On February 28, 2017, the Kim Program organized a screening of Train to Busan with the support of the Cinema Studies Program. Train to Busan, a South Korean zombie horror flick, first premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and has received both popular and critical acclaim. Dr Frank Chance (Adjunct Professor, EALC) provided a short introduction by delivering a brief history of the living dead in film.
The word ‘zombie’ first appeared in the English language in 1819. Early zombie films—with the first one being White Zombie (1932)—used zombies as a metaphor for physical labor or slavery. The 1960s saw the advent of “modern” zombie films such as the famous Night of the Living Dead (1968), which was produced with a modest budget of $140,000 but generated a whopping $30 million in revenues. Interestingly, the term “zombie” was never used to describe the undead in these films—they were relentless, but certainly not smart. Dr Chance noted that zombies in this era were likely a metaphor for class warfare i.e. symbols of a proletariat revolution. Today, we are most familiar with the zombie apocalypse, which has been depicted in numerous films and TV serials; zombies here are metaphors for infectious disease and industrial or military atrocities. What then, of the zombies in Train To Busan? After the film, one attendee highlighted a potential link to communism, a suggestion that some of us agreed with. Nevertheless, it was a great screening (made even better with free kimbap) and we hoped you enjoyed spending the evening with us!