Annecy: Korean Zombie Thriller ‘Seoul Station’ Pushes Animated Features in New Directions
Seoul Station, the third animated feature by young South Korean director Sang-ho Yeon (The King of Pigs, The Fake), has been among the more delightful surprises at Annecy this year.
It’s a layered film that can be enjoyed on many levels. At its most basic, Seoul Station is a nail-biting, action-packed film about a father in search of his runaway daughter during the middle of a zombie outbreak in the South Korean capital. But alongside the growing horde of zombies, there’s a deep vein of social commentary that runs throughout the story, offering a non-didactic statement on homelessness, social alienation, and income inequality.
The animation style appears to be cel-shaded cg of some sort, possibly with hand-drawn facial elements. Cel-shaded animation can (and has) undermined many a solid film, but the process is used tastefully in Seoul Station. The animation performances feel naturalistic and character personalities are well-delineated. Even minor figures have compelling character arcs and evoke empathy from the viewer.
The film maintains its bleak and foreboding tone throughout, enhanced by Yeon’s expert cinematography, deliberate pacing, and sharp script. There’s also a twist ending of the highest caliber. Seoul Station is an ultra-low budget film, made for under US$1 million, but it is as entertaining as anything that comes out of Hollywood and willfully expands feature animation content in new directions.
Seoul Station’s North American premiere will take place next week at Lincoln Center as part of the New York Asian Film Festival. Korean distributor Finecut is handling global sales; no American distributor has picked up the film yet to my knowledge, but someone really should. It’s smart, fun animated entertainment that deserves to be seen more widely.