Dynastic Korea is Overrun by the Undead in New Period Mashup
Dynastic period dramas are one of Korea’s most reliable staple film and TV genres, the Korean equivalent of Japanese chanbara tales or European stories of knights and castles. An ancient but modernizing world of kings and peons, hanboks and gats (traditional dress robes and hats), and ornate fortresses. Rampant takes this most traditional of settings and mixes it with something a little different: the living dead.
It’s certainly a high-concept film, but is it a good one?
The movie hits the jump with a strong opening that culminates with one of the most shocking and mean-spirited kills I that can recall before the title card hits. Then things dial back a bit as we get a lay of the land: the Joseon kingdom in turmoil as a rebellion brews against a selfish and corrupt king. Some of this is a little disorienting for a bit as we circle around a few different characters, but it soon comes back into focus.
This turmoil brings home Prince Lee Chung (Hyun Bin), who has little interest in his father’s politics or the kingdom’s needs. But on his journey, he encounters a village laid to waste by a plague of flesh-eating maniacs whose bites infect and turn their victims. “Zombies” is the closest and most obvious approximation, but they also incorporate aspects of Asian vampire lore — the creatures are burned by sunlight and only come out at night. They’re also very fast, not only running but leaping around and clambering around on all fours. For the film’s part, the English subtitles refer to the creatures simply as “demons”.
In an interesting case of parallel projects, Rampant arrives alongside Netflix’s Kingdom series which similarly mixes zombies with a Joseon era setting. This interest in zombies comes, no doubt, in response to the huge success of Train to Busan (produced by Next Entertainment Media, who are also the distributors of Rampant).
Rampant is very action heavy, incorporating a lot of swordplay into the several attack sequences as Lee Chung rallies the people and leads them against the legions of undead. Aside from the novelty of its setup, it’s ultimately not a particularly memorable film (the flat characters lack the heart that made Train to Busan so special), but it’s certainly a unique one to sink your teeth into.
Special Features and Extras
Behind the Scenes (:34) — As you might guess from the runtime, this isn’t a featurette of any substance but rather a quick EPK reel.
Making Of (1:38) — A bit more substantial, this one features interview quotes from cast and crew to complement the behind the scenes footage.
Character Trailer (1:48) — The third of the EPK items is an intro to the film’s main characters. It’s the most interesting of the three and actually worth watching before the movie to get a handle of the story’s players.
Teaser and Trailers (:57, 1:21, :55)
Promotional Trailers for Well GO USA titles Mojin: The Worm Valley (1:05), Burning (1:49), Shadow (2:05), and Swing Kids (:59). These play on disc startup and are also available from the menu.
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.