Review: Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula
Similarly surging but less distinctive horror sequel returning us to a South Korea now overrun with the undead
Written by Emma Simmonds
This extremely timely follow-up to 2016’s South Korean smash Train to Busan focuses on a deadly virus, the desperate attempts to contain it, and the stigma attached to its country of origin. However, given that rampaging zombie hordes once again feature, that’s where the similarity with our present predicament ends.
Picking up after the events of his original, director Yeon Sang-ho uses crass establishing tactics to set the scene. In a nod to its international success, a spot on a US talk show cringingly brings us up to speed. Gang Dong-won is our new hero Jung-seok. Although somewhat more honourable than our last, we see this military man make some brutal, life-or-death decisions at the outset, choices which are inevitably going to come back to haunt him.
Four years later, he’s living an ignominious fringe existence in Hong Kong and becomes part of a criminal plot to retrieve $20 million from the abandoned Korean peninsula. Docking at Incheon port with a small team, things quickly go from suspiciously simple to a bloody disaster, and Jung-seok is picked up by two plucky young girls (Lee Re and Lee Ye-won) and taken to their hideout to meet their mother Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun).
The flesh-eaters themselves play a more side-lined role here; instead, Peninsula goes for the old humanity-are-worse-than-any-threat-the-world-can-throw-at-us schtick. Without its own USP, this sequel is straightforwardly derivative, offering up Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic antics (villains include Kim Min-Jae’s rogue sergeant and Koo Gyo-hwan’s cowardly captain). Yet there’s some panache in the execution, the pace of the action sets it apart, while the film’s production value predominantly impresses. Those who enjoyed the surging style of Train to Busan will find some comparable excitement here, with Yeon showing particular flair for vehicular-based carnage, as events unfold at turbo speed.
Set at night, when zombies are said to be near-blind, it’s virtually monochromatic in its lack of colour spectrum, giving it a distinct, steely look, with the derelict city convincingly rendered. The basic idea of heading back into quarantined, terrifying, and undoubtedly anarchic, terrain is a solid, albeit not hugely original one – as well as the aforementioned, the film owes debts to Aliens and Neil Marshall’s Doomsday.
As Jung-seok, Gang is saddled with a fairly limited role, wearing an expression which communicates his guilt and anxiety but not being permitted much personality beyond that. The family of resilient, largely female survivors (plus a deluded war veteran grandpa) fare better, though some might find the action heroine kids a bit cutesy. If the film’s overreliance on slow-mo culminates in an ending which goes from stirring to excruciating, audiences hungry for more undead mayhem should find enough meat here to satisfy.
Peninsula will have special previews over the Halloween weekend, before being released in select cinemas nationwide on 6 November. It will also be available on DVD, Blu-Ray & EST from 30 November, for which pre-orders are now live here and will also include the limited edition HMV Exclusive First Edition and Train to Busan Trilogy Blu-ray Boxset.
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Screenwriter: Yeon Sang-ho, Ryu Yong-jae
Cast: Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re
Running Time: 116min