In which I review (in a spoiler-free manner!) South Korean zombie sequel Peninsula.
Yeon Sang-ho’s 2016 Train to Busan was a breath of fresh air, so to speak, in the “Zombie apocalypse” arena, which is an impressive feat these days of late-stage ghoulism. The setting was interesting, the cast of characters memorable, and the “rules” for the undead were clear and simple. They can run! They can swarm! But they’re practically immobile in the dark.
Both the film and its animated prequel Seoul Station were critically lauded, and the worldwide success that ensued allowed the director to revisit the premise; although Peninsula isn’t a direct sequel. “It’s not a continuation of the story, but it happens in the same universe,” he has explained in interviews.
The film begins four years after the events in Busan, to find that the South Korean government collapsed in a single day. The horrifically few people that managed to escape are now destitute refugees, stateless, shunned wherever they go as being possible carriers of the virus. The Korean peninsula has been abandoned and sealed off by the United Nations.
Jung-Seok (played by Gang Dong-won), a survivor stranded in Hong Kong, is given an offer – join a motley team of other displaced locals on an illicit trip back to recover a van full of US currency. If he makes it out alive, he gets a share. But landing in Incheon Port they discover that, whilst still teeming with the sprightly undead, the city isn’t completely devoid of the living.
The film echoes Escape From New York than anything else, and of course comparisons to The Walking Dead are unavoidable, especially when we learn more about what kind of “society” remains in the devastated city. Despite the over-familiarity of the plot there is still a lot of excitement to be found, even if it suffers from one or two moments of painful mawkishness. These do make the 116 minute running time feel quite stretched in places.
Unfortunately there are some scenes that rely so heavily on CGI that it turns into a computer game, albeit a very nice-looking one, with the physics and gravitational plausibility you’d expect. The zombies almost seem to have randomised hit boxes, which stretches even the ridiculously elastic credibility inherent in the genre.
These issues do lower the experience quite a lot; and whilst there is a reasonable amount of enjoyable if uninventive entertainment to be gleaned here, it’s certainly not a must-see like the first film was.
Due to Covid, theatrical releases of the film have been sporadic and erratic around the world, but is now widely available on demand.
Alright, have a good day everyone, take care of yourselves and kick some ass!