Director: Huh Jong-ho
Cast: Kim Myung-min, Lee Hye-ri, Choi Woo-shik, Kim In-kwon, Hyeri, Park Sung-woong, Park Hee-soon
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures, Clover Films
Opening Day: 20 September 2018
Synopsis: A mysterious creature terrorizes Mount Inwangsan. It’s the 22nd year of Jung Jong. The plague has taken over Joeson, and fear runs rampant in the streets. When rumors of a vicious beast roaming Mount Inwangsan called Monstrum by the terrified masses begin to spread, fear turns into panic. In order to quell the rising panic, Jung Jong brings back his most trusted general Yun Kyum from retirement. Joined by his daughter Myung, his right-hand man Sung Han, and royal court officer Hur, Yun Kyum sets out to find the mysterious creature. Is the creature, Monstrum real? Or a figment of the fearful mass’ imagination? Will the people of Joseon ever live in peace again?
Monstrum is a movie set in Joseon Dynasty, where it’s rumoured to have a mysterious and violent creature that spread plague around the country. As the news of this vicious monster circulates, it generated fear and panic around the village. To dispel public fears, King Jungjong commissions a team lead by Yun Kyum (Kim Myung-min), joined by his daughter Myung (Lee Hye-ri), right hand-man Sung Han (Kim In-kwon) and Hur (Choi Woo-shik), to track down the creature. However, is that fear truly fueled by the sighting of the creature or is it yet another conspiracy?
The film opens with a scene at the mountains, where the panic-stricken masses were killed to confine the plague. None except Myung, who was rescued by Yun Kyum, escaped death. However, as the story developed, it was discovered that much of the widespread fears were not founded on the sightings of the creature, but a plot by the prime minister to bring down the power of the King. This clearly establishes the good side and the bad side of the film.
The narrative of the story is quite easy to follow. Some may find that the narrative of the film simplistic and very predictable, but it actually helped to have a straightforward storyline if not the action scenes would have been too messy to follow. The action choreography focused mainly on Kim Myung-min, the general, who is basically the hero of the movie. The scenes definitely elevated and reinforced his heroic capabilities and fearlessness. While well choreographed, the fight scenes were not as exhilarating and engaging you would want it to be as he’s way too invincible.
Eventually, the creature did make its appearance, and is in fact quite a talking point for the movie. It was reported that the film was produced with a $11 million budget, which obviously points towards the heavy investment in CGI and visual effects. That investment did bring about a well designed ‘beast’, that has no problem blending in with the live-action. The special effects also elevated the action scenes, along with the fights with the monster. Yet, overall the action scenes still feel dissatisfying, possibly because of placing too much prominence on one character.
However, that’s not to say that the performance of award winning actor Kim Myung-min in the movie wasn’t good. In fact, he must have charmed many audiences. People who follow Korean drama series may know him through a popular period drama series, ‘Six Flying Dragons’. The confidence in delivering his role was consistent throughout the movie.
How can one do away with the Korean humour and wackiness? The lead-up to the film’s conclusion is possibly the most ‘unpredictable’ and mind boggling part of the movie. Overall, the movie is not the best in terms of a creature feature, but is as adequate as it could be for a first (set in the Joseon era).
(In essence: elements of Ip Man and Jurassic World uniquely blended into a dramatic Korean period action film)
Review by Tho Shu Ling