In 2016, zombie horror in America was dragging its feet like a decayed husk in the summer heat. This was the same year the AMC cable juggernaut The Walking Dead introduced Negan. Played by a grinning Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Negan was a sadomasochist cult leader who, armed with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, led an army that terrorized the main protagonists for a long, long season of miserable television.
That was zombies genre in America: Formerly a socially-conscious genre that exposed the living as monsters (George Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, the big bang for all zombie stories, ends with white people shooting the Black protagonist), it was reduced to a survivalist wet fantasy in between commercials for Old Navy.
But an ocean away, zombies were seeing new life in South Korea. In the smash-hit movie Train to Busan, director Yeon Sang-ho framed Korea’s own social and political anxieties through a newfound fascination with the undead. Reminiscent of the UK’s 28 Days Later (faithful to the spirit of George Romero, but wholly its own thing), Train to Busan was, and still is, an arresting zombie movie in which even diehards of the genre can smell something fresh. It’s also the only movie you need to watch on Netflix before it the streaming service on September 17.