Saturday, March 09, 2019

Rampant – review

Director: Sung-hoon Kim

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

Billed as a zombie movie (it isn’t, at most it is zompire) hailing from Korea (with the original title Chang-gwol) this has drawn comparisons with Train to Busan and, despite this being a period piece, the comparison is understandable as Busan was big news and this comes from the same studio. However, if you wanted a comparison it is more like period Korean zombie series Kingdom.

In fact when I saw the trailer there were moments when I thought it was Kingdom – though when you watch you realise that this has more of a fantasy vibe around the fighting and has a light-hearted seam running through it that Kingdom forgoes altogether. Other than that, the setting/time period would seem to be the same, it involves court intrigue and insurrection and both have vampires/zompires/zombies (actually, Kingdom’s creatures are firmly zombies and I’ll come back to that).

soldier turns
So, a group of soldiers attack a western merchant ship and steal a cargo of advanced flintlocks. During the raid one of them is bitten but the attacker is pulled off and he manages to stagger away and get back to shore with his compatriots. Back in his village the soldier looks very unwell and is incredibly hungry and thirsty. That night he turns, eats his child and attacks his wife – the infection has begun.

infected sailor
Going back in time the merchant ship had been met by the representative of a group of conspirators who intend to take the country and throw off the allegiance to the Qing Dynasty by purchasing the new flintlocks, which will give the conspirators an edge. There is an infected sailor in the boat locked away to see if he will turn or live (clearly he later turned and we eventually discover this was inevitable). The conspirators ask for time to purchase the weapons and it is the (uninvolved in the conspiracy but power hungry) Chancellor’s men who later raid the ship.

Hyun Bin as Lee Chung
The king actually discovers the conspiracy and it turns out that it is the Crown Prince (Tae-woo Kim) who leads the conspirators – he commits suicide. However he has sent a letter to his brother, Lee Chung (Hyun Bin), who is currently enjoying the hospitality of the Qing Dynasty, to come home and take his pregnant wife to safety. He does return home but finds the outlying town in chaos as the people battle the night demons without royal assistance. The chancellor sends assassins after him but he fights them off with help from a group of roguish warriors. The film then follows him as he is fitted with the mantle of leader – something he does not want, preferring to remain the playboy – as the Chancellor consolidates his power and the king is bitten and succumbs to the infection.

beginning to smoke
Now, as for the night demons, they are so called as they only come out at night. When I watched Kingdom I was tempted to look at the series under “Vamp or Not?” because they only moved at night and seemed to revert back to a death state in the day – unfortunately a twist (that, for me, didn’t really work) changed that at the end – they had got the causality wrong. In this case the infected burn in sunlight – our first big vampire aspect.

concubine turned
The eyes go clouded grey and they develop fangs/sharp teeth. They are described as ripping the flesh to drink the blood and the smell of blood will draw them. Once bitten the period of time to turning varies. To kill, it is pierce the head or heart but burning the remains also, just to make sure. We see them climb walls into the rafters as the day breaks and so wonder they don’t climb after the hero at a crux moment later. Yet moments like that can be ignored as this is an action adventure with martial arts and a little continuity glitch like that means little.

expert archer
The court intrigue parts are there but they are not heavily concentrated on compared to the similar series. However, whilst the series has swordplay, it has little on this with our hero a veritable whizz with his sword, the primary female heroine an expert archer in this rather than the nurse in Kingdom. Comparisons are inevitable but this really does have a different timbre; in the series the Crown Prince has a serious bodyguard, in this the Prince hero has a comedy companion. This, in short, is fun. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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