If your idea of escapism from the great indoors is a movie about another deadly virus, but one that makes people unthinkingly devour others, then look no further. Train to Busan is back with a follow-up: Peninsula. Boasting what seems to be an all-new cast, it’s a sequel I didn’t realise I wanted. With the original holding a place in my heart, and very probably my top ten of all-time list, it almost seems sacrilege to ask for more. Lest it becomes another series where a one-off would do (I know Seoul Station is marketed as a prequel though it was made first and has different zombies). However, what brief glimpse we into Peninsula dispels my concerns about hubris, making it look like both something very different and potentially very special.
Looks good, right? Director Yeon Sang-ho is in the director’s seat again, along with a co-writer’s one, for this story about a soldier who previously escaped the diseased wasteland returning for a covert operation. His orders: retrieve and survive. Maybe a bit like Aliens to the smaller-scale original. From this trailer, it looks like we’re going down the route of exploring how the aftermath lays bare the worst of humanity – who the real monsters are. Though Busan was a cynical but ultimately hopeful film about selflessness and sacrifice when we’d least expect it, I reckon we’re going to be in for a darker ride this time around. And not just literally, with the blue skies replaced by night – from what little we see, there’s a punkier, more violent vibe to it. Which makes sense since the zombie apocalypse is the sort of extreme backdrop by which you can play out how humans may cope outside civilisation.
Ideas like a Malthusian struggle for limited resources, in a world without rules, have been done many times before. You could go as far as saying this sort of thing is a signature of the zombie subgenre. Still given how well Train to Busan integrated its themes about neoliberalism corrupting South Korean society into the action, I have faith we’ll get another fresh take this time around. After all, though the first broke box office records in South Korea, we’ve had a four-year wait – which is generally a good sign. Unlike when a property that wasn’t all that first time comes back out of obscurity unexpectedly (I’m thinking of you Brahms). The ‘presents’ part also implies this is a world we could be coming back to again and again. Thankfully I’m confident Sang-ho won’t be giving us a shoddy replacement service.