Tasin to Busan film poster
Train to Busan was released in South Korea on July 20, 2016. The action horror film was the first Korean film to break an audience record of over 10 million theatergoers. It has since become a horror cult classic. It has spawned an animated prequel, Seoul Station (2016), released a month after Train to Busan. Peninsula, released in July 2020, is set four years after the events of the original film. As of this writing, Train to Busan is currently on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.

Genre: Monster in the House (Pure Monster)

Logline: After a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.

MITH Cousins: Night of the Living Dead, The Thing, The Descent, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Walking Dead, Jaws, Anaconda, World War Z, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later

Written by: Joo-Suk Park & Sang-ho Yeon
Directed by: Sang-ho Yeon

Opening Image (1): At a Quarantine Zone, a truck driver zooms through the gate and stops. His vehicle is fumigated. He asks if it’s “dead hogs” again. No, one of the quarantine guards says, “there was a minor leak at the Biotech District.” He adds that it’s nothing to worry about. (Never a good sign.)

a scene from the movie 'train to Busan'
Now entering the Quarantine Zone. The forbidding Opening Image.

Trying to answer his ringing phone, the distracted driver accidentally hits and kills a deer. He drives off. The corpse of the animal reanimates into a zombie deer—oh shit!

a deer from the movie 'Train to Busan'
The zombie deer in the prologue alerts us that there’s a serious monster in the house.

Set-Up (1-10): Seok-woo (Gong Yu) is an overworked, self-absorbed fund manager at a large firm. He’s divorced, cynical, and his daughter Su-an is a distraction to him—talk about Six Things That Need Fixing! Seok-woo buys his daughter a Nintendo Wii, except that she already had one. All she wants to do is ride the train home to see her mother. She’ll go alone not to “waste” her father’s time.

scene from the film 'Train to Busan'
Seok-woo has Six Things That Need Fixing at the beginning of the tale.

Theme Stated (7): Seok-woo sees a video of a recital he missed of his daughter singing, “Aloha ‘oe.” Due to his absence, she has stage fright and cannot finish. His mother, who lives with him, says that this is a critical age for Su-an and that he should try to patch up his failed marriage. In a perfect Theme Stated moment, his mother (Joo-sil Lee) basically tells him, in a polite yet direct way, that he needs to care about other people.

Catalyst (13): Seok-woo and Su-an arrive at the train station and board the KTX train. As they do, strange things seem to be happening around them. Fires and ambulances are roaring down streets, crowds gathering, watching something. They don’t seem to notice, but something is happening that they will have to deal at the Break in Two.

A scene from the movie 'Train to Busan'
The uninvited, infected passenger that begins the terrifying journey.

Debate (13-25): We meet many of the other passengers on the train who we’ll come to know later—they include a baseball team, which has a player, Yong-guk (Choi Woo-shik), and his girlfriend, Jin-hee (Sohee); two elderly sisters (Ye Soo-jung and Park Myung-sin); tough guy Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok); and his feisty, pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (Jung Yu-mi). A woman, who has something wrong with her, jumps on the train at the last second, unnoticed by the attendant. She’s been bitten and is transforming into a hideous monster.

Like the attentive dad that he is, Seok-woo falls asleep. Su-an notices strange activity happening on the train, so she gets up and mills around. The attendants find a crazy homeless man in the bathroom. He warns them that something terrible is coming. Classic Monster in the House moment: the warning that goes unheeded. Su-an uses a bathroom.

Seok-woo wakes up to another phone call from his office. He notices Su-an missing and goes to find her. A train attendant finds a writhing woman who dies and, like the deer in the opening, reanimates into a zombie. The attendant, with the zombie girl on her, biting, runs into the train compartment. Then the infection spreads like wildfire—people are bitten and reanimate within moments into a horde of zombies aboard the moving train.

Break into Two (25): Seok-woo sees the commotion—a wave of zombies heading his way, chasing people from one train compartment to the next. He finds Su-an, picks her up, and runs. His story goal is to keep her and himself safe.

B Story (25): As we saw earlier, Seok-woo has Six Things That Need Fixing. He will learn primarily from his daughter, Su-an, who is much wiser than he. Seok-woo must learn to care about people other than himself if he and his daughter are to survive. There’s a moment where Su-an offers her seat to an old lady because “granny’s knees always hurt her.” Seok-woo scolds her and says that she needs to look out only for herself. She knows her father is wrong.

a scene from the movie 'Train to Busan'
Seok-woo tries to instruct Su-an about life, but she will teach him matters of being human.

Fun and Games (25-55): Seok-woo manages to get Su-an into a train car and closes the door. His first test is to let a couple, tough guy Sang-hwa and pregnant Seong-kyeong, in without the horde coming in. A self-absorbed businessman, Yon-Suk (Kim Eui-sung), tells him not to do it. (This guy is Seok-woo’s status quo character—an Ebenezer Scrooge-type that he’ll eventually become if he doesn’t change.)

a scener from the film 'Train to Busan'
Yon-Suk is a greedy bastard who’s responsible for many deaths due to his own selfishness.

