A late entry into the 21st-century zombie bull market, 2016’s Train to Busan made an art form of self-containment. A South Korean pulp shocker born of a brilliantly vicious conceit — the undead set loose in the confined space of an express from Seoul — the film did everything it needed to do, then ended. Perfection. Naturally, that now means a sequel. In the movies, every full stop is just a subclause in waiting. Cue Train to Busan: Peninsula.
The movie recaps events since the last batch of credits. A raging horror virus; panicked authorities; proximity to others potentially lethal. All a little too on the nose in 2020. And yet, a crucial difference. In fiction, the outbreak was sealed behind borders, a ravaged Korea left to its fate. That much allows a nod to wider realities — survivors strewn about as refugees — and a well-worn B-movie premise, an unhappy band now coerced into returning home in search of a cache of US dollars.
If the set-up riffs on everything from The Wages of Fear to Escape from New York, the biggest debt is owed to Mad Max. The real menace is now less the walking dead than the warlords who have taken charge of the ruins in fleets of cranked-up motor vehicles. Environmental concerns aside, the car makes a poor substitute for the pure claustrophobia of a railway carriage. Man’s inhumanity is a shopworn medley of Hobbes and Bosch, the lot of the zombies to be mere fodder, mown down or picked off. This feels very 2020 too: all novelty worn off, repeatedly. Zombies and humans unite. We both need a new agent.
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