With the surprise success of 2016's Train to Busan (both domestically and internationally) it's no wonder that South Korea is trying to pump out their next big genre effort. Unfortunately Rampant couldn't have come at a worse time considering Netflix just released their own period Korean zombie series titled Kingdom, resulting in some confusion among fans. While Kingdom is based on a webcomic, I believe Rampant is supposed to be an original idea, but either way, at the time of this review I have yet to watch Kingdom, so I can't really say much else about the similarities.
Set sometime during the Joseon period of ancient Korea, we follow a young prince as he returns home after hearing the news of his older brother's suicide. Unfortunately instead of returning to a warm welcome he's witness to seemingly abandoned villages and the remaining townsfolk ill with some kind of plague. To make matters worse, a group of assassins are sent to kill him before he can reach his father, The King. Amidst all this chaos are a horde of bloodthirsty "Night Demons," forcing everyone to fend for themselves and making the Prince's journey all the more dangerous. Luckily it's not long before he reaches the kingdom, but he may be too late, as the demons are close behind and ready to attack at the next sunset.
This is promoted as a zombie movie, but the dead are described as "Night Demons," which makes a lot of sense since (as I suggested before) they only come out at night (the sun and damage to the heart or brain are their weaknesses) and once they're infected their eyes become a white haze, their teeth grow sharp, and they start attacking the nearest human with reckless abandonment. Hmmm.. I guess they're more like vampire-zombies? With the exception of all the lunging they do, they do kinda act like zombies, but a majority of their traits are like vampires. Ugh, trying to figure this out is giving me a headache, so let's just move on..
Naturally the prince is a master swordsman, so there's beheadings and swordplay, along with some martial arts and solid action overall, but there's not a whole lot of gore, which is a little disappointing. My biggest issue, however, lies with the terrible subplot involving someone close to the King trying to usurp the thrown. Seriously? Do we really need this kind of drama right now? There are more pressing matters at hand, like the entire village turning into vampire-zombies! This usurping nonsense ultimately leads to a cheesy final battle between the Prince and the key villain (who is slowly turning into a Night Demon by the way, so he's somehow stronger than normal *rolls eyes*).
The film's final act is just convoluted and overly melodramatic, which causes the movie to suffer a bit, but looking passed all that it's still an enjoyable watch for the most part. The pacing is good and there are some thin, but interesting characters among the band of warriors that aid the Prince. The Night Demons themselves are also decent since they're not the conventional zombies we normally see, so at least the filmmakers attempted to be a little different.