Korean Reviews Reviews Udine Far East Film Festival

Film Review: Rampant (2018) by Kim Sung-hoon

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Following the worldwide blockbuster that emerged from ‘Train to Busan,' it was inevitable that the studio responsible for the film would be tasked with providing a follow-up zombie film. Transporting the action back-in-time to the Feudal period of South Korean history, many of the same elements were placed into this new film.

” is screening at the Udine Far East Film Festival

During a supposed trade between each other, Lee Chun (Hyun Bin, from “The Fatal Encounter”) is accused of treason against the court and sent to a remote province in the country due to his status as Prince of Joseon. Finally returning home with his concierge Hak-soo (Jeong Man-sik, from “The Yellow Sea”), he soon finds that the rumors are false about a band of rebels threatening to overrun the country, when they encounter a horde of flesh-eating zombies running wild in the province. Meeting up with royal guards Eul-ryong (Jo Woo-jin, from “Steel Rain”) Deok-hee (Lee Sun-bin, from “38 Task Force”) and Dae-gil (Jo Dal-hwan, from “Traffickers”), the group prepares a series of defenses at the palace to prevent the creatures from overrunning the country, but run into a problem when Kim Ja-joon (Jang Dong-gun) sees the outbreak as a chance to assume control of the throne and rule the country. Utilizing their combined forces, Lee Chung and the rest of the group try to hold off the creatures and restore order to his birth rite.

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There was quite a lot to like with ‘Rampant.' Among its finest qualities is the manner in which the zombie outbreak is being loosened upon the populace, infecting the outer regions of their control and slowly working towards the capital. With a special rename into Demons which is appropriate enough for the time period of the film, the action on display takes on nearly a wuxia form of interplay, courtesy of Action Choreographer Kim Tae-kang. As this includes some fascinating jumping and wirework stunts with the infected shown to be quite athletic in addition to more traditional shambling hordes style zombies, there's plenty to like with the rampaging hordes loosened upon the city, creating all sorts of havoc.

The action here brought about by that setup works exceptionally well. The early assault on the village is a great start to matters, letting its feudal setting get put to use, with the horde crawling over huts and various buildings to get at the victims. As this is going on, all manner of hand-to-hand and sword-fighting occurs on the streets below. The massive ambush on the palace that alerts everyone to the true plight before them is a standout sequence, letting the overwhelming number of creatures into the grounds swarming over everyone. while numerous mini-battles are featured throughout the complex. Likewise, the finale inside the overtaken palace where all the reinforcements are brought to bear on the creatures and more dynamic close-quarter fighting creates a special high-energy finish, with gorgeous photography by Lee Sung-je and make-up effects by Pee Dae-sung and Seoul Ha-woon. These are what really stand-out in the film.

That said, there are some major flaws with this one. The biggest problem is the typically overlong and plodding pacing that exemplifies so many of these productions. The continuous dealings of the court-system and political intrigue over the rebels that are claimed to be responsible for the turmoil are not in the slightest bit interesting and really slow this one down to a crawl at times. The major dealings in the courtrooms filled with concubines and observers detailing the various conspirators against the kingdom are boring and really seem ludicrous for how deep into the film they keep going with this storyline. Some tighter editing, courtesy of Kim Sang-bum, and a greater sense of focus on the important storylines in Hwang Jo-yoong's screenplay could've really played this segment far better.

This traitor aspect of the film is also part of what makes this so long for the most part. The film draws these segments out interminably long, consisting of way too many talk-heavy sequences in the kings' chambers that go by incredibly slowly, before launching into rapid-fire action scenes with the zombies. This is a disparaging combination of tactics where it tries to reasonably mix a historical palace drama with a ravenous zombie movie due to the way these sections are filmed, indicating the entire purpose was indeed to bring them together alongside the Korean penchant for high-emotional drama. A subplot brought into play at the final stages of the film, with Lee Chung attempting to fulfill the mission to remain in control of the kingdom that doesn't need to be there by adding a dramatic element which is unneeded at that point. Overall, these issues make the film too long for its own good.

Despite some minor problems with pacing and a lack of focus at times, ‘Rampant' still emerges as a rather fun and highly enjoyable variation on the Asian zombie genre that has plenty to like about it. Give this a chance if you're a genre aficionado or curious about the film due to the creative team while those looking for another flawless effort might be mildly disappointed.

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