M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on August 21, 2020. In select theaters and drive-ins from Well Go USA!!
TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS PENNINSULA (2020)
Directed by Sang-ho Yeon
Written by Sang-ho Yeon, Ryu Yong-jae
Starring Dong-Won Gang, Jung-hyun Lee, Re Lee, Hae-hyo Kwon, Min-Jae Kim, Gyo-hwan Koo, Do-Yoon Kim, Ye-Won Lee, Daniel Joey Albright, Bella Rahim, Milan-Devi LaBrey, Pierce Conran, Geoffrey Giuliano, John D. Michaels, Christopher Gordon
Find out more about this film here!!
SEOUL STATION and TRAIN TO BUSAN were two of the absolute best zombie movies made in the last decade. Sang-ho Yeon told two vastly different tales, but managed to make both of them compelling, exciting, and fresh takes on the zombie genre. Is it possible Sang-ho Yeon could go for a trifecta with TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS PENINSULA? Let’s find out!
Four years after the initial zombie outbreak in South Korea, North and South Korea has been quarantined off from the rest of the world. An ex-Korean soldier named Jung Seok (Dong-Won Gang) survived the initial outbreak and now lives as an outcast in Hong Kong, as the locals believe the Korean refugees are carriers of the plague. The two join a crew of smugglers who are assigned to enter the quarantine zone and retrieve a large amount of money and valuables from the dead cities. The heist will give them a massive payoff and hope for a new beginning, but first they have to survive the peninsula which has been overrun by the undead and the survivors who are even more monstrous that have somehow endured the plague and live in a MAD MAX-style community that tosses survivors into a pit of the infected as sport. Jung Seok passed by Min Jung (Jung-hyun Lee) pregnant and carrying her young daughter on his way to the boat to escape at the beginning, leaving her and her daughter to fend for themselves. Now years later, Jung Seok happens upon Min Jung and her daughters after being separated from the heist crew and teams up with them in order to race to the pickup point with the money in tow. But with some of the survivors getting wind of the pickup, it’s a mad dash to get to there before more people find out about it and bring the infected barreling after them.
Did you get all of that? That’s the thing with these TRAIN TO BUSAN films, the plot is quite simple. Survive. But Sang-ho Yeon makes things complicated by injecting them with complex human interactions and interrelations. This being a heist film, there is a clear directive, get to the drop off point and get to safety. That’s pretty straight forward, just as TRAIN TO BUSAN had a sole destination of getting to Busan to safety. What makes it fun are the hurdles that present themselves by way of complex human interactions, intricately placed dominoes made of human error and selfishness, and of course the zombies. Sang-ho Yeon delivers a narrative that is indicative of all of the best heist films, get in and get out alive. In this, he delivers the direct path narrative reminiscent of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD that bares down all side-journeys or detours. This feels like a lean and mean action film that simply tosses the viewer into this thorny situation and then tries to rip you out with little care for the damage it causes. This is the most action-centric of the BUSAN trilogy and those who love high doses of adrenalin and cool chase sequences are going to find this one a crowd pleaser.
TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS PENINSULA is not as emotionally gripping as its predecessors. SEOUL STATION and TRAIN TO BUSAN had a complex relationship between father and daughter as its emotional core. PENINSULA does not. There are some extraordinarily strong relationships at play in this film, but none as developed or poignant as the previous films. This film centers on Jung Seok’s remorse for losing his family in the opening moments and then passing by Min Jung’s family when he had a chance to save them. These are powerful feelings, but still don’t resonate as centrally as SEOUL STATION and TRAIN TO BUSAN did. Because of this, I can see where PENINSULA would be looked at as the inferior of the three films as it simply doesn’t resonate on an emotional level as the two films prior did. PENINSULA is much more of an action-centric film but lacks the emotional power that set SEOUL STATION and TRAIN TO BUSAN apart from all of the rest of the zombie films that have cluttered the genre for so long.
Still, PENINSULA is a fun and edge of your seaty type of film. Dong-Won Gang channels his inner John Wick as Jung Seok by taking down both zombies and rogue survivors in single headshots. The driving sequences are slick and bawdy like something out of a FAST AND FURIOUS film—2 TRAIN 2 BUSAN, if you will. While it might not be that emotional gut punch TRAIN TO BUSAN was, it still is a fantastic film that sets filmmaker Sang-ho Yeon apart from his contemporaries and I could see him crossing over into a broader film range—possibly taking a shot at a Hollywood horror or actioner, if he wanted to. I understand the criticism PENINSULA has received as it simply doesn’t match the simple plot structure and emotional impact that made TRAIN TO BUSAN such an international success, but that doesn’t make PENINSULA any less of a film. It’s just a different film and looking back at this trilogy, it shows the broad range that Sang-ho Yeon possesses. Whatever he does next, be it another film set in this world or something set apart from it, I’m there and can’t wait for it.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
#8 – TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS PENINSULA
#9 – THE INVISIBLE MAN 2020
#10 – HOST
#11 – HARPOON
#12 – GRETEL & HANSEL
#13 – THE HAUNTED
#14 – DOCTOR SLEEP
#15 – DANIEL ISN’T REAL
#16 – THE VAST OF NIGHT
#17 – HOMEWRECKER
#18 – IMPETIGORE
#19 – BUTT BOY
#20 – BECKY
#21 – UNDERWATER
#22 – THE DEAD CENTER
#23 – BLOOD MACHINES
#24 – ALONE
#25 – THE BEACH HOUSE
#26 – AMULET
#27 – LAKE OF DEATH
#28 – SEA FEVER
#29 – THE RENTAL
#30 – ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE
#31 – REPLACE
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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