This 2014 South Korean film is an oddity. Monster, aka Monseuteo is directed by In-Ho Hwang (Spellbound, How to Catch a Virgin Ghost) who apparently could not make up his mind how to present the film. Marketing for Monster is straight suspense or thriller and murder mystery stuff. A serial killer who forces his victims to play “hide and seek” or die, as the trailer shows at the end of the review.
Min-ki Lee, who starred in Spellbound, plays Tae-su; psychopathic step brother and serial killer who turns his victims into pottery after burning their remains in a kiln. He mixes their ashes into the clay and they are turned into beautifully turned pots or urns.
At the beginning of the movie, the audience is introduced to Bok-Soon, played by Go-eun Kim in what is her third film, a mentally challenged woman with the maturity level of a 10 year-old. We learn this later when she meets up with Tae-su’s latest victim and vows to save her. The two females both interact at the same emotional level providing some pretty comedic moments in a film that has quite a few hair raising scenes of murder and mayhem.
Bok-Soon sells vegetables at her late grandmother’s stall. The owner of the pitch where the stall is located keeps trying to get the girl to leave as the lease ended with the old woman’s death. Her sister Eun-jung is planning on going to university and the two sisters bicker about where Bok-Soon will live.
Tae-Su’s older step-brother is asked by a corporate head to take $300,000 to a young girl in exchange for her cell phone footage of his beating the young lady up. The brother takes the money instead and asks his homicidally inclined sibling to get the phone. Tae-Su kills the woman, but cannot find the phone. He takes the 10 year-old sister of the “phone girl” and tells her if she can escape he will spare her life.
The killer also tells the youngster that if she asks anyone for help who cannot overpower him, he will kill them. The child finds Eun-Jung and Bok-Soon and asks for their help. As a result, Eun-Jung is murdered and the mentally challenged Bok-Soon must save the other girl and vows to kill Tae-Su.
Moments in the movie are veritable blood baths. These more horrific moments are then juxtaposed against scenes of comedic integration between the two “10 year-olds.” While these set pieces do not match or even feel like they belong in the same film, the whole thing works in a weird sort of way.
At one point Tae-su’s brother, who is terrified of him, attempts to have the serial killer murdered by a specialist from North Korea. The two men battle and the choreography of the long fight scene is very impressive and looks real. The psychopath wins and later on shows that he is capable of taking on a whole group of South Korean police as well as a group of killers who are all intent on taking him out.
Tae-Su feels a bit like the South Korean version of Michael Myers, or perhaps a Timex watch; this sociopathic murderer can take a licking and keep on ticking. Monster is streaming on Netflix at the moment and is worth a look. It is entertaining in an odd way and there is an urge to watch it to the end, just to see what happens to Bok-Soon. Pay no attention to the details given on Netflix for the film as they do not fit the film either. Fans of South Korean films will recognize the older brother from Memories of Murder and A Bittersweet Life.
Prepare to be perplexed…