Following the great success of the zombie flick Train to Busan, the same Korean studio hopes to have the same success with RAMPANT by having hordes of zombies during the Joseon dynasty that ruled over a united Korean Peninsula for more than 500 years.
Some people have said that the zombie genre has grown stagnant. But just look at films such as Overlord and Anna and the Apocalypse and see that there is still a lot to do with this genre and having zombies in 17th century Korea with samurai action is still pretty cool.
RAMPANT certainly dives straight into a heart beating scene featuring a pirate ship being destroyed. After the battle is over, a group of Joseon soldiers find crates with guns and a certain Night Demon that is loose on the ship and attacks one of the soldiers. We see his transformation, which is like a virus that spreads slowly, covered in blue veins and having a hunger for meat. We then meet Prince Ganglim from Joseon, played by Hyun Bin, who returns home to find his brother dead, having been bitten by a zombie and killing himself to avoid infecting the Court. Since he has no aspirations to sit on the throne, the king’s ministers plot to overthrow the dynasty. A lot goes on here, but it wouldn’t be a Korean thriller without its complexity and melodrama.
Kim Sung-hoon has delivered a very entertaining genre mashup. The zombie scenes, one being a notable exception in a narrow hallway in a jail, are all shot in widescreen with long shots and drone shots of the zombie hordes swarming on the palace. It is also pretty clear that the zombies are a symbol of political corruption as they multiply as the plotting increases.
The film does have some gorgeous set and costume design and the action scenes are plenty exciting. The use of the time period is what sets it apart. The production design is fantastic, with large sets for the towns and the palace. The choreography of the zombies is also stunning. Their bodies twist and turn as they attack their victims, and the soldiers sweep into battle, running up the walls while cutting off the zombies heads.
RAMPANT also changed some of the mythology about the zombies. These night demons can also be killed by sunlight just like vampires or by destroying their brain or their heart. The make up is amazing and they don’t shy away from the gore.
Sadly, the only real character development is with Prince Ganglia (Hyun Bin) as he learns how to accept his responsibilities for his people. But honestly, the film is still badass with the sword killing soldiers taking down the zombies in these grand set designs. Train to Busan did give us a more character-driven zombie film, but RAMPANT gives us a large scale zombie film worth watching.
RAMPANT is now available on digital, Blu-ray combo pack and DVD.