Using water from a bottle and some newspapers, they make a “curtain,” so the zombie horde cannot see them. The dead seem to be affected by seeing the living. Once the reanimated corpses cannot see them, the living are safe for now in the eye of the hurricane.

Seok-woo receives a call from his mom. She’s rasping, telling him she loves him and cursing his wife. She dies and reanimates while he’s on the phone with her.

The news reports are bad. The violent chaos has broken out everywhere. At the next train station, people on the platforms are killed by zombies. The train rushes on. There’s no place to go but to keep going.

They get a message that the train will terminate at Daejeon Station. The military is waiting for them there to help. While Seok-woo leaves to make a phone call, tough guy Sang-hwa asks Su-an what her dad does. She tells him he’s a fund manager. The man says, “bloodsucker.” The daughter agrees. She loves her dad but knows what he is—heartless and thoughtless, not unlike the zombies that threaten.

Seok-woo calls in a favor. Can somebody meet him at Daejeon Station? He gets a tip that everyone will be quarantined. But if he gets to the East Platform, he’ll be safe. The KTX train arrives at Daejeon Station. For a place that’s allegedly been secured by the military, it’s eerily quiet.

Seok-woo debarks with Su-an and the rest of the passengers. We learn from Yon-Suk, the businessman, that Daejeon has been overrun. They need to leave. He wants to leave right away. The rest of the group going into the terminal is walking into mayhem. Seok-woo breaks off from the main group with Su-an. He’s going to meet the people he called. The homeless man, who heard the call, wants to go with him. Seok-woo tells him to go away. Su-an tries to warn the others, but her father tells her no. Then the truth comes out—she tells him that he only cares about himself, and that’s why her mom left him. Ouch!

The rest of the group discover that all of the soldiers have turned. They attack Seok-woo and Su-an. The duo manage to escape, but many of the passengers are killed. The homeless man saves Seok-woo, and he escapes with the rest… barely. Busan is the only safe route now—there’s a quarantine station set up.

Midpoint (53): False Defeat. Though they’re safe for now, Seok-woo learns from tough guy Sang-hwa that his wife, Seong-kyeong, and Su-an are hiding in a washroom in Car 13 (they’re in Car 9). The personal stakes raise for Seok-woo and the rest—now they must move through cars that have the living dead in them. This complication seems like a suicide mission, but the clock is ticking. Seok-woo working with other people to go after his daughter is part of his transformation from selfish to selfless as A and B Stories cross.

a scene from the film 'Train to Busan'
Sang-hwa, Yong-guk, and Seok-woo, ready to fight the dead and save their loved ones.

Bad Guys Close In (53-73): Sang-hwa, Yong-guk, and Seok-woo gear up to go through the train cars. They make gauntlets out of athletic tape and arm themselves with baseball bats. The first car is pure fighting. In the second car, they almost die until they go through a tunnel. The dark confuses the zombies. In the next car they use cell phones to create a distraction, smoothly moving through the darkened car as the zombies attack a ringing phone.

Sang-hwa finds his wife in the washroom, along with Su-an. Seok-woo is reunited with his daughter, but they’re only halfway home. They’ll have to go through more cars that contain the infected to reach safety. Seok-woo sees on his phone that there are tunnels every two minutes. They’ll have to use those to get through the zombie hordes.

Yong-guk calls Jin-hee and tells her. She informs the group, which includes the self-serving Yon-suk. He puts up a good argument that they shouldn’t let the group back in—they could be infected. Seok-woo, Su-an, and the group, in a suspenseful sequence, must use the luggage racks to crawl past the zombies as the train passes through a tunnel. As they clear the path, the homeless man slips and falls. Seok-woo must risk his life to rescue him—this is a man he wouldn’t have given the time of day a few hours ago. He’s changing. The homeless man steps on a soda can. The zombies charge. The living run through the cars, chased.

Sang-hwa holds the door with his strength. Businessman Yon-Suk won’t open the door to let them in. They’re trapped. Baseball player Yong-guk smashes open the glass with a bat and tries to force his way in. The others, led by the businessman, Yon-Suk, won’t let him.

All Is Lost (73): Sang-hwa sacrifices himself for the group’s good, telling Seok-woo to take care of his pregnant wife, Seong-kyeong. This is a call-back to when Seok-woo almost didn’t open the door for him. Now they share a moment. The strong man tells him to go. Before the door shatters and zombies consume him, he shouts back to his wife that the baby’s name should be “Yoon Su-Yun (Perfect Lotus Blossom).” His final act was finally naming his child after his wife told him previously that he was too lazy to do so.

