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Saturday, March 9, 2019

Review: Rampant

Director: Sung-hoon Kim
Screenplay: Jo-yun Hwang y Shin-yeon Won
Year: 2018

Back in the final years of the 60s decade, George Romero started to popularize the zombie genre when he introduced his legendary “Night of the Living Dead”. Since then, the number of movies that have been produced about these creatures is impressive. Although sometimes it feels like everything has been done with this genre because of how constant we see the same idea being repeated, there is always a movie that takes it to unexplored terrains. An example of this is “Overlord”, which takes zombies to go back in time to World War II while some European countries were dominated by the Nazi regime. In “Rampant” our beloved creatures travel back in time again, but this time to Korea in the 17th century, during the Joseon dynasty.

“Rampant” follows prince Ganglim, while ancient Korea has been invaded by murderous creatures known as night demons. Prince Ganglim returns from a long imprisonment abroad and discovers that he will need the strength of his whole kingdom to stop the massacre that spreads through the nation.

As a curious fact, this movie is produced by the same studio that produced “Train to Busan”, an excellent Korean movie that also works the zombie topic in this nation, but in modern times, and which I hope I get to review at some point. Another important difference with “Train to Busan” is that while this one most of the times is focused on tight spaces inside trains, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere, “Rampant does the opposite and sends hordes of zombies into open spaces, which is used excellently for the cinematography. As I previously mentioned, this story takes place in the 17th century, which gets majestically exemplified through the visuals, with beautiful shots of the structures and clothing of that period, accompanied by our loved zombies being destroyed in innumerable ways in scenes that show a flawless choreography, as well as interesting.

Presenting zombies on an open space always causes that the protagonists must seclude themselves into closed spaces to enhance their chances of survival. In “Rampant” an unorthodox rule is established to minimize this problem, which is that these zombies or demos cannot withstand solar light, more like vampires than zombies in this aspect. This allows for the protagonists to have mobility during the daytime, but it still makes use of the sense of claustrophobia when night falls and the demons are free to wreak havoc. Another important rule that they make good use of is that, contrary to other zombie movies, hey can be killed by destroying the brain, but also the heart. This Opens myriad possibilities in confrontation scenes, where they display all their talent in the choreographies, as well as in the shots and editing. It is worth mentioning that these scenes are graphic and that the creators did not shied away from the gore and present it at its fullest.

“Rampant” is a very entertaining movie full of adrenaline, but it has its flaws. Its most prominent flaw is that in some occasions the plot is more complicated than what it should be, which adds some minutes to develop ideas that are insignificant to the plot. These scenes break the accelerated rhythm followed in action scenes, where this movie shines and makes it longer than necessary. Another problem is that the characters are stereotypical from epic movies, where the principal character must learn a lesson that makes him a better person, his loyal sidekick who has the task of being the one who breaks tense moments with some silly comedy, a lady that initially hates the protagonists but ends up liking him after he learns his lesson and a villain power thirsty willing to do whatever it takes to have control over the kingdom. Also, their skills seem like taken out of any fantasy movie, book, or videogame: a swordsman, an archer, a monk, and an overpowered villain.

“Rampant” is another proposal that comes to bring fresh air to a genre that has become popular, but that usually falls in redundancy. Combining these creatures with the Asian epic action movie style and modifying some rules, it results in a movie full of adrenaline, impressive visuals, and clichĂ© characters in a highly entertaining story. As these recent proposals are showing, there is still plenty to do in the zombie genre, even when sometimes it feels like there is not.

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