GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Huh Jong-ho.
Starring Kim Myung-Min, Hyeri Lee, Kim In-kwon, Park Sung-woon, Park Hee-soon.
Horror/Fantasy/Action, South Korea, 106 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray via Acorn Media on 4th October 2021.
In 16th century plague-ridden Korea, King Jungjong (Park Hee-soon) sees his popularity amongst the people threatened by his scheming officials who wish to overthrow him. After his most loyal guard Yoon Gyeom (Kim Myung-Min) is banished after abandoning his leader and saving a little girl from certain death, Jungjong is on his own against his devious prime minister, who has invented a mythical monster called Monstrum to keep the people fearful and subservient but King Jungjong is not so sure about how true this story is so he recruits Gyeom, his brother Sung Han (Kim In-kwon) and Gyeom’s daughter Myung (Hyeri Lee) – the little girl he rescued years before – to investigate. Naturally, the government officials have their own army of soldiers to enact the prime minister’s plan to topple Jungjong by slaughtering the townsfolk and blaming Monstrum but unfortunately the prime minister didn’t count on the mythical beast being real…
Which isn’t a spoiler as the movie is titled MONSTRUM and there is a picture of the beasty on the Blu-ray cover. With Korean cinema going through something of a purple patch at the moment thanks to several well-received horror and revenge movies, a fantasy/action/monster movie set in the 16th century may not tickle everyone’s fancy once you’ve sold them on watching a subtitled movie but MONSTRUM is, thankfully, a fairly straightforward story with very few deviations from the main plot; in fact, at 106 minutes long it could be considered quite a short movie by Asian cinema standards, and despite some lags in pacing during the first hour it does nip along at speed once the titular creature turns up.
And given how most monster movies live or die depending on their main antagonists, how does Monstrum the beast measure up? Well, seeing as most of the budget seems to have gone on the fantastic period costumes and the sparse but effective gore effects, the CGI creation does feel a bit like it leaped out of THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR and straight into this movie. It isn’t the worst looking monster you’ve ever seen but when it moves – and especially when it has to make contact with anything – it is very obvious that the actors are reacting to nothing except a command from the director. Still, the slow-motion that is employed every time it bursts through a wall, or a door looks pretty cool and adds a little dynamic to the action scenes rather than people being flung about at speed all over the place.
Featuring some fantastic camera work thanks to cinematographer Kim Dong-Yeon, a nice balance of humour and action – beastly farts whilst trying to hide from the creature is never not funny – and some heart-warming character interactions, MONSTRUM is a fun and entertaining creature feature that does run about 15 minutes too long for this type of movie but considering how long most genre movies from Korea are it’s amazing it came in at under two hours. Having been available exclusively on Shudder MONSTRUM is now available to buy on Blu-ray so those who aren’t subscribed can enjoy it, and chances are that it is a movie that will get played quite often, especially when the itch to watch a mindless monster romp needs scratching.