By Kim Boram
SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) -- Four years after a massive zombie attack in "Train to Busan," the undead beings have gotten stronger and people are crueler as they desperately struggle to survive amid the ruin.
The upcoming zombie action blockbuster "Peninsula" is a sequel of the 2016 smash-hit thriller, with the two films taking place in the same universe.
The new film, also directed by Yeon Sang-ho, starts with Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won), a former soldier, losing his family while escaping the zombie-infested Korean Peninsula four years ago.
He settles in Hong Kong, but lives in misery as South Korean refugees are treated as pathogens all over the world. Over the four-year period, anarchic South Korea is called Peninsula.
After four years of despair, Jung-seok returns to the devastated land to retrieve a huge cash hoard that may change his life.
There, he faces swarms of starving zombies that sensitively respond to light and sound and scrappy soldiers of a military unit, which were first assigned to protect the lives of people from zombie attacks but become inhumane in a post-apocalyptic dystopia.
But he is not the only one who is still alive and maintains his humanity. Family survivors of Min-jeong (Lee Jung-hyun) and her two daughters save Jung-seok's life from the ferocious hunters by making the most of light- and sound-responsive features of the walking dead.
Zombies in "Peninsula" are physically stronger and react faster to light and sound, compared with those in "Train," and these characteristics play a role throughout the film.
The survivors, armed with rifles and other firearms, have to drive cars at full speed to shake off the upgraded, or evolved, zombie hordes, in the familiar downtown of Seoul, while humans in "Train" could confront them with baseball bats or even bare fists.
But the story is far simpler and drabber than its predecessor, which gave unprecedented tension and pressure through life-and-death struggle of varied selfish personalities in the confined setting of an express train.
Characters in "Peninsula" are clearly divided into two groups -- the good and the bad. And their individual stories and personalities are not important or palpable enough to create a conflict or carry the storyline to the end.
Instead, it has plenty of the eye-catching attractions and blood-splattered action scenes that a summer blockbuster ought to have.
Set out from the gloomy dystopia of Seoul, car chase scenes among Jung-seok and Min-jeong's truck, the military hunters' cars and zombies are the highlights of the two-hour movie.
Gun fights against dashing zombies and cage fights between zombies and humans look entertaining and intriguing enough to hold viewers' attention to the most anticipated flick for this summer.
Director Yeon said he wants to say there is a glimmer of hope even in the most extreme time.
"All people in the film desire to escape the Peninsula, as they think the outer world is like a paradise, which is not true," Yeon said in a press conference on Thursday. "I want to deliver a universal message that encompasses all ages through the film."
"Peninsula," an official selection to this year's Cannes Film Festival, will hit local screens on Wednesday.