Features and Columns · Movies

‘Train to Busan’ is a Case Study in Meaningful Character Death

All aboard! Watch a video essay that shows why Yeon Sang-ho’s film is better than most in the zombie subgenre.
Train To Busan
Next Entertainment World
By  · Published on September 8th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores a scene from Train to Busan.

If you haven’t seen Train to Busannow is the time to close this window and open your home video provider of choice. This is one of the best zombie films of the 21st century, a rare blend of action and horror that delivers on thrills and chills in equal measure. It also answers the question “what if a bad dad became a better person while zombies invaded a train?”

It rules. Watch it.

I’m being insistent because we’re going to talk about character death. Which means spoilers abound from here on out. Death, and more specifically the death of characters we care about, is a constant in zombie movies. Loss is the implied threat and emotional backbone of the genre. Ragtag survivors, be they loved ones or newly allied strangers, are not all going to make it out alive.

Which brings us to Train to Busan, a zombie movie with character deaths that are emotional, satisfying, and, more to the point, meaningful. These aren’t deaths for death’s sake. After all, killing a character doesn’t mean anything if we don’t care about them. Train to Busan knows this and presents us with people, good and evil, who resonate and feel real, from soft, strong martyrs to selfish survivalists.

As the video essay below explains, if characters don’t feel alive, to begin with, then their deaths will be of little consequence. Looking at Train to Busan as a narrative cause study, the essay focuses on the character arcs and deaths of three main characters, ultimately arguing that the latter informs the former, underscoring morals, beliefs, and whether they’ve weathered or succumbed to the pressures of catastrophe.

Watch “Train to Busan: How to Kill a Character“:

Who made this?

This video was created by Accented Cinema, a Canadian-based YouTube video essay series with a focus on foreign cinema. You can subscribe to Accented on Cinema for bi-weekly uploads here. You can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.