Zombie movies, like zombies themselves, always seem to be on the verge of a sluggish, protracted death only for a new filmmaker to come along and revitalize them yet again. Such was the case with Korean director Yeon Sang-ho’s 2016 film Train to Busan, which took its elevator pitch premise (“Zombies on a train!”) and turned it into a stylish, pulse-pounding, heartfelt thriller.
Four years on, Yeon is ready to return with a film that — as you can see from its title — is more than just Train 2. Here’s what we know about Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula so far.
As you can probably guess from its Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw-like title, Peninsula will be set in the same world as the original movie, but isn’t a traditional sequel. Unfortunately, that means the hero of Train to Busan – Yoo Gong’s Seok-woo – really did sacrifice himself to save his daughter and won’t be returning either as one of the undead or as a bit of “Surprise! He survived!” plot trickery. Yeon has confirmed that Peninsula follows a wholly separate cast of new characters.
In some early interviews, director Yeon explained that in the new film, which is set four years after the original, all government authority in North and South Korea has been decimated, and there’s nothing really left to identify it as the civilizations they once were. So it’s no longer “Korea,” it’s simply “the peninsula.”
While the claustrophobia of Train to Busan was a huge reason for its being so terrifyingly effective, Peninsula is aiming for a much larger scale (Yeon has been quoted saying that the scale of Peninsula will make Busan look like a tiny, indie film by comparison).
Actor Gang Dong-won, who was supposed to make his Hollywood debut in 2019 in a currently shelved Simon West disaster film called Tsunami LA, actually hails from Busan, South Korea in real life (but was not in the first film in this series). In Peninsula, Dong-won plays Jung Seok, a soldier who managed to escape from the “peninsula” only to be ordered to return along with a new group of soldiers on a mysterious retrieval mission.
The original movie featured a cross section of South Korean society, from workaholic salary-man Seok-woo to arrogant and selfish COO Yon-suk to a PTSD-ridden homeless man, all having their everyday lives thrown into chaos when the zombies appear. Yeon has cited films like Land of the Dead, The Road, The Road Warrior, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome as main influences on Peninsula, which would indicate a more post-apocalyptic action flick than just zombie invasion horror.
One of the first stills released from Peninsula appears to show some kind of fighting arena where survivors are thrown into the octagon against zombies, and the first trailer includes footage that backs up this idea. This also tracks with Yeon’s claims that he is exploring a world in ruin, where society has broken down and there are new, more savage, rules at play. Jung Seok and his fellow soldiers will find their mission jeopardized when they discover a group of survivors in this savage world trying to get off the peninsula.
Peninsula was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, but Yeon claims that people are now seeing the sort of selfishness that leads to the tragedy he explored in Busan. He has teased that any origin or explanation for what caused the zombie outbreak would be fodder for another film. That said, Peninsula is technically the third film in the franchise; Yeon started his career as an animator, and in fact planned on making Train to Busan as an animated film until a producer encouraged him to consider live action. However, Yeon had done an animated film called Seoul Station that was made before Busan but released after, serving as a prequel to that film.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula does not have an official release date in the US yet, but is expected sometime in Summer 2020.