An elderly man wanders through the area around Seoul Station where homeless people often congregate as the evening draws in, but he has blood coming from his neck and appears to be in a daze thanks to this injury. A couple of young men notice his distressed state and go over to see if they can help, but when they smell the stench from him they decide against it and dismiss him as homeless and therefore beyond their assistance, so the man continues on his way to collapse by a wall and lie there, his breathing heavy. Soon his friend, who has been berating a businessman, shows up and realises there is something badly wrong, but who can help in this increasingly uncooperative society?
If you watched Train to Busan and thought, well, it's fair enough but what it really needed for the George A. Romero touch is a spot of social commentary, then the same director's Seoul Station was the film for you. Assuming you liked South Korean anime, that is, for that was what Yeon Sang-ho made his name in before turning to live action with his locomotive-based, fast zombie flick that made waves across the globe, and while he was creating that he was also directing the complementary animated variation. You had the impression that if he had wanted to essentially remake his hit in his more accustomed medium, he would have done so, yet that was not precisely what you were offered here.
The opening sequence set the political tone, if not the action-oriented one, as those two men who swiftly gave up on their potential Good Samaritan status had been discussing the benefits of universal healthcare, which it's debatable would have helped the old guy given he has been infected with a deadly virus, but certainly would not have hurt. Yeon painted a bleak view of South Korean society, concentrating on the selfishness and exploitation that were apparently inherent there, according to him at any rate, through the pursuit across the city of a young prostitute (voiced by Shim Eun-kyung) who had split up with her boyfriend (Lee Joon) that night but now the crisis has erupted wants to get back together with him.
The implication being more "any old port in a storm" over a romantic reconciliation, as we discover, but there is a complication as the girl's father (Ryu Seong-ryong) joins forces with the boy to rescue his daughter, and his love for her seems to be the most sincere aspect aside from the even more sincere drive to escape the bites of the marauding maniacs. The old guy would seem to be Patient Zero in this case, or at least the first of the infected we see, and because the condition leaves him in an insane frenzy of murderous rage, much as the zombies in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later had been, the film that effectively reignited the subgenre of this strain of horror like a spreading virus among big budget and small budget moviemakers alike, the whole of Seoul is sent hurtling into a panic, with martial law declared.
Well, the riot police are on the streets, and they're armed, so it's obvious the authorities are taking this seriously even if in time honoured fashion there is very little they can do to prevent this other than gunning down everyone who is afflicted and hope to arrest the spread that way. There were hints that Yeon wanted us to take away from his story that while the status quo is in effect, people really do not care for their fellow humans and it is only when an emergency is set off they begin to look out for each other, as we see when the girl joins forces with a homeless man who she nearly died in a police cell with at one point. But then there was the matter of the twist, which has you regarding the rest of the film in a new light, and realise that the citizens were simply in another state of mind of self-preservation brought on by their impending doom, and they were not as altruistic as we would hope to be. It was a very bleak view, and one you may not agree with, making this a well-made, tense but easy to respect, ultimately hard to like zombie yarn.
[Studio Canal's Blu-ray has a making of as an extra.]