Director: Huh Jong-ho
It is surprising that after the huge success
of The Host in 2006 that it wasn't followed up by a rush to make other monster
movies. But it really isn't a genre that Korea has embraced in their film
history. There was Yongary made in 1967, then the strange case of Pulgasari
produced in North Korea in 1985 helmed by a director who was kidnapped from
South Korea and then there was Dragon Wars in 2007 produced by a Korean company
and directed by a Korean but it mainly takes place in the USA and has American
actors. Maybe giant monster films just feel too much like Japan's bailiwick
in Korea. And both in The Host and in this film, the monsters are more down
sized - they are not big enough to stomp on cities but large enough to cause
havoc and terror.
This one has the added interest in being a period film during the Joseon
era in which the usual court intrigues and conspiracies are taking place.
That is the case it seems in nearly every one of these period films revolving
around the King. But I eat this stuff up. I love the historical setting, costumes,
customs and sword fighting. It just has a great look to it. This has all
of that plus a monster or Monstrum. Or is there? No one has seen it but numerous
groups of people have been found in the forest torn apart sometimes with
plague bubbles popping up on their skin. The Prime Minister is doing his
best to spread rumors of the beast in order to undermine the King.
The King in response calls in his retired former head of the Royal Guards
Gyeom (Kim Myung-min - Detective K trilogy) who after being forced out of
office lives the quiet life of a small farmer and hunter with his former second
in command and his adopted daughter who is a fine archer. The King's Emissary
comes to the daughter and asks for the great martial artist who lives there
- she laughs - no one like that here - just my father and my uncle. The four
of them - including the emissary - go off on an adventure, a quest - to save
the King and slay the monster. Because the monster is very real - a feral
mutated slobbering beast about the size of a double decker bus but with much
sharper teeth. They have more than the monster to deal with but also the
deceitful Minister and his many troops who want to kill them.
A lot of the plot is predictable but sometimes that can be in a film's favor
- and it does a nice job with the Monstrum, the suspense builds up at times
to a nice pitch, a few near death experiences, the action scenes are excellent,
production values are topnotch and our foursome are quite appealing. An all
around good adventure film.