[Review] Monster – 몬스타


The dim-witted Bok Soon (Kim Go Eun) runs a street stall in order to take care of her younger sister (Kim Bo Ra). Although she’s a happy-go-lucky girl, she’s known in the town for her temper especially if she feels that she’s being swindled. Her peaceful life is disrupted when the young Na Ri (Ahn Seo Hyun) appears at her home needing help from crossing paths with a serial killer named Tae Soo (Lee Min Ki).

While he’s a heartless murderer, Tae Soo has a twisted attachment to his adoptive family who took him in as a young boy. As a favor to his brother, he accepts a contract job involving blackmail. After killing his target, he discovers that Na Ri is a witness to his crime. In a twisted cat and mouse game, he lets Na Ri go only to discover that she sought help from Bok Soon and her sister. He kills Bok Soon’s sister which ignites Bok Soon’s rage to avenge her sister’s death. Tae Soo also vows to tie up his loose ends and the two face each other in an ultimate showdown.

Lee Min Ki is eerily suited for horror movies. I really enjoyed watching him be bumbling and adorably terrified of ghosts in the horror rom-com, Chilling Romance, but he’s an even more terrifying serial killer here. The movie is interspersed with light moments as well and if it weren’t for that, I think I would have felt terrified for most of the film.

While I have wanted to see The Muse, also starring Kim Go Eun, I never got the chance to actually sit down and watch it. For a young actress with a short resume, she certainly has a great deal of talent. As Bok Soon, she does a great job at doing a 180 switch from being bright and cheery to being driven by her enormous grief and rage. In that way, she is extremely convincing as this developmentally challenged woman as she wears her emotions on her sleeve.

Also, she has great chemistry with the young Ahn Seo Hyun. Na Ri is on the same mental level as Bok Soon and it is hilarious to watch them have their back and forths. Although Na Ri did not really have a choice when she sought Bok Soon’s help, the bond that they form is heartwarming.

Despite the dark nature of the film, I was really surprised by the comical nature of the film. The quirky humor lies mostly in the dark humor territory but I didn’t expect a serial killer on the prowl movie to make me laugh as well. In that way, it’s a bit Tarantino-esque. However, the tonal style of the film’s cinematography and pacing is like your classic Korean thriller meets a Korean indie film.

In line with the Tarantino-esque humor, we see how Tae Soo’s adoptive family really feel about him. His brother is disturbed by Tae Soo’s dark nature but his selfishness propels him to use Tae Soo for his skills as a murderer. Tae Soo’s mother appears to radiate love for him but it’s so that she could keep the “monster” at bay. It makes you wonder who the real monsters are.

I like that the movie starts off with Tae Soo being contracted to kill someone. While the movie does bookend that storyline, the story was never about the contract killing. It’s about whether a mentally challenged Bok Soon can go up against the emotionally challenged Tae Soo. At the heart of it, you discover how similar the two characters are. They’re both lonely, orphaned individuals who are constantly surrounded by people who are trying to take advantage of them. It’s thrilling to watch these two “monsters” go up against each other in this bizarre and violent film.



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