REVIEW / PERIOD THRILLER
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.