IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: PENINSULA (2020)

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PENINSULA (2020)

Korean horror/thriller is a fun, if not extremely derivative, sequel to the 2016 zombie outbreak flick Train To Busan. This installment takes place four years later with the Korean Peninsula abandoned and quarantined by the rest of the world. A barren, zombie infested wasteland. Ex-soldier Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) now lives in Hong Kong, with his brother in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) and the two relocated Koreans are treated like outcasts and live in squalor. A local mobster offers the duo a chance to make enough money to get themselves out of the gutter. They and some other expatriated Koreans are tasked with going back into the quarantine zone and retrieving a truck filled with $20 million in American dollars. The heist goes awry and Jung-seok finds to his horror that there are two groups of survivors still living there, a family he’s encountered before and an ex-military unit who may be more dangerous than the hordes of flesh eating undead. Can Jung-seok, Chul-min and their new allies get out alive against both hungry zombies and crazed soldiers?

Yeon Sang-ho again directs with a script from he and Park Joo-suk. This sequel isn’t quite as much of a roller coaster ride as Train, but is still entertaining. While Train put a fresh coat of paint on the well-worn zombie sub-genre, Peninsula seems content to spin a yarn that is parts of Romero’s Day and Land of the Dead, a large portion of the Governor story arc from The Walking Dead and part Road Warrior with a last act truck chase. The film is more concerned with the drama between the human factions and while there are plenty of zombie’s, they do take a back seat to Jung-seok and pretty survivor Min-jun (Lee Jung-hyun) trying to get the truck and Chul-min back from the Unit 631 compound, which is run by the vicious Sergeant Hwang (Kim Min-jae) and demented Captain Seo. It’s entertaining, yes, but seems far less fresh and far less energetic than the previous flick. Train was nothing new, but Peninsula seems to make less of an effort to revitalize it’s familiar tale. Another thing that holds it back is a heavy use of only moderately effective CGI. A lot of the zombie action and the truck chase at the end are obvious CGI effects and it takes away it’s effectiveness. The truck chase looks like a video game at times and it keeps us from being too drawn in like Road Warrior‘s intense chase finale. In between we get innocents forced to battle zombies for entertainment and a preconscious child who always outsmarts and saves the adults. There is a lot of bloody violence, but nothing too gory and Yeon Sang-ho does paint an impressive apocalyptic picture of the abandoned and zombie infested South Korea. The movie adds the appropriate melodrama with Jung-seok haunted by his past, and his link to Min-jun and her daughters. This gives the film a little emotional content and at the end we are entertained, but it is far less memorable than it’s predecessor.

The cast are all solid. Gang Dong-won makes a good hero as the guilt-ridden, ex- soldier Jung-seok. He plays his inner turmoil well and he is a good action hero. Lee Jung-hyun is a solid heroine as mother and survivor Min-jun. She’s tough and quite the fighter, but still has her humanity. Lee Ye-Won is cute and thankfully avoids being annoying, in the precocious child role of younger daughter Yoo-Jin and Lee Re is likable as her tough teen sister Jooni. Kim Do-yoon is also fine as the embattled Chul-min, who is captured by Unit 631. Rounding out are Kim Min-jae as the cruel and vicious Sergeant Hwang, who is Sang-ho’s equivalent of Day of the Dead’s Captain Rhodes, and Koo Kyo-hwan as the desperate and deceptive Captain Seo. A good cast.

So, in conclusion, while it’s not an equal, Peninsula is still an action packed and entertaining sequel to Train To Busan. While it’s predecessor also reused a lot of ideas from past zombie epics, it seemed far fresher than the recycled ideas do here in this second installment. At almost two hours long this is still a fast paced and sometimes bloody adventure, though not quite as energetic and intense as Train To Busan. Familiar, not quite as energized, but still fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bullets, which a lot of fly in this movie.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DIVIDE (2011)

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THE DIVIDE (2011)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Xavier Gens (Frontier(s), Hitman) weaves this grim and violent tale of a group of survivors who are trapped together in a bomb shelter after a nuclear attack on New York City. The longer they stay cooped up in the shelter together, the more civilized behavior collapses and the worst in human nature comes out.

