If it wasn’t for the title and a little in movie exposition, you’d have likely flown through this zombie flick having no knowledge of its connection to 2016’s Train to Busan. What perhaps you further wouldn’t realise, is that this is a threequel to director Sang-ho Yeon’s chaotic Korean zombie horror franchise. The lesser known Seoul Station, which was also released in 2016 acted as the opposite book end, setting up the events in these later instalments.
Train to Busan was a welcoming surprise. Just when it felt as though the zombie sub-genre had become stagnant and with each passing attempt I was just losing all hope, Sang-ho Yeon’s second spectacle into the genre, reawakened a lost love. Heading into Peninsula with a higher degree of anticipation but was by no means expecting the same level of craft that felt like an all or nothing previously for the director.
Peninsula feels as though it’s geared more towards the western audience. Whilst Train to Busan was relentlessly brutal and rarely allowed you to breathe with its endless nail-biting set pieces, it still had some heart and it handled its character progressions with care. Peninsula follows the formula like many sequels have done in the past, simply ramping everything up to eleven. There’s far less subtlety, most of the characterisations are flimsy and genre specific and it doesn’t have that gut wrenching send off.
Peninsula takes place four years after the events of Train to Busan. The outbreak has somewhat been contained. Surrounding areas of South Korea still remain on alert and vigilant of those who are passing through. The Peninsula is left devastated however and is now an inescapable death-trap to those who aren’t the cannibalistic type. To some very sick individuals, this is a fairground for murderous entertainment, with both humans and the undead being the source of said entertainment.
Marine Captain Jung-seok along with three others, are hired to attempt a suicide mission by heading into the Peninsula to retrieve a truck containing $20 million USD. If they can extract it from the now hoarded city, they will receive half the intake for their troubles. The group soon realise that it isn’t just the infected that they have to steer well away from, but also the cities menacing overseers. A gang that doesn’t take to lightly to the new trespassers.
If you’ve seen Train to Busan, then you’ll understand that little synopsis reads far different to that movie. Opting for a far more action orientated spectacle, Peninsula loses an awful lot of its raw emotive quality. Instead trading it for balls to the wall action sequences that are sometimes captivating but always cooky and over exaggerated.
It’s a sequel that doesn’t really feel like one. The references to its predecessors are few and far between. The story very much takes its own path and just happens to all unfold in the same region. Beyond that, it feels as though this could’ve worked entirely on its own without being linked to the previous instalments and perhaps would’ve benefitted more from it.
As it stands though, it still has plenty of zombie killing action, even if it causes the development of story and character to take a back seat. These zombies are perhaps some of the most terrifying we’ve seen put to screen and director Sang-ho Yeon continues to showcase that here. It doesn’t ever truly reach the heights of its predecessor but in taking the action heavy route, it fundamentally succeeds.