Peninsula (2020) – Sang-ho Yeon

I remember seeing Train to Busan back in 2016, at my fave film fest, Toronto After Dark, and was excited to see it just from the buzz around it at the festival. I was completely wowed,and have since recommended it constantly. I loved what Yeon did with the film, the way the story played out, and the attention to character that made the narrative emotionally involving.

It’s been four years, and Yeon is ready to take us back to South Korea with an all new tale set in the zombie apocalypse. Peninsula, which opens here in Canada on August 7th, and if you can see it safely on the big screen, I heartily recommend it, as that is where this one will be best viewed, takes us back, but it’s not the world we left.

When we settled in for Train to Busan, we were witnessing the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. We’re now four years into it, and the story, and the world had to reflect that. Thankfully,the filmmakers were up to the task.

There is a lot of world-building that goes on in this film. It’s much more expansive and sweeping in nature than the first, though it still beats with the same emotional heart. At its core, it’s a tale of family, as well as a chronicle of humanity and the horrors we visit upon one another.

This time out, the narrative follows Jung Suk (Dong-Won Gang), ex-military, he escaped South Korea on the last ship, but an outbreak aboard cost him almost everything, and now he is living on the edges of society in an unwelcoming Hong Kong.

He and his brother-in-law, are recruited for a ‘piece of cake’ criminal plan, that will entail them returning to Korea, tracking down and delivering a truck filled with cash. The zombies can’t use it, and if they can get it out of the country, then he’ll be well off, and perhaps can leave the ghosts of the past behind.

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But South Korea isn’t going to be a cakewalk, it’s overrun by zombies, but trapped, and eking out an existence are small pockets of humanity, including the horrific unit 631 who have established an encampment in a shopping mall, and take delight in terrible games involving prisoners and zombies.

Suk soon finds himself in over his head, and finds aid in Min Jung (Jung-hyun Lee) – whom he has a past connection with – and her family, who have been trapped in Korea and are looking for a way out. If they can recover the truck, and make it to Incheon Port, they may have a way out…

The film fills its almost two hour run time with lots of solid zombie moments, and is a much bigger film than the original film. Using the zombie apocalypse as a launching point, the film is also heavily influenced by Escape From New York, Dawn of the Dead, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, all to great effect.

The story, and the action never lets up, even when delivering well-earned emotional beats, there is always a ticking clock in the background reminding us that we have to get a move on.

Those going in expecting a carbon copy sequel of Train to Busan are no doubt going to be a little disappointed. But if you’re expecting to see how the world has changed, what has happened, and how people survive against this breed of zombie, then you’re sure to enjoy it.

I honestly think that with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are going to see more zombie stories in the future, because it seems so relevant to what is going on around us.

Peninsula is a welcome addition to the zombie sub-genre of horror films, and ended up being a lot of fun. Peninsula opens in Canada Friday.

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