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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Starring: Kim Myung-min, Kim In-kwon, Lee Hye-ri and Choi Woo-shik
Distributor: Acorn Media International
RRP: £19.99


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 04 October 2021

Acorn Media International in conjunction with Shudder, releases the UK Blu-ray debut of Monstrum. In the setting of 16th Century South Korea the spread of plague terrorises the villagers on Mount Inwangsan. They are in constant fear of this and rampant rumours of a giant ferocious beast called Monstrum attacking soldiers and peasants. There are constant reports of bodies discovered torn limb from limb. Simultaneously, there is a power struggle going on between the king and his political opposition. Both sides blame each other for striking terror into the people and for staging the scenes to make it look like a beast is responsible. To stamp-out the rumours, King Jungjong sends for his most trusted retired general, Yoon-gyeom to hunt Monstrum. He is joined by a royal court officer Heo, his daughter Myeong, and right-hand man Seong-han. But is Monstrum real...?

Well, of course he is, otherwise this wouldn’t be a horror film. In actually, it spans several genres and this is what grounds the plot and situations in reality – or as close to it as you can get with a never-before-seen monster running around. It’s an Historical saga, with Political struggles, swordplay Martial Arts, and a Horror Fantasy beast. The horror element is maintained by the outright brutality of Monstrum. It’s been said that this movie is like Bong Joon Ho’s Host set in the 1500s. That’s quite an astute assessment, because not only does the plot involve a mutated creature causing havoc in a community but, more importantly, a family pitting themselves against the oppression and learning that the authorities are as much of a problem as the source.

For anyone who has read and enjoyed old fantasy books and heroic fantasy, they will recognise the old seasoned wizard, the untested apprentice or pawn, and the unknown family connection. Even George Lucas utilised this ageing technique in Star Wars: A New Hope, and it still works as well now as it always has done. Myung-Min Kim (Six Flying Dragons) is excellently calm and resourceful as General Yoon-gyeom. The others have connectivity too, so that they make quite a quartet. Director and co-writer Huh Jong-ho has mapped-out this backdrop like a seasoned professional. He keeps the audience waiting for the Monstrum reveal, so that even we begin to doubt its presence. And when it does show its face, it is crafted so that it doesn’t resemble any known animal. Even its movements are unpredictable. Furthermore, he even gives the creature a backstory, without slowing the pace of the plot. The effects are exemplary.

No detail seems to be forgotten here. Our heroes are not simply sent into the mountains by themselves; for the entirety of the film they are entrenched in the thick of political manoeuvring, back-stabbing plots, the protection of the king, avoiding the plague, and the capture or removal of Monstrum. With everything that is going on, not once does the director lose sight of the essential characterisations of the main players. So there is room for emotion, the bonding of family, and the occasional humorous act or comment. Everything is choreographed beautifully, particularly the fighting with blades, and the eerie night time hunting scenes. Many writers or directors have no idea how to end a story; it’s much more common than you may think. Here we have a spectacular action-packed finale, an epilogue with a twist, and a parting of the ways – as all teams must one day split.

In the Set Up options you can listen to the film in its original South Korean dialogue with English subtitles, or select the English language dub (which is very good, and nothing like the cringeworthy martial arts dubs of the 1970s). I elected to go for the English dub and the English subtitles so I wouldn’t miss a word of the dialogue. I’ve enjoyed this film very much. The only thing I would change is a few seconds of dialogue near the end: something to the effect of “Uncle!” “Father!” “Daughter! “Uncle!” “Father!” But have no doubt, this is a professionally constructed movie which has something for everybody.


Ty Power

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