Zombies break box-office record

Horror-thriller Train To Busan is the highest-grossing Korean movie in Singapore

Gong Yoo is a workaholic fund manager who has to deal with a zombie virus in Train To Busan.
Gong Yoo is a workaholic fund manager who has to deal with a zombie virus in Train To Busan. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

South Korean movie Train To Busan is as resilient as the zombies it portrays - it has clawed its way to the top of the local box office and become the highest-grossing Korean movie in Singapore to date.

As of yesterday, the film, which is still showing in cinemas, has made $3.1 million at the box office.

That is more than triple the earnings of the next best performing Korean movie here - in 2007, romantic dramedy 200 Pounds Beauty (2006) had made $980,000.

Last weekend, Train To Busan also knocked Hollywood superhero blockbuster Suicide Squad off the box-office charts to reach the No. 1 spot, which is quite a feat, given that the zombie flick was already in the third week of its release.

It stars Gong Yoo (Coffee Prince, 2007) as a workaholic fund manager who travels with his daughter by train from Seoul to Busan on her birthday. Their journey soon descends into chaos when there is an outbreak of a virus that turns the passengers into crazed zombies.

Public relations specialist Fu Shuhui, 32, enjoyed the film so much she watched it twice in the cinemas.

She says: "I think this is the best zombie movie since 28 Days Later (2002) because this wasn't just a thriller, it was also an action- packed emotional ride. The pacing was relentless, but there was still time for character development."

Train To Busan is distributed by Clover Films and Golden Village.

Ms Song Ting, distribution and marketing manager at Golden Village Pictures, believes Singapore moviegoers were captivated by its breathlessly thrilling sequences, much like how they tend to be excited by "other horror films".

She says: "There is also a touching human story here, and along with well-executed action sequences and high production values, all of these factors add up to the film's winning formula."

South Korean films do not normally fare well in Singapore, despite the popularity here of the country's pop music and television shows.

According to industry insiders, it has been a challenge in recent years for Korean films to break the $200,000 mark at the Singapore box office.

The list of top Asian titles in Singapore, besides Singapore films, is dominated by Hong Kong and China co-productions.

The top three highest-grossing non-Singaporean Asian films here are gongfu movie Ip Man 3 (2015), which made $7.65 million; Jackie Chan actioner CZ12 (2012, $5 million); and Ip Man 2 (2010, $4.66 million).

Ms Song speculates on the reasons behind the poor performance of Korean films: "There is an increase in movie varieties at the cinemas. Some Korean films are also released much later here than when they first open in Korea, so people access them online."

Train To Busan had also set records when it opened in its native South Korea in July, recording the highest single-day gross of US$9.64 million (S$13 million) from 1.28 million admissions.

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• Train To Busan is showing in cinemas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'Zombies break box-office record'. Subscribe