Hey you. I wrote this Review Just for You because I like you.I also like pizza.
Sang-ho Yeon and Ryu Yong-jae
The 2016 Korean zombie movie Train to Busan holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first movie I saw after getting my eyes circumcised and being able to see again after watching Cats which made me blind for a couple of weeks afterward.
That fact that Cats exists at all makes no sense. Yet here we are. The point being is that Train to Busan is one of the best horror movies of the 20-teens, and by far one of the best zombie movies involving a train and Koreans.
As an Asian person, I tried to use my Asian-ness to get a discount on my ticket. You know how we Asians just LOVE discounts. But I’m not Korean, just generic Asian so they charged me full ticket price anyway along with a punch-card for violin lessons.
As an Asian person, we’re required to take violin lessons/go to nursing school to make our parents proud, but my parents died a long time ago and they specifically told me they were not proud of me before they died in a bull stampede because I got a ‘B’ on a test once. So there was no use for that punch-card anyway.
How does the previous exposition paragraph fit in to this Peninsula review? Because my Asian parents got run over by a train full of zombies, and that’s how it ties in.
Yes, their deaths from both a bull stampede and a train full of zombies were tragic.
But not ‘A+’ tragic.
I give them a ‘B’.
Peninsula opens in the middle of the same zombie outbreak in Train to Busan. We’re somewhere in Korea and there are a lot of Koreans running around yelling, getting bitten and dying.
They believe the outbreak was started by a virus somewhere in Asia…
We meet our first-billed actor Jung Seok (Dong-Won Gang). He’s in the military and he’s driving to the closest port because he and his soon-to-be-dead family have a boat to catch. Jung Seok is with his brother-in-law Chul-min (Do-Yoon Kim) ,his sister and her and Chul-min’s son.
You’ll notice I didn’t even bother looking up the character names for “sister” or “sister’s son” because there’s no point. They’ll be dead soon.
Douchey white military types have been on Korean television saying that Korean’s mainland is pretty much f*cked. The best bet is to head for the peninsula where they’ll be completely safe.
On the drive over to the peninsula Jung Seok forces himself to ignore other families in need. He’s sorry he can’t help the others, but his family only has so much room in the car.
Jung Seok and Co make it onto the boat. They are safe for the time being.
And by “for the time being”, I mean 4 minutes of screen time because it turns out there’s an infected person on the ship and it’s not long before other people are infected too.
Unfortunately, among those infected are Jung Seok’s nephew and sister. Told you it was a waste of time to look up their names. Part of it because they were going to die, and part of it because my spellcheck gets so upset if there’s name on it not generically white like “Karen” or “Mike”.
Jung Seok escapes before getting bitten. So does Chul-min but not before he gets an eyeful of his son and wife turning into zombies.
It’s 4 years later…
The peninsula is now overrun with zombies. Jung Seok is still guilty about his nephew and sister dying. Chul-min is still upset with Jong Seok about his son and wife dying. Why they still hang out together is something totally convenient to the plot.
Military-types are wanted for an incredibly special job that involves going pants-deep into the peninsula. There’s a truck with $20 million somewhere in subtitled Zombieland and a local crime lord is willing to split the take with anyone brave and stupid enough to retrieve it. Experience is a plus, but not necessary.
Jung Seok is willing to take the risk. Partly because of the money and partly because he doesn’t care if he dies.
Chul-min also wants in on the action. The money’s nice and he also doesn’t care if he lives because his wife and son are—
Jung Seok and Chul-min and 2 others who won’t be named because there’s no point are now heading for the peninsula. They have 3 days to retrieve the truck and all the money. They’re well aware of the zombies, but there may be other things out there more dangerous than zombies…
That reads as super-ominous but it’s mostly the zombies that are deadly.
Or are they?
What Works With Peninsula
- Jung-hyun Lee gives the best performance of the movie as a single mother raising 2 daughters and a doddering old man while zombies run rampant. You buy her dispatching zombies and admonishing her daughters with equal weight. You thought being a single mom was tough? Try it amidst a zombie infestation.
- In a triumph of production design over story, the look of Peninsula is oftentimes more compelling than what’s taking place on the screen. The “arena” in particular is pretty striking. I’d look up the production designer, but it’s pointless since he/she will just get eaten by zombies in about 15 minutes.
What Doesn’t Work With Peninsula
- While not necessary reinventing the zombie genre, Train To Busan had some startling sequences of originality and moments of genuine depth. Peninsula is just a standard zombie movie. There’s no real connection with Train To Busan except in name only. It feels even more disappointing considering the talent behind the camera from Train To Busan is involved in such a generic enterprise.
- The zombies feel and look like basic CGI creations and there’s nothing particularly frightening about them when they attack that you don’t see in any episode of The Walking Dead, provided you still actually watch The Walking Dead. Train To Busan director Sang-ho Yeon stages the zombie attacks almost on autopilot, and it doesn’t help that the zombies look like layered cartoons. It also doesn’t help that the actual cartoons from the animated Seoul Station look a lot scarier than anything you see in Peninsula.
Peninsula isn’t a terrible zombie movie, just a by-the-numbers one. It’s unfortunate considering the greatness that was Train To Busan. Peninsula takes your prospects based on Busan and pretty much runs a train on them. You’d be better off watching Busan again or even One Cut Of the Dead. Lower your expectations considerably.
Really 2.5 but this movie should be better than it is
Take A Drive on This Zombie Peninsula!
Noel Penaflor (author) from California on September 04, 2020:
I believe it is only is theaters right now.
Jack Carlin from Manchester, U.K. on September 04, 2020:
Even though your review is unfavourable - I’m still dying to watch this! Such a shame it’s not as good as Train. Where can I watch this??