Monstrum: Predictable plot stalls fresh Korean-style creature movie

September 5, 2018

SEOUL, Sept. 5 (Yonhap) — “Monstrum” is the first creature action movie set in the Joseon era and has a suspenseful and entertaining premise, but it is ruined by a predictable plot.

The film was inspired by a brief history record on the advent of a strange monster during the reign of King Jungjong of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, a chronicle that covers the reigns of 25 kings of the dynasty, says an unidentified creature that looks like a Sapsal dog and is as big as a foal haunted the royal palace in 1527.

A scene from "Monstrum" (Yonhap)

A scene from “Monstrum” (Yonhap)

As a rumor quickly spreads that people who run into the monster in the mountain are cruelly killed or contaminated with a deadly epidemic, the capital city, then called Hanyang, is struck with horror.

The king (played by Park Hee-soon), however, believes it to be a groundless rumor created by a faction intent on removing him from the throne. He then asks Yoon Gyeom (Kim Myung-min), a former chief royal guard who lives in a remote mountain village after quitting the job, to lead a team to go after the monster endangering the monarch. Yoon’s long-time friend Seong-han (Kim In-kwon), only daughter Myeong (Lee Hye-ri) and Huh (Choi Woo-sik), a military officer sent by the king, join the mission. And they soon faces a huge secret surrounding the monster as they chase it.

A scene from "Monstrum" (Yonhap)

A scene from “Monstrum” (Yonhap)

One highlight of this film is the design of the monster that director Heo Jong-ho and producer Jung Tae-won created based on the historical record and their own imaginations. The result is a mysterious monster that looks just like “haetae,” a legendary creature in Chinese and Korean mythology, with its whole body covered with bloody pus. The scenes of the giant monster attacking people in the mountain, destroying Gyeongbok Palace, a main palace during the era, and roaring thunderously on top of Gwanghwamun gate are frightening, aided by splashy special effects.

On another positive note, the overall main story is compelling. The movie constantly arouses the curiosity of viewers regarding the identity of the strange monster recorded in history, the secret behind the creature and, most importantly, whether the rumor is true or not.

A scene from "Monstrum" (Yonhap)

A scene from “Monstrum” (Yonhap)

But from the moment the identity of the creature is revealed, the movie veers onto a predictable path and an ending that says good eventually wins out over evil.

All in all, the predictable plot wrecks the creative movie idea of a monster attack on the Joseon-era royal palace. The negative aspects outnumber the positive, which results in a flat creature movie.

The Lotte Entertainment release is set to open in theaters on Sept. 12.

 

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