REVIEW: ‘Monstrum’ Makes for a Great Night In

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monstrum

Last month, Shudder, AMC’s premier horror, thriller, and supernatural streaming service released 0.0 Mhz, a South Korean horror film and with the rights to Seoul Station, the prequel to Train to Busan, the platform is becoming a great stop for SK-horror. Now, Monstrum has come to the platform under the Shudder Original banner and it’s offering not only monster mayhem but a period piece filled with intrigue as well.

Monstrum isn’t only a monster movie,  it’s also a Joseon era period piece. Directed by Huh Jong-ho, it stars Kim Myung-Min, Kim In-kwon, Lee Hye-ri, and Choi Woo-sik and competed in the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, with other Shudder titles. What makes Monstrum standout against other creature features is that it’s introduced as “based on a true story”, with the inspiration for the film taken from the actual Annals of the Joseon Dynasty from the 16th century. Showcased on screen in the opening, the passage in history chronicles the sighting of an unidentified creature that haunted the royal palace, forcing King Jungjong to abandon his quarters in 1527. Set against a land ravaged by plague, Huh takes this passage and runs with it.

Set in 1527 during King Jungjong’s (Park Hee-soon) reign, a plague is spreading in Joseon, and rumors are rife that a mysterious vicious creature called “Monstrum” is roaming around Mount Inwangsan, causing panic. Like most Joseon era films and television, the genre elements of the film are pushed forward by political intrigue. Having faced a plague 10 years earlier, the kingdom is just unstable enough to present a threat to King Junjong which forces him to take urgent action to find out if the so-called “monstrum” is real, or a fabrication by Prime Minister Sim Woon (Lee Geung-young), a man actively seeking power for himself.

monstrum

To accomplish this, the king sends for a disgraced general named Yun Kyum (Kim Myung-min), trusting him to find out the truth and hunt down those responsible for the killings – be it monster or human. Yun Kyum is joined by his brother Sung Han (Kim In-kwon) and his daughter Myung (Lee Hye-ri) and of course a mixture of villagers, farmers, and soldiers.

Fort the first act of the film, the characters, and the audience question whether or not the monster is real. But once Huh’s CGI creation is unveiled, the story’s politics take a far back seat and monster mayhem and action takes center stage. The action, while choreographed well, is undercut by the unrelenting shaky cam in Monstrum’s pivotal fight when Yun Kyum and the Prime Minister’s henchmen fight and the “Monstrum” reveals itself. The constant shaking of the camera is also exacerbated by the fact that Huh shoots the scenes tight on the fights, meaning that often, the bodies of the performers are not entirely in the frame which ruins the flow of the fight sequences, which is a shame since in some of the smaller fight sequences the choreography is phenomenal.

While the action is inconsistent, the character work is well done, specifically with Myung. She’s a dynamic character that isn’t confined to her romantic plot point. As the daughter of Joseon’s best warrior, she is a capable fighter and gets moments to shine in the action but also in the emotion of the film. In fact, her relationship with her adoptive father is not only moving but a much better choice than focusing specifically on romance.

When it comes to the monster, he’s designed well, and while the CGI fluctuates between executed well and immersion, breaking the lore around “Monstrum” is what makes him all the more exciting. The action and destruction in Monstrum is fun beyond the nauseating camera work particularly in the final act of the film where our trio goes head to head with the monster, luring it, trapping it, and dealing with its power as they attempt to save the city and fight off the Prime Minister and his men.

Overall, Monstrum is a great creature feature with lore and fun even if the action sequences are lacking. Grab some popcorn and hit play on this Shudder Original for a great night in.

Monstrum is now streaming exclusively on Shudder.

Monstrum
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Overall, Monstrum is a great creature feature with lore and fun even if the action sequences are lacking. Grab some popcorn and hit play on this Shudder Original for a great night in.