Director: Kim Sung-hoon
Starring: Hyun Bin, Dong-Gun Jang, Eui-sung Kim, Ju-hyuk Kim, Woo-jin Jo, Dal-hwan Jo, Derek Chouinard
This movie was produced by the same people who did Train to Busan and I have to answer the question does it top that movie? Not really, but it is a different movie and it seemed they wanted to go in another direction with it.
In a bit of a confusing prologue a ship on fire is raided and one of the party is attacked, only to turn and kill his whole family and the village. Cut to three days before and we see the rebels meeting with the smuggler on the ship to get weapons for a revolt.
The revolt is found out and the plotters are tortured to reveal the ringleaders, but the crown prince wants to spare the plotters as he is the real one behind it. He makes the ultimate sacrifice, taking his own life.
Prince Ganglim (Hyun Bin) arrives back in the country from Qing unaware that any attack has taken place. He is attacked by assassins and encounters the undead shortly after (they are referred to as ‘demons’ in the movie.) He ends up being rescued by a group of villagers who explain what happened and beg him to get help from the capital. He is a reluctant prince and does not want to go but eventually agrees when he sees how desperate the situation is.
Cut back to the capital and the war minister is making plans of his own including getting rid of one of the assassins who escaped the undead and making sure a concubine is attacked by a demon to spread the infection.
The film slows down a lot every time it cuts from the scenes with the zombies to the palace intrigue, it almost seems they are from different movies or from one of the popular Korean historical TV dramas. It seems to be something you would have in a TV series where you have more time to tell the story and not a movie.
The prince leaves the village with some protectors but they get stopped at a checkpoint and told only the prince can go to the capital. He promises to return with some soldiers.
The stakes go up once the action moves to the capital as there is an attack on the king and the zombie situation gets out of hand. The war minister has planned this as he wants to start again from scratch and not be subservient to the Qing dynasty.
They do have the guns from the smuggler by this point but only the war minister and his cronies have them and the prince has to make do with swords. After fighting all night they manage to beat back the zombies, who retreat in the daylight as it burns them. Will they make it through the next night? Will the zombies escape from the palace into the capital? What happened to the village and the promise of the soldiers to defend it?
It is an interesting premise to have a zombie movie set in a historical period but it does slow it down somewhat in this case with the historical drama sections mixed in. The weapons they had to use were a bit basic. Surely they would have had access to the Hawcha rocket arrow launcher to take out hordes of zombies. The script writers seems to conveniently forgotten it. I have no idea which years of the Joeson dynasty it takes place in though.
There was no problem with the costumes (I do love those tall hats they wear) and settings as they all seemed to look good especially the palace where some of the heaviest fighting takes place.
The characters seem to be archetypes with the bad guy being stereotypically evil, the good buy being a reluctant hero and the other characters filling the usual supporting roles.
In comparison to Train to Busan the stakes don’t seem to be as high as you don’t get to find out enough about the characters to care about them. The action scenes look cool and there is plenty of gore with the zombies attack but it doesn’t seem to have the same impact.
I would still recommend this movie if you are a fan of zombie movies and historical action movies. For the next movie they should do a zombie movie in space to mix it up a bit.