If you missed Train to Busan (2016), then there has never been a better time to give that outstanding zombie film a chance. Why? Because the sequel, Peninsula (2020), not only lives up to its predecessor – largely in part of Sang-ho Yeon returning to write and direct – but it offers an entirely different experience that continues his excellent zombie story. While there is no reason to skip Train to Busan, you can jump right into Peninsula, as the story is a continuation of the world with all new characters in their own story.
Jung Suk (Dong-Won Gang) is taking his family on a ship to escape the Korean Peninsula and the crazy outbreak. Things take a bad turn when an infected person turns on the ship, killing many of the passengers. A few years later, Jung is given an opportunity to return to the Peninsula and potentially solve his money problems. Once there, Jung Suk is surprised to encounter survivors with various levels of humanity remaining in them.
Yeon’s zombies are unique and offer a crazy brand of terror. They are fast, and newly killed people turn just as quickly. It creates hordes and hordes of zombies that seem to be almost never-ending. There were several scenes in Train to Busan that utilized this, and Peninsula does the same. Each action sequence is well crafted – and while some of the CG looks a little wonky, the movie generally looks great. However, this is years after the outbreak – and the world is darker and grittier. The fact that the zombies are basically blind in the dark adds to the overall look of the frames, and the use of light sources only adds to the aesthetic of the film.
Yeon’s greatest achievement with both films is his ability to craft characters with emotional stakes as well as the physical ones. These aren’t one-dimensional archetypes with no feelings. In each film, the audience is drawn to the characters, and find themselves truly concerned for the well-being of them. This is essential for a horror movie to transcend superficial jump scares and really push the suspense and true terror one finds only when they are concerned that the characters survive.
The performances in the film are all really great. There is a bit of humor to lighten the tension, and this movie adds some amazing car chases to the mix. Without giving away much of the story, there is a sequence that can only be described as Mad Max + Fast and the Furious + Zombies. In no way is that a negative criticism! It’s pure awesomeness unfolding on the screen, with the only regret being that I was unable to see this in a theater where it deserves to shine.
You must rent Peninsula. Go ahead and buy Train to Busan. If you’re a fan of the zombie genre at all, you owe yourself these movies. If you are on the other end of the fandom and dislike zombies but don’t have issues with horror or gore, then this could be the zombie franchise that wins you over. Peninsula earns the Must See rating.