Welcome to Will Mom Like This? an exploration into the trials and tribulations of sharing your favorite scary movies with family. Sharing movies with loved ones is a beautiful thing. As beautiful as it is, I think we have all experienced moments so uncomfortable you wish the couch would swallow you whole. In this new monthly column, I’m going to try and help you avoid that as much as possible. My hope is that this will work as a sort of guide for you to know when you should excuse yourself to refill the popcorn bowl and avoid the wrath of a disgruntled or disgusted parent. Be warned, we will be discussing a lot of plot spoilers but only so we don’t spoil a perfectly good evening with your folks.
The holidays are upon us fiends, and this time of year is all about giving to others and showing the people you care about that you love them. It also means we are celebrating End of Days month here on Nightmare on Film Street so I put my mind to combining the spirit of the season with some apocalyptic vibes. For many months here, we have tried and failed (admittedly sometimes we tried harder than others) to find a horror movie that is fun for the whole family to watch together, but this time I brought out the big guns.
“It’s like The Poseidon Adventure but on a train and scarier.” -Mom
Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan is an incredible entry in the zombie apocalypse sub-genre that follows Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) and his daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an) as a nationwide zombie outbreak begins while they are stuck on an express train. It’s a nearly perfect movie and I hoped that would be enough for my mother’s high standards. Let’s see how successful I was.
Almost immediately, we are confronted by the fact that an area of the town Train to Busan begins in is under quarantine due to a chemical leak. My mom did not like the looks of this, she said she had had enough quarantine for one lifetime. A fair point. She liked the looks of this even less when a splattered deer on the side of the road reanimated and trotted away, prompting her to ask, “are there zombies in this?” I just smiled and kept my eyes on the TV.
The pandemic vibes also kicked up a notch once the movie changes location to the actual train. Like many people, my mom has taken to watching things through a 2020 lens, so seeing so many people packed into public transportation filled my mom with some unintentional anxiety. I was worried about her stamina for the remaining 95 minutes of the movie if she was already losing it over public health woes. It didn’t help much that a lot of the plot of Train to Busan hinges on the fact that several characters all have to pee at the same time, and the close proximity interactions in the tiny spaces surrounding the on-board toilets caused sweat to break out on her forehead.
Jumping back to my mom’s previous question about there being zombies in this movie, it quickly becomes apparent that yes, yes there are zombies and they are nasty. The way that the zombies move in Train to Busan is wholly upsetting, including jerky contortions and terrifying running speeds. After witnessing the first zombie transformation (zombification as my mom likes to call it) she turned to me with a warning, “if they’re all doing this…” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that they all certainly do this, and I never found out what she was threatening to do as another zombification caused her to resume biting all her fingernails off. Something about the visual of the gooey, writhing zombies, combined with the sharp sound of fingernails snapping between teeth really added to the atmosphere for me, so thanks for that one Mom.
Two things my mom is historically upset by in horror movies: being chased by any fast-moving creature and large mobs of people/monsters. Now if you’ve seen Train to Busan, you can understand where this would be an issue. One scene, in particular, involves a massive group of soldiers-turned-zombies charging up an escalator and mauling everyone in sight which I thought would surely have her yelling at the top of her lungs. Instead, I think she was so frozen by fear that she only managed the softest little “oh shoot,” as she watched the carnage. At a certain point, she even began doing her own zombie impression which I found highly disturbing. I thought if I just ignored her, she would stop, but she only continued trying to perfect her jerky movements and saying “is it like this? Like this??” until I engaged with the demonstration.
Thrills and Chills
If the above description of the zombification process didn’t do enough, it feels worth mentioning that this movie is really scary. It’s a pretty intense watch which is why I would like to dedicate this section to the waves of fear my mom experienced, and the myriad of ways she tried to self soothe throughout our viewing of Train to Busan. Please note that they were all unsuccessful.
We couldn’t have been more than a third of the way into the movie when she told me her stomach hurt and she was getting a tension headache. At this point there were only a handful of lone zombies wandering through the train cars, so we certainly had a ways to go. By the time the zombies really started picking up, she had her face fully hidden in her shirt collar and was explaining to me that she was experiencing “Busan tummy.” She was the physical embodiment of someone being “on edge,” sitting as far forward on the couch cushion as humanly possible without falling off. I also caught her with her eyes closed, breathing deeply through her nose and was worried she was going to ralph before she let me know that she was doing “yoga breaths.” I wasn’t aware her Yoga with Adrienne videos covered what to do when faced with flesh-tearing monsters.
“I made the decision to keep a running cry counter for Train to Busan […] it was the first time in a good long while that I openly sobbed in my mother’s arms.”
Typically it would be the blood and the violence in a movie that got her this worked up, but without my even asking she told me that the violence didn’t upset her at all because it was all so exciting. This alone was enough to bring a tear to my eye, but it also made me realize that all the stress must be coming from concern for the characters and what could happen to them, which leads me to my next crucial note…
I like to think I know myself and I know my mother pretty well, and it was because of this knowledge that I made the decision to keep a running cry counter for Train to Busan. Spoilers incoming, so if you haven’t seen Train to Busan, proceed with caution, but this movie is an emotional gut punch. There was one character that my mom fell particularly in love with, which makes sense because he is the coolest. Almost immediately, she said “if he dies I’m gonna be pissed,” and my stomach dropped because, you guessed it, this guy gets totally bit by a zombie. She was true to her word as was reflected by the unrestrained way she screamed when he did get bit. That was the first cry, and she explained her sadness, weeping “he’s so strong and so good. I’m so sad.” I couldn’t have agreed with her more.
Suffice to say, our beloved main characters get into some pretty sticky situations, and after a solid hour and a half of this, my mom was overwhelmed by her worry. She was yelling so much that her mouth dried out and I was seriously concerned she would hyperventilate. Which would be a completely fair reaction, don’t get me wrong. She was so beaten down by the end of this movie that when another favorite character got bit by a zombie, all she could do was throw a pillow to the ground in impotent rage. This was quickly followed by a flood of tears as my mom and I cried so ungodly hard together. For those playing along at home, according to my cry counter, we cried on four different occasions during Train to Busan, and it was the first time in a good long while that I openly sobbed in my mother’s arms.
Miscellaneous Pearls of Wisdom
Throughout our adventure with Train to Busan, my mom had a lot of things to say, and while most of her thoughts fit nicely into the categories above, there were a few outliers that are just too good not to share.
- “These zombies really commit.”
- When a flaming train car is hurling down the track towards our heroes: “Could this day get any worse?”
- While assessing the carnage caused by the zombies: “It’s like The Poseidon Adventure but on a train and scarier.”
- “This is not a snoozer.”
But Did Mom Like It?
So, the time came to ask the question, did Mom like that? Folks, it’s time to break out the party poppers and the cheap champagne because she absolutely loved it. 5/5 Moms would recommend. My only hesitation would be to warn your parental figure if they’re squeamish around blood or highly sensitive to emotional trauma, but Train to Busan is a real crowd-pleaser. We’re closing in on a week since we’ve watched this movie and she still hasn’t stopped talking about it. No matter what the topic of our conversation is, she finds a way to relate it to Train to Busan and that just makes me so happy I could cry all over again.
Do you think your parent would enjoy Train to Busan as thoroughly as my mom did? Let us know what scary movie you have always wanted to watch with your parents over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club. We’ll do our best to give you a heads up of everything you’ll want to avoid, but don’t blame us if they disown you!