Rampant entertains, but it ain’t no Train to Busan

A Korean prince must purge his country of ‘night demons’ in this period zombie thriller from the creators of Train to Busan. The film is currently playing in Auckland and Wellington cinemas for a limited time.

If you’re fine with an undercooked and overcomplicated plot, Liam Maguren says it still delivers on the zombie action.

The creators of the excellent Train to Busan are back, but with a different writer and director, for another zombie flick that provides a refreshingly different setting. Swapping a modern transit line for a historical swords-n-thrones kingdom, Rampant gives itself a good excuse to chop off many undead heads. It certainly delivers that much, but its attempt to also be a dynasty drama comes off feeling undercooked and overcomplicated.

There’s a paranoid king. His shifty-eyed first in command. A noble, deceased Prince. His not-so-noble brother. Misunderstood rebels. Shady arms dealers. Duelling dynasties. Wives. Children. Oracles. Allegiances. Betrayals. There’s a lot going on in even before the living dead come crashing in.

While a dense story in this genre could have been quite cool and novel, it’s undercut by a lot of get-to-the-point editing decisions. Ultimately, the film doesn’t offer enough character development or relationship building to make the complex tale worth the time, so you feel very little when key people inevitably start to die.

For a better experience, Rampant could have either given more to its narrative or cut it down entirely. It’s a shame it doesn’t, because the general production impresses. The set construction looks lavish without being excessive, the makeup department does zombie lore proud, and the costume department deserves medals for convincingly dressing the glut of extras—both living and undead—to the era.

Zombie purists may cry “Blasphemy!” at Rampant‘s ‘night demons’, with hearts as vulnerable as their heads and a vampire-like weakness to sunlight. Take that as you will, but I found the change-up an entertaining point of difference. These creatures move more like human-sized cockroaches and make them a bit easier to dispatch via blade. It may not seem like much, but it aids the film’s most entertaining action set pieces in the third act.