With his historic Best Picture Oscar win for Parasite, Bong Joon-Ho has really catapulted South Korean cinema onto the world stage. Of course, film fans would know that Bong and his fellow Korean filmmakers have actually been cranking out some of the best movies around for ages now already, layered with rich characters and social commentary. Nearly every cinephile will have at least a couple of films from the Asian country in their top lists. And chances are one of them will be Train to Busan, the 2016 zombie horror film from director Yeon Sang-Ho that puts to shame just about every modern zombie film Hollywood has cranked out. And now, following a massive $140 million worldwide haul, it’s getting a sequel! Kind of!
Announced by Yeon quite recently, Peninsula will be a “spiritual sequel” to Train to Busan. What exactly is a spiritual sequel? Yeon spilled the beans to ScreenCrush along with providing the first images from the upcoming film:
It takes place four years after Train To Busan, in the same universe, but it doesn’t continue the story and has different characters. Government authority has been decimated after the zombie outbreak in Korea, and there is nothing left except the geographical traits of the location – which is why the film is called Peninsula.
The original film followed a group of passengers on a train during an initial zombie outbreak. In Peninsula, following those original events, the world’s nations agree to turn the Korean peninsula where the outbreak occurred into a walled-off ghetto to halt the spread, but need to send forces – led by Gang Dong-won’s former soldier Jung-Seok – back into the area when it’s discovered that non-zombie survivors are still trapped inside. And here comes that trademark South Korean social commentary as this film could not be more timely with the Coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world, forcing countries into unprecedented lockdowns.
I never dreamt of anything like the new coronavirus. But recently I have been learning news about the collective selfishness that you do see facets of in Train To Busan and in Peninsula, that brings about tragedy.
I’ve thought about dealing with that question in another film, which probably I won’t direct myself. There are a lot of interesting questions you could answer, issue by issue, with other films.
Of course, Yeon had been planning Peninsula long before Covid-19 became a worldwide catastrophe, with shooting occurring mid-2019. And during that time, it was the likes of the Mad Max franchise, George Romero’s Land of the Dead, and famous manga/anime Akira that inspired Yeon, particularly for how those universes kept evolving. And with Peninsula’s $8.5 budget nearly doubling that of its predecessor, the filmmaker could now grow his own universe as well.
The scale of Peninsula can’t compare to Train To Busan, it makes it look like an independent film. Train To Busan was a high-concept film shot in narrow spaces whereas Peninsula has a much wider scope of movement.
…the idea of being able to build a post-apocalyptic world – which would be sort of savage but also in a way like ancient times, or like ruined modern times, with rules of its own – was interesting to me.
There could be many stories that could keep coming out of that world. Destroyed, isolated, extreme, but with hope of escape and humanism, and the way world powers would look at this place. There could be a lot of material with a lot of greater significance.
And getting the opportunity to tell those other stories the way he wants to will be a lot easier now thanks to Parasite’s trailblazing award wins, admits Yeon.
[Parasite made] the atmosphere and the way people ask for things from Korean filmmakers change in the space of a few days.
Before, the way a Korean director would ‘go to the US’ would be to go make an American film with American actors in English. Now, with multiple platforms like Netflix burgeoning and the most recent effect of Parasite, everything has changed.
I think the role of the films that come next will be very important. Just because Parasite was a success doesn’t mean we need another Parasite. We could see more diversified interest for, say, a Korean-style blockbuster or Korean independent films. It’s just breaking through a wall once that is difficult.
Well, that wall has been considerably broken down now. Netflix boasts plenty of great Korean movie and TV content, including Train to Busan (and they all bundled together nicely, so you have zero excuses to not see them). Hopefully, the streaming service will also pick up Peninsula whenever it releases so we can get more of Yeon’s undead awesomeness as well.
Last Updated: March 26, 2020