been missing for a while. It favours heart-in-mouth moments (whenever a window shatters) over gore and has impressive CGI and slick production values throughout.
The setting was claustrophobic and made for some genuinely chilling moments and the range of different characters (all well acted, particularly the young girl) made me care for not just the principle leads but almost everyone (bar a particularly selfish guy who you’ll be booing towards the end). It’s the sort of movie that keeps you guessing about who will survive and how things will turn out and for me, made for probably the best movie of the year so far.
What the previous, third entry in this popular cult franchise had in personality, gore and entertainment, it lacked in under-the-skin scares and dread, whilst adding very little to the story. Oh and why it was called Genesis is anyone’s idea. However a bride wielding a chainsaw will always get points from me.
So we come to this fourth and probably final entry in the franchise, as lone survivor Angela; the reporter who managed to get through the horrors of the apartment building in the first two movies, finds herself on a boat surrounded by scientists and the military amongst the regular crew. Have they managed to contain the virus that caused people to turn into ravenous zombies? Thankfully this is a return to the more serious, claustrophobic and tension filled tone of the first two movies, dropping much of the schlock of the third, which at times was more comedy than horror. The hand-held camera approach that worked so well initially doesn’t make a return however but that’s no major loss (apart from causing the title to make little sense) and I still found this pretty nail biting stuff. Following on from the shock climax of the second movie, I enjoyed the is-she isn’t-she of Angela’s infection, wondering what the scientists are really up to, and why there seems to be a monkey running around.
In Manuela Velasco’s Angela we have a gutsy, suitably sexy heroine who is supported well by some interesting characters, including a geeky tech guy who just happens to be the plucky reporter’s number-one fan. The movie barely touches on the demonic possession angle of the previous movies however and is much more straight-forward action horror – with a very exciting and intense final act. Yet by the time we reach this fourth entry, clearly the story is scraping the ideas-barrel … and a parasitic organism just isn’t as scary as possession, despite the franchise’s initial potential. For a zombie-fest though, I still had a good time.
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