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Following South Korean zombie movie Train to Busan was always going to be a tall order. One of the most entertaining surprises of recent years and one of the best zombie movies of all time. Peninsula sets itself in the same universe as Train to Busan, ensuring the connection is made by prefixing is with ‘Train to Busan Presents’, but attempts to go much bigger and louder, at the expense of a compelling set of characters and a strong emotional script.
After the zombie apocalypse devastated the Korean peninsula in Train to Busan, a number of survivors managed to escape by ship, arriving in Hong Kong where they set about trying to start a new life. Four years later and a news segment featuring some of the worst English speaking acting I’ve seen in a long time tells us how the peninsula became overrun with zombies and has now become completed isolated from all neighbouring countries. One of the survivors who we followed in his escape on the ship at the start of the movie is Captain Jung Seok, who agrees to return to the infected zone with a small team in order to retrieve 20 million US dollars from a truck, in return for a percentage when they get back.
Arriving in the deserted city at night (you may remember that the zombies have trouble seeing in low light), the team quickly arrive at the abandoned truck and their mission appears to be a success when they find the haul of money safely inside. However, it’s not long before there are zombies on the scene. Lots of zombies. And also some hardened survivors, who come to the aid of Jung Seok in one of many scenes which look like Mad Max: Fury Road in the dark, recreated as a video game. If you’ve ever wondered how many thousands of zombies can be run over at high-speed or slammed into during repeated handbrake turns, or while leaping off bridges, all the while sustaining very little damage to the car, then Peninsula is the movie for you.
In addition to the inconvenience of large hordes of zombies, there is now a rogue military outfit running this part of the city. This group entertains itself by watching human survivors battle it out among themselves and the undead in a Thunderdome style watery pit. It’s at this point that a whole host of uninteresting, thinly developed characters are introduced and the whole mid-section meanders along with a ‘real people are worse than zombies’ message that’s been done to death already in countless seasons of The Walking Dead. All spark of originality, tension and suspense is gone and the only thing still linking this to Train to Busan is the wonderful, jerky contortions of the zombies.
Things do eventually get back on track a little, with yet another high-energy, CGI-heavy car chase when everyone decides its time to escape the chaos once again. However, things take another downward dip when it comes to the final scene - a slo-mo attempt at an emotional ending which felt like it would never end and just came across as cheesy.
More of a spin-off than a sequel, Peninsula has some good ideas and potential. But aside from a few glimmers of brilliance, this lacks the heart and passion of its predecessor.