Divide is a well made film and Gans gets really good performances out of his cast, including Michael Biehn, Lauren German and Rosanna Arquette. He crafts a lot of tension and takes us and his characters through some very disturbing sequences as savagery takes over and atrocities are committed with growing ease. But despite how well Gans’ film is made, it is the nature of the story and the filmmaker’s willingness to indulge in it that weighs it down. The problem is we’ve seen this kind of civilization breakdown many times before and Gans spends a little too much time on the horrible acts that the characters commit on each other. After a while we start to become numb and a bit bored as a good portion of the two hour running time is a journey through the evils that men do. The constant bombardment of vulgar and repulsive behavior looses it’s effect and the last act is spent just wanting it to come to some sort of conclusion. And when that conclusion comes, we are already too weary to fully feel it’s bleak impact. There are some interesting segments too, including one that gives us an idea of just who has perpetrated the attack, which is quite chilling and we do have to give Gans credit for such a brutally realistic portrayal of such an event. The production value is high and the scenes of a nuclear devastated NYC are extremely vivid and horrifying which adds to the emotionally dark tone of the film.

A well done movie, but a bit too bleak and depressing for it’s own good. The film makes it’s point over and over and it is emotionally draining. Certainly was worth seeing, but not the kind of movie I’d want to watch again.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cans of lye…gotta keep that bomb shelter toilet fresh!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HIDDEN (2015)

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HIDDEN (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Intense thriller has a family hiding in an old bomb shelter in fear of what lurks on the surface. Ray (Alexander Skarsgård), his wife Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and their daughter Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind) have been hiding here since a virus began to ‘change people’ and now they are in fear of ‘the breathers’ who are hunting for them above. Life is hard in their sequestered hiding spot, but they try to remain a family until an unfortunate accident leads those lurking on the surface to their little safe haven.

Directed and scripted by Ross and Matt Duffer, this is a very intense and suspenseful thriller which keeps the events that forced the family here a mystery, one it slowly unveils over the course of this tense little movie. We get flashbacks as the family remembers the events that sent them to the old school bomb shelter and despite not getting an explanation for the first two acts as to who ‘the breathers’ are, we can tell by the family’s fear that are something to be afraid of…and it sets us on edge. Once the Duffers finally let us in on the who’s and what’s, it is a clever and shocking surprise that works and works really well. To give anymore details away would ruin a solid little thriller, suffice to say the last act comes with some intense action and surprising blood spattering as things literally explode to the surface. The film is given a nice atmosphere of fear and foreboding and that is aided by Thomas Townend’s moody cinematography and David Julyan’s equally moody score. A first rate thriller with some nice and clever surprises.

The small cast is excellent. Alexander Skarsgård successfully portrays a man trying to keep his family safe and together despite the heinous conditions they are forced to live in. He is very likable and will go to any length to protect his family. He has maintained his playfulness when it comes to his daughter, even living under such dire conditions. Andrea Riseborough is equally strong and gives us a caring woman who also will do anything to keep her little girl safe. She is a little more cautious than her husband, but the contrast makes the characters work well together. Young Emily Alyn Lind is endearing and actually a solid little actress as daughter Zoe. She has her fears about what lurks above but retains that child-like innocence and curiosity. She can also be quite brave when she needs to. A solid cast for a vey well-made thriller.

I really enjoyed this movie. Very well directed by the Duffers and very cleverly scripted. It gives us a tense situation with some mysterious circumstances and keeps the atmosphere and tension constant by only slowly revealing the whole picture. There are some shocking and inventive revelations in the last act as well as some intense action and bloody violence, as the story takes us out of the claustrophobic hiding place and into the world. A first rate little thriller and a really impressive feature debut from Ross and Matt Duffer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 canned peaches.

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