Vampire flicks are few and far between these days. Even when they do present themselves, they are usually of the lower-budget persuasion and not the most enjoyable to watch. That couldn’t be further from the truth, however, with Sung-hoon Kim’s latest film, Rampant.
The Joseon nation is at war; Rebels have attempted to overthrow a king who no longer serves for the good of his people. After the suicide of his brother, Prince Ganglim returns to not only find the kingdom at odds with its people, but also a plague of demons who are running rampant.
As soon as I learned that this film was created by the same studio that gave us Train to Busan, I knew I had to see it. If it could be only half as good as that film was, I’d be in for a treat. Well, it turns out that I was right in assuming this, as Rampant turned out to be one amazing movie.
Set in ancient Korea, Rampant is one of the most epic tales of the undead I have ever seen. It is shot beautifully from start to finish with amazing aerial camera shots, impressive special effects, and mesmerizing fight scenes.
I prefaced this review by mentioning vampires. The hordes of the undead are only referred to as “demons” throughout its 122 minute runtime with only a handful of specific characteristics ever referenced.
The first is that they can only be stopped by puncturing their hearts or their heads, presumably their brains. The second specific about these hellish un-humans is that they spread their plague by biting, which in turn increases their numbers. The third, and perhaps most important, trait is that they cannot be out in the sunlight. This is the one and only reason that I identify these beasts as vampires, as opposed to your run-of-the-mill zombie variety undead.
What Train to Busan did for the zombie sub-genre, Rampant is set out to do for vampires. The transformation from human to demon is magnificent to watch on-screen. Everything in the film is achieved through a perfect marriage of practical special effects and convincing CG. It is not unnecessarily gory, but it is indeed gruesome enough to make audiences feel how vicious these night demons really are.
Rampant is equal parts horror film and drama period piece. The character development is outstanding, as we watch the young returning prince, Ganglim, start off as pompous and single-minded. His journey turns him into a true leader, one that will sacrifice anything to procure a flourishing future for his people and their country.
The on-screen relationship between Ganglim and his assistant, for lack of a better term, Hak-su, is also one of my favorite things about this film. The flamboyance of Hak-su was successful in providing some much-needed comedic relief throughout the film and I could not help but envision Gaston and LeFou from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast every time the young prince and his sidekick were interacting with one another.
Rampant is a beautiful film, both in terms of its visuals and in its storytelling ability. Director Sung-hoon Kim, writers Jo-yun Hwang, Shin-yeon Won, and Hwang Jo Yoon, and all of the performers who make up the cast of the film are true masters of their craft as they were able to take a film with as high of a body count as this one and still make certain deaths mean something.
There were a number of gut wrenching moments that you just don’t see in many horror films these days, and I applaud everyone involved here for that, immensely.
If you are a fan of Asian cinema and like your horror mixed with tons of action, Rampant is one movie that you will not want to miss out on. It will be available on Digital, Blu-ray Combo, and DVD on February 26 from Well Go USA Entertainment, so be sure to grab a copy wherever you can.
It deserves to be in everyone’s collection and to be spoken about for a very long time to come.
I give Rampant a well-deserved 5 decapitations out of 5.