The reviews are in! First of all, before mentioning the personnel involved in the Train to Busan remake — I hate this, and it broke wide yesterday. Now, I understand the sentiment, because Hollywood has had a bad track record remaking Korean movies, from The Lake House to Oldboy, but I have to emphasize that this example is different. The director is Timo Tjahjanto, a horror filmmaker in the clique with Ti West and Gareth Evans (in that they’ve all contributed shorts to the V/H/S series) who also happened to direct The Night Comes for Us. This is an Indonesian guy, and he was hired by James Wan — neither are Korean, fine, but it’s not the usual Wonderbread cash grab.
More importantly, I think, the Train to Busan remake is a zombie movie, and this is a subgenre where each film somehow feels like a sequel to the last. Whether it’s Night of the Living Dead spinning off into the Return of the Living Dead series, its own of the Dead series, and the Italian Zombie series, every new zombie movie shares a core mythology, down to the mystifying erasure of the term “zombie.” Even up to The Walking Dead we’re still doing that stupid shit. You can’t tell me that the Dawn of the Dead remake added nothing to that mythology, though it was Alex Garland who introduced fast zombies with 28 Days Later. Train to Busan itself took visual cues from the execrable World War Z. I also seem to remember it being described as “Snowpiercer with zombies,” because of the train setting and the social commentary, and this is a helpful introduction, not a reason to direct the ire of the Internet.
If a remake or sequel or adaptation can add anything new, that may not be enough to justify the production over original material (assuming an extremely generous market) but it does outweigh the anxiety that the new version will somehow dishonor the original, and especially the argument that the new filmmakers don’t understand the original like you do. And believe me, I should be upset that Tjahjanto is making this movie and not Night of the Operator, but I appreciate the realities and I trust his creative choices.