Train To Busan broke records around the world while bringing something new to the zombie craze. Four years later, the inevitable sequel arrives with grimly ironic timing for a world where infection rates and quarantine are now the norm.
The reason for the ‘presents’ in the title is that it’s a sequel with little relation to the original, like the Cloverfield sequels, or 28 Weeks Later. Different story, same apocalypse. Train To Busan’s events and aftermath are covered by a stilted news report at the beginning, then we’re off on a new adventure.
We meet Jung-Seok (Gang Dong-won), a former military captain now living as a refugee in Hong Kong, where Koreans are treated with disgust and suspicion. He is haunted by a tragic event that happened on his way to the city, and is faced with a dilemma when he is offered a return to Korea, now quarantined, to pull off a heist. The job is simple: go in at night and retrieve an abandoned truck containing $20m in cash, and avoid getting bitten by hoards of zombies. However, once Jung-Seok, his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon), and their team arrive, the plan goes awry and the heist turns into a fight for survival.
Both in terms of tone and scale, this follow up is very different. Train To Busan traded on the claustrophobia of its setting, throwing in social commentary and characters that aren’t just there to be picked off. Peninsula has the same simplicity of purpose, but lacks the depth. Where the first was a haunted house, this is an all-action chase movie with all the tropes you might expect. As soon as we meet the three misfits accompanying our hero on the heist, you can create a pretty accurate and chronological death pool. The rules are set out like a game show (“Don’t forget – the zombies are blind at night, and sensitive to sound!”).
Still, the action sequences are frenetic and exciting, accompanied by effects that look great in the gloomy night time streets. The drive to the Peninsula, where we see a once bustling city now lying in tatters, sets the scene perfectly. Returning director Yeon Sang-ho isn’t afraid of a bit of gore, but neither does he delight in torture porn, turning the camera away when the scene gets too personal.
The characters are likeable enough, although suffer in comparison to the first film’s emotional core, there to service the plot and fill out the running time, as well as expand this post-Busan world into something resembling Mad Max.
If you adore the zombie genre in all its shambling forms, Peninsula will press your buttons. Those chasing that same Train To Busan buzz, however, will leave disappointed by yet another sequel that abandons its principles in the pursuit of spectacle.
Train To Busan Presents: Peninsula is available On Demand from Nov 23, and available on Blu-Ray/DVD from 30 Nov