By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- "Rampant," the latest from "Confidential Assignment" (2017) director Kim Sung-hoon, has been widely anticipated as a Joseon-era version of the 2016 zombie hit "Train to Busan."
Aside from its fresh subject of the bloody attack of zombie-like creatures known as Night Demons, another major link between the two films is the investor-distributor Next Entertainment World (NEW). "Rampant" is backed and distributed locally by NEW, which was behind "Train to Busan."
"I think its challenging spirit may be the greatest legacy from NEW," Kim said during an interview at a Seoul cafe on Tuesday with Yonhap News Agency for the new release.
"An investor can be more careful (than others in the movie market) because it has to take a great risk. The success of 'Train to Busan' assured me that if someone can craft new things well, he or she can be received well in the market. I thank them for believing in me and for many other things."
Still, Kim remained cautious on Tuesday about calling his film as a zombie thriller because his creatures, known as Night Demons, are somewhere between zombie and vampire.
Set in the Joseon era (1392-1910), the movie is an action blockbuster depicting a prince's bloody battle against an evil man who tries to overthrow the country by taking advantage of massive attacks by Night Demons "that are neither alive nor dead."
Kim runs a startup story-to-script company with Hwang Jo-yeon, who wrote the script for "Old Boy" (2003) and "Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King" (2012).
"Someone suggested the idea of making a creature action film with the royal court as the setting during a brainstorming session about two and a half years ago. I thought it could be an interesting story and the screenplay has since developed inch by inch."
"Rampant" is scheduled to open in 19 other regions, including the United States, Germany, Australia and Hong Kong, days after its premiere in South Korea on Thursday. This method of a worldwide theatrical release is quite new to Korean films. The director and its main cast members will visit Singapore later this month for a press conference to promote the film.
Kim said he is very curious to see how his film will be received in overseas markets.
"Moreover, I'm curious how foreigners will see the film's artistic elements set in the Joseon era and our action sequences in which I made efforts to revive Oriental lines based on strength unlike in existing Korean period films mostly featuring soft action."
"Rampant" is a film hard to overlook not just because of its spectacular action scenes but because of its beautiful cinematography. It has a royal banquet sequence where a group of traditional Korean dancers create high waves with long, soft, colorful fabrics as they perform in front of the Korean king and visiting Chinese envoys.
The director said he shot the scenes because he wanted a big incident to take place against this poetic and dreamlike backdrop.
He also gave a modern touch to the film with a soundtrack from the London Symphony Orchestra, not the traditional Korean music typical of domestic period dramas.
"I needed a deep sound to describe something wide, spectacular and elegant, but it has to be music that's not too heavy or beat-packed at the same time. There were not many orchestras that can do that."
Unable to find a studio big enough to house an orchestra in Korea, he visited London's famous Abbey Road Studios to record the soundtrack with the orchestra. "I was able to get a brass sound that I like there, and I loved their string sound, too."
Including "Confidential Assignment," "Rampant" was the filmmaker's second collaboration with actor Hyun Bin.
Hyun plays Lee Cheong, a Joseon prince and martial arts expert returning from captivity in the Chinese Qing Empire after the death of his crown-prince brother. He chooses to fight for his people against the attacks of the murderous zombie-like creatures.
"I enjoyed working with him because he has a strong sense of responsibility and is a good and upright person," said the director. "You'll find that he has a pleasant and mischievous self when you personally meet him. I thought if I can reveal this side of him in a movie, audiences would love to see it."
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