REVIEW / THRILLER
MON MON MON MONSTERS (NC16)
112 minutes/Opens Friday/2.5/5 stars
The story: Lin Shu-wei (Deng Yu-kai) gets bullied by his classmates, including a notorious trio led by Tuan Jen-hao (Kent Tsai). In an unexpected turn of events, he joins the gang. When they capture a cannibalistic human-like monster (Eugenie Liu), Tuan delights in torturing the creature. The question is how far Lin will go along with the rest of them. Meanwhile, another monster wreaks mayhem as she searches for her missing companion.
In the follow-up to his debut directorial feature You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011), Taiwan's Giddens Ko returns to the high school setting. That is pretty much the only similarity between the two films. Whereas Apple is light-hearted and endearing, Monsters is unrelentingly dark - which is not all that surprising, since Ko is known for his range as a writer.
He has penned stories in diverse genres ranging from romance and sci-fi to horror and wuxia. It would seem he does not want to be pigeonholed as a director who can do only a certain type of film.
But here it feels as though he was given free rein to indulge his excesses. So much so that the film feels unnecessarily drawn out with too many gee-how-can-we-top-this scenes of torture.
What keeps one watching is the fact that the fate of Lin hangs in the balance. Will he succumb to his worst impulses or will he heed his conscience? Deng conveys some of that conflict but he is not quite a breakout star the way Kai Ko was in You Are The Apple Of My Eye.
Incidentally, Ko shows up here in a fun cameo alongside Vivian Sung, star of the hit high school romance Our Times (2015).
Too bad the central question of who the real monsters are here is definitively answered early on.