Wan to Produce Train to Busan Remake by R.C. Murphy
One would think the rumors of a sequel would be all we heard about the Korean zombie film Train to Busan for quite some time. It’s a great film, but US genre fans didn’t flock to it like overseas fans and that almost always kills a franchise’s momentum. The film grossed $85 million overseas, yet just $2 million in the US. Turns out the American market might not be as powerful as it once was, though, and this franchise is just beginning to sprint toward becoming the next big thing for horror fans to gush about.
On September 25th, Deadline dropped the news that James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) has been shopping around the rights for an American version of Train to Busan. Gary Dauberman (It, The Nun) is Wan’s partner in crime this time around, riding high on the success of his last few scripts. French studio Gaumont, who announced they had obtained the English remake rights a couple years back, will partner with Wan’s Atomic Monster Productions for this project.
Currently several major studios are in a bidding war for the rights package. New Line seems to be the most aggressive suitor for the property, but Paramount, Lionsgate, and Screen Gems are still vying for the chance to bring the remake to life. Universal was in the room where it happens, but backed out early. Likely because New Line’s history with Dauberman gives them better leverage for negotiations.
There’s no director tapped for the production just yet, but with the talent already onboard, it makes sense for one of them to handle it. We’ll bring you that news when it’s available.
About the original Train to Busan:
Parenting is rough. Parenting during an unknown viral outbreak is impossible. Seok-woo just wants his daughter to have a good birthday, despite their strained relationship. To cheer her up, they head to Busan to visit her mother. Before they leave the station, a sick woman boards the train. Her death and rebirth as a flesh-eating ghoul is only the tip of the iceberg—the entire Korean peninsula is in the grips of the undead. Seok-woo does his best to keep Su-an alive as the train blindly hurdles down the track to an unknown future in Busan. It isn’t easy when the dead inside the train quickly outnumber the living and the few living left refuse to trust each other.
A couple years ago director Yeon Sang-ho made a name for himself within the horror genre with his unexpected hit Train to Busan (2016). It’s a well-earned spot. Busan had the potential to be just another locked “house” style zombie film. Instead it took the genre and gave it a fantastic, brutal twist. This is the kind of film you watch alone first to get the shouting out of your system, then show it to friends while watching their reaction. Despite how odd it feels to call a movie with so much blood refreshing, Busan is so different from the zombie media released in the last few years, it really does put a little pep in my step just knowing there’s still new ways to tell the age-old apocalypse story.
In the beginning of August, several reports appeared stating that Sang-ho has begun early pre-production for a sequel to his zombie masterpiece. When I say early, I mean really early. Contracts are still being drafted. There is a script, and the vague filming date of sometime early in 2019. Oh, and a name: Bando (Peninsula).
Sang-ho has clarified a few things about the upcoming film. Keep in mind, this is a second-hand translation, so some details may be off. “It is an extension of Train to Busan, after the virus has spread throughout Korea, but the characters are not the same. It shares the same world view and is a zombie action film that deals with the aftermath on the peninsula of what happened in Train To Busan.”
Fans of the original knew that the old cast probably wouldn’t make a return, but hope springs eternal for some reporters, it seems. Hopefully whoever they do bring onboard to star in Bando has a similar magnetic energy as Busan‘s Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, and Jung Yu-mi.
We’ll keep you updated if this movie does indeed begin production next year. Want to watch Train to Busan? It is currently available to stream via Netflix.
Rated: TV-MA (extreme violence, strong language) Language: Korean
Starring: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Soo-an Kim, Woo-shik Choi, So-hee Ahn, and Eui-sung Kim
Occasionally Netflix doesn’t fail the genre completely. Recently they added Train to Busan to their streaming service, which is probably the best thing they’ve done in the last year. It’s hard to believe this film didn’t catch my attention before now, seeing as it was a huge hit across the Pacific. Let’s be honest, the American film media is horrible about giving props to genre flicks not set on their home turf. Pair that with the fact that it’s best watched in the original Korean and film media push it aside for yet another poorly produced American movie which is just a clone of fifty similar films and television shows. This film is a breath of fresh air. It’ll also keep you so far on the edge of your seat, you may fall off by the time the final scene plays out.
Seok-woo is a work-obsessed absentee father dealing with the fallout from a tense divorce. On the eve of his daughter Soo-an’s birthday, he screws up royally. To make it up to her, he relents to her demands to see her mother in Busan. Leaving town isn’t ideal. There’s something going on with one of the funds he manages and his coworker Kim is increasingly concerned about the reports he’s receiving. But a promise is a promise, so off they go. Seconds before the train departs for Busan, an injured woman jumps aboard. She’s infected with something none of them have seen before. When a train worker comes to her aid, the infected woman attacks and chaos erupts. By the time the initial attack is done, there’s only one train car worth of people left. The rest turn zombie and are locked in the middle train cars. News coming in via overhead televisions isn’t any better. Entire cities are overrun with the undead. Several are quarantined. When the train stops at last, it’s only to discover that the military couldn’t hold the quarantine and the dead have taken over. They opt to move on, pushed by an unhinged COO, Yon-suk. Throughout the last half of the movie it’s hard to tell who the real enemy is, the zombies or the paranoid humans trapped on the train.
This isn’t just another action movie with zombies. There’s a message or forty in the way the living interact with each other. We have an intense father/daughter plot which will drive anyone with a heart to tears by the third act. The film’s writer leaned heavily on the notion of ingrained human selfishness and the heinous damage it does to the masses during a crisis. Many of those who perish in the final act only die due to selfishness and their willingness to turn a blind eye to hatred if it means they’ll live to see another day. Panic becomes a new cast member at the end, unseen yet pushing one survivor group against the other with no sound reason. We’ve seen tension like that before, TWD uses it near-weekly, but here it’s so in-your-face wrong that I couldn’t help but yell at the television. That’s the kind of writing I miss, the scripts which make one forget they’re not one of the characters for a couple hours. It’s hard to watch the human cruelty, but even harder to look away.
Those zombies, guys. I haven’t seen character movement like that in ages unless it was in one of countless demonic possession films. These zombies are twitchy, bendy, snappish, and flat out cool. They’re scary solo, and pants-pissing terrifying in a mob. Kudos to the extras who worked on this film. They left everything on the set every day of production. The pay-off created probably some of my favorite mass zombie scenes to date—the train station attack on the stairs and the sequence where Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Yong-guk fight from car nine to car thirteen to rescue a group separated from the other survivors. Because there are so many undead, the makeup for them is simplistic. And you know what? I don’t care. They could have slapped white grease paint on them and let them loose and it wouldn’t have done a thing to lessen the performances from the extras and hero zombies.
Train to Busan is the action-packed zombie film we’ve been waiting for since World War Z tried and just didn’t quite hit the mark. There’s some issues, yes, but the writing and action are so solid, the issues get a free pass. I wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again, something I never do with zombie films outside Romero’s contributions to the genre. Train to Busan gets five severed heads out of five. Now what are you waiting for? Go watch it!