Dark Night of the Soul (73-89): Seok-woo’s group manages to escape into the safe car with the remaining survivors. One rescue, an elderly sister, doesn’t make it, to the horror of her sister waiting inside. Seok-woo grabs selfish Yon-Suk. Asks him why they tried to kill him and the rest. In a way, this is wrestling with his shadow self, the person he once was at the beginning of the film.

a scene from the film 'Train to Busdan'
Seok-woo wrestles with his status quo, shadow self, Yon-Suk.

The rest of the survivors tell Seok-woo and his group to leave. They do. Yong-guk takes Jin-hee with him. They trek to the next car. The others lock them out. Disgusted with Yon-Suk’s selfishness of “only thinking of himself,” the remaining elderly sister opens the door and lets the zombie horde in. Selfishness is the transgression in this story, and it catches up to those who are. They’re all attacked and killed by the monsters.

The KTX train engineer radios to Busan. They’re on their way. Seok-woo and Su-an share a moment. She’s glad to be with him now, a change from the beginning. She tells him that she couldn’t sing the song at school because he wasn’t there. Seok-woo tries to call his ex-wife. She doesn’t answer. His employee, Kim, calls. He tells Seok-woo that Biotech, the company they were working with, caused all of this. Are they to blame?

The engineer has to stop the train. The way ahead at East Daegu train station is blocked. He climbs out and finds another engine so he can get the remaining passengers safely to Busan.

Break into Three (89): Seok-woo, Su-an, Seong-kyeong, Yong-guk, Jin-hee, and the homeless man disembark the train. Back on terra firma! A and B stories cross—and the “team” gathers for the Finale.

Finale (89-102):
Executing the Plan: Back inside the train, Yon-Suk and a train attendant hide in a bathroom, the only survivors. Yon-Suk pushes the train attendant into a group of zombies and makes a run for it outside. He leaves the door open, and the monsters follow. Thanks to his selfishness, Jin-hee is bitten. Yong-guk stays with her until she turns into a living corpse and kills him. Talk about love and self-sacrifice!

— High Tower Surprise: A flaming, runaway train crashes near Seok-woo, Su-an, Seong-kyeong, and the homeless man. They’re trapped under derailed train cars. The car windows crash open from the weight of the zombie horde. The homeless man sacrifices himself, so Seok-woo, Su-an, and Seong-kyeong can get away.

a scene from the film 'Train to Busan'
Seok-woo must save Su-an at all costs.

— Dig, Deep Down: Selfish Yon-Suk runs toward the moving train engine chased by zombies. The engineer sees him and jumps out to help. He’s killed, and Yon-Suk gets away, though bitten, and climbs into the engine.

A scene from the film 'Train to Busan'
Like death itself, the zombie horde is relentlessly unstoppable.

Seok-woo, Su-an, and Seong-kyeong run for the engine, chased by a staggering horde of zombies. They manage to climb on. However, like ants, a horde of zombies hold onto one another, being dragged, climbing over one another to get to the survivors. Seok-woo manages to kicks the hands of the zombies holding the engine loose. They go sailing. Gone. He goes into the engine cab. Yon-Suk is inside. He’s infected. Seok-woo tries locking the door, but Yon-Suk manages to open it and shuffle out. He asks for help, but there’s nothing to be done. He turns entirely and attacks—he and Seok-woo fight. Yon-Suk bites Seok-woo before being thrown off the train.

A scene from the movie 'Train to Busan'
Seok-woo trains to be a good father and protector against zombie stowaways.

In a tearful scene, Seok-woo says goodbye to Su-an. He tells her to stay with Seong-kyeong now. He leaves, walking to the back of the train. Before he fully transforms, he has an epiphany moment of his young daughter being born. He leaps off the train, self-sacrificing to save his daughter and Seong-kyeong. His transformation is complete.

a scene from the film 'Train to Busan'
Su-an is devastated that her father left her in the train engine.

— Executing a New Plan: Seong-kyeong drives the train to Busan. She and Su-an come to the end of the line and disembark. They walk past a barbed-wire barrier. Dead soldiers and civilians lie everywhere. It must’ve been a hell of a battle. They enter a dark tunnel. On the other side, soldiers at a checkpoint keep guard. They see two “bogeys” approaching. They’re told to “check for infection.” They can verify visually, so they’re told to kill them.

a scene from the movie 'Train to Busan'
Seong-kyeong and Su-an loom in the military sniper’s sights.

Final Image (102): Then, before the trigger is pulled, Su-an sings the song, “Aloha ‘oe,” that she wanted to sing for her father. This time, she’s able to finish it. The camo-faced soldiers jump from behind their sandbags and sprint toward the survivors. Seong-kyeong and Su-an are safe.

See other Monster in the House Beat Sheets.