Imagine 2019 Review: MONSTRUM Presents Silly, Gory Entertainment

Huh Jong-ho's historical action thriller is shallow but fun, and looks great.

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Imagine 2019 Review: MONSTRUM Presents Silly, Gory Entertainment
Last year saw several entries added to the sub-sub-genre of Korean history-slash-horror films (and there's even a Korean historical zombie series on Netflix). Last month, the Imagine Film Festival showed one of these: Korean director Huh Jong-ho's historical action thriller Monstrum. I saw it and liked it, so here is my review.

That's easier said than done though, as a large part of the story deals with the question of whether or not there is actually a monster in the film, and I feel loath to spoil that part of the story for interested newcomers. So how to best approach this? Let's start by saying Monstrum is very silly, very gory, and as long as you put your brain on "entertainment mode" and don't expect this to be remotely as good as Bong Joon-ho's The Host, you'll have a swell time. There are fights, explosions, and there are even a fart joke or two thrown in. Now I'll give a spoiler-light set-up of what the film is about, and after that I'll give a spoiler warning, to be able to discuss things from the last two thirds without having to chew my tongue all the time.

So here's the spoiler-light set-up: in 16th century Korea, a good king sees his popularity and power crumble as disasters hit the land, and rumors spread among the people that their lord is nice but incapable of protecting them. The latest of these disasters is said to be a great monster, which rips people to shreds and spreads a terrible plague amongst survivors.

Imagine-review-Monstrum-ext1.jpgThe king secretly appoints a small taskforce of two disgraced generals and their adopted daughter, to investigate this new danger story. Is there really a beast attacking people, or is it a ploy by corrupt ministers to facilitate a coup d'etat?

Ok, that's all you need to know. Here start the spoilers, so if you want to stay fresh, skip to the last paragraph for my final verdict. SPOILER WARNING!

Well... there's a saying that goes like "just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean you're NOT being persecuted". In this film you discover pretty quickly that there is indeed an evil plot to overthrow the king. But, and this won't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen several of the posters or even just one of the trailers, there is also a creature. If you love monsters feel free to check this one out, it's a pretty special one. A mean mutt it is too, ratcheting up quite a bodycount throughout the film, and with Korea consistently providing great production values and art direction, rest assured it looks pretty well done. Only one shot kinda "pulled" at my eyes, and I'm pretty trained by now in how to spot bad CGI.

Currently, Monstrum has an IMDb rating of 5.9, and I think this is mostly because audiences were in two minds about the amount of humor thrown in the gory mix. Those expecting a moving drama will find themselves side-stepped with a lot of colors and noise. This is definitely not the deepest of films, and my guess is people do not expect how much of a popcorn muncher it is. Imagine's Amsterdam audiences gave the film a more solid 7.6, but they were prepped in advance to expect a fun action film, which is exactly what they got. And hey, even when the plot wrings itself in Hollywoodian bends to try and get happy endings for some of the characters, I enjoyed myself.

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