WELCOME TO DOUBLE TAKE, OUR COLLABORATIVE WRITING SERIES FROM THE ON THE CLOCK TEAM, IN WHICH TWO OR MORE MEMBERS OF OUR WRITING COMMITTEE REVIEW THE SAME FILM, EITHER WITH A SIMILAR OR DIFFERENT OPINION. TODAY’S ARTICLE IS ON THE NEW TRAIN TO BUSAN FLICK ‘PENINSULA’, WHICH IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN SELECT NORTH AMERICAN CINEMAS.
For all the broad appeal thrill Train to Busan brought to the zombie slasher, Peninsula brings back the classic B-movie charm. What could be a fun summer action flick we desperately need, part of one of the more interesting franchises to crop up lately tries to make the fast-paced high kill zombie thriller a little too weighty, and it just feels garish. The trilogy (as of now) has always been maximalist, but this leans so far into the quick shot action we never quite get the zombie horror shock that made the original so well loved.
Bottle-green lighting, a planned Cannes premiere, and grimly shot ruins may imply highbrow dramatic tendencies, but the zombie flick never strays from its cheesy adventure story path. It’s nice to see a fun, well-assembled slasher not try to be more than it is, refreshing in an era of the “elevated horror” prestige landscape that seems to proclaim the rest of genre fare must meet that form to be considered objectively good. With drawn out tear-jerker kills towards the end, Yeon Sang-ho tries his best to cover up the cheesy and incredibly thin story with melodrama. This doesn’t often work, and Peninsula really doesn’t seem to know what it is. The Mad Mad action-adventure trappings just seem corny when it veers into melodrama, and is just embarrassing to watch when none of the characters are particularly developed.
I will admit that in my case, zombie movies aren’t my thing, but I can appreciate one done well even if it lacks that personal fear factor. When it’s pure action, Peninsula is a blast. The problem is, unlike the animated Seoul Station, it doesn’t make any artistic decisions to distinguish itself, so it just ends up feeling like a bad knockoff. The problem with shared universe quasi-sequels is that they just end up being compared to the original, as they don’t share enough emotionally resonant elements to feel that connection beyond a superficial level. Unless the sequel turns out equal or better than the first, it’ll be like Peninsula, a hollow shadow of a cult classic – Sarah Williams
As the first film to be released in theaters in North America with the new Cannes label, the followup to the beloved creature feature Train to Busan is an apt continuation of the ever evolving franchise. What’s essentially a zombified rendition of Escape to New York, Peninsula demonstrates Yeon Sang-ho’s consistent and strong understanding of Zombie lore, in a 120 minute edge of your seat heist thrill ride. It doesn’t necessarily contain the same amount of charm, wit, and intensity as the claustrophobic first film, though it’s definitely a more human step up in stark comparison with the dreadful animated prequel Seoul Station.
Exploring themes regarding xenophobia, border patrol, senseless greed, and the strong will of family, Peninsula is a surprisingly poignant pandemic film in its simplistic though profound thematic examinations. The best zombie films have always been political, so it’s satisfying to see yet another Zombie flick that discusses more about the irrational nature of humanity over the brain-dead creatures themselves. Especially now in our current global state, it’s almost kind of perfect that this film was the first new release to be screened in both Canada and the United States in a premium screen format.
The film does drag in some bits, where the grotesquely elongated action set pieces are stretched beyond possible belief. Though it’s the core ideologies that the film stands for, alongside the fun CGI-heavy action scenes, which ultimately succeeds in an easy breezy cinema experience. But don’t forget fellow reader. If you are planning on watching Peninsula in cinemas, please where a mask at all times or you might as well become a covid-zombie yourself. – David Cuevas
Peninsula is now playing in select cinemas. The film will hit the streaming service Shudder in early 2021