Movie review: Monstrum offers a little of everything

Kim Myung-min (far left) and Choi Woo-shik in Monstrum.
Kim Myung-min (left) and Choi Woo-shik in Monstrum.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

REVIEW / PERIOD THRILLER

MONSTRUM (PG13)

105 minutes/Opens today/ 3.5 stars

The story: During the reign of King Jung Jong (Park Hee-soon), rumours of a terrible man-eating monster roaming Mount Inwangsan spread panic among the people. Is there really a monster or is it all a ploy by scheming Prime Minister Sim Woon (Lee Geung-young)? The king can trust only former general Yun Kyum (Kim Myung-min), who embarks on a search for the creature with his trusted right-hand man Sung Han (Kim In-kwon), daughter Myung (Lee Hye-ri) and court officer Hur (Choi Woo-shik).


Is this a creature feature?

Not to worry, the question of whether there is a monster is answered one hour into the movie. But even then, there is no let-up in the tension.

The premise sounds fantastical, but director and co-writer Huh Jong-ho (The Advocate: A Missing Body, 2015) were inspired by a passage from the Annals Of The Joseon Dynasty, which were kept from 1413 to 1865.

It was recorded that a mul gwe, a mysterious presence or event, forced King Jung Jong to abandon his quarters.

From that cryptic description, Huh has crafted an exciting and entertaining movie that has a little of everything.

There is a central mystery, blood and gore from vicious attacks, political intrigue, comic relief from Sung Han and even a burgeoning romance between Myung and Hur.

It could easily have been too much, but the film-maker manages to pull off a fine balancing act.

The actors also do a good job of fleshing out their characters.

Kim Myung-min (Six Flying Dragons, 2015 to 2016) is nobly heroic as the general, while Girl's Day member Lee Hye-ri (Reply 1988, 2015 to 2016) makes for a lively and spunky Myung.

The young woman is no mere bystander, but a fearless examiner of dead bodies, and is deadly accurate with a bow and arrow.

The villains are more rote, but ably played by veterans Lee Geung-young (The Battleship Island, 2017) as the contemptuous Premier and Park Sung-woong (New World, 2013) as his skilled hatchet man.

The ending is not believable, though. And a coda to explain things suggests the film-maker knows that it is a stretch - even for a movie about a man-eating monster.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Monster movie offers a little of everything'. Print Edition | Subscribe