Noob Reviews: Monstrum
Please be advised that during the review, I have tried to avoid a lot of spoilers. However, there may still be a few included helping explain specific points.
What is Monstrum?
Monstrum is a Shudder original film initially released to limited screenings and the Shudder platform in September 2018. Released around the same time as The Predator and Searching, Monstrum beat both to first place at the box office on its early opening days. It has also recently made its way onto Blu-Ray and DVD in November of last year (2020).
Set in 1527, King Jungjong is the ruling king and a king who faces many a threat to his throne from both political rivals that seek the kingdom for their own and from outside threats too. The latest of which is a mysterious beast known only as Monstrum who plagues Mount Inwangsan. As a vicious plague sweeps through the streets of Joseon, those that do not become infected and die are starving, unable to hunt in the mountains out of fear of becoming Monstrum’s next meal. In the hopes of resolving the escalating situation, King Jungjong turns to an old military advisor (Yoon Gyeom) who he tasks with looking into this mysterious creature’s appearance.
Little does Yoon Gyeom know, as he begrudgingly takes on the task, that before his mission is done, he will not only come face to face with the vicious plague-ridden Monstrum itself. But find himself placed in the middle of King Jungjong’s rivals plans to see the king overthrown, forcing him once again to take up arms to defend a country he loves and king to whom he has pledged his loyalty.
What type of genre is the film?
Monstrum is equal mix action, fantasy and horror. From the horror perspective, it is more geared towards the creature feature sub-genre.
When was Monstrum released?
Monstrum was released in September 2018.
Do you have a trailer to show us?
- The official trailer linked from Shudder’s YouTube channel -
Who are some of the actors and actresses that we might know?
For a full cast listing, please see the official IMDB page here.
What did you think of Monstrum?
Although Monstrum was released to (and continues to receive) very mixed reviews, I had my interest piqued by both the trailer and finding out it had knocked The Predator down in the charts when it was released. And was very glad at the end of watching Monstrum that I had allowed my curiosity to get the better of me.
When it comes to the story, Monstrum is supposedly based off of real-life historical events that came about when King Jungjong’s forces seized control from the previous king and found a bizarre zoo beneath the palace which he (King Jungjong) occupies now. A zoo where the last king would keep strange and unique animals he had collected from across the world and breed them to create new beasts for his ever-growing stable. Whether or not this was true, the way the story is written and delivered in the film is superb. With great attention to detail, a fantastic sense of pacing and a near-perfect balance between story, drama and fight sequences that made it a real pleasure to watch as events began to unfold. However, something I did find quite odd, but that worked quite well, is that there are quite a few comedy moments and light-hearted breaks throughout the film. These moments are slotted in so seamlessly that they just go with the flow without subtracting anything from the moment around them or slowing the pace of events.
Regarding the actors, the entire cast, whether it be the main characters, antagonists or supporting cast, did an absolutely fantastic job with their characters’ portrayal. The range of emotions, tones of voice, and physical on-screen acting were also superbly executed and again spared nothing. The attention to detail was fantastic, the cinematography captured each scene beautifully, and the choreography of the fights was handled very well. Whether it be martial arts hand to hand fighting, fighting with melee weapons or the use of bows - everything had an ebb and flow that never broke. One of my absolute favourite members of the cast though was the Monstrum itself, although Sparkles (don’t ask) started out life a little different to how his handler had hoped, the way the story of Monstrum is told is just as detailed as the other cast members. Yet the way Monstrum is brought to life using special effects, and I believe CGI, is phenomenal. It is enthralling to see such a life-like monster on screen - from seeing the specific hairs forming the fur on its body to its reactions and movements. It really does have to be seen to be believed.
Whilst we are just touching on Monstrum’s effects, the special effects throughout the film are also praiseworthy, from how explosions are carried out to the way victims are displayed, and combat sequences play out. There is such mastery to how each of these factors unfolds. Everything is handled in a way that it delivers just enough to give you the shock and awe factors, without going over the top or becoming generic and repetitive.
Overall if you had not been able to tell, Monstrum was an absolute blast that I thoroughly enjoyed. If I had to compare it to a similar film, I would say that Monstrum is almost like Brotherhood of the Wolf. A 2001 French horror film starring Mark Dacascos, Vincent Cassel and Samuel Le Bihan that sees a murderous beast released upon rural France to cause unrest and distrust in the crown. The storylines are very similar but with enough tweaks and additional details for each to be unique compared to the other. Although I loved the recently reviewed Blood Vessel (a Nazi vampire horror film set in World War 2), I would have to say Monstrum may be my favourite film on Shudder that I have seen to date.
What rating would you give Monstrum?
I would rate Monstrum as a fantastic 5 out of 5 bananas.
Whether you are watching for the horror, action or 1500s South Korean setting, Monstrum has a little bit of something for everyone. Delicately balancing the horror, action and fantasy, so one genre does not dominate the others - Monstrum is a brilliant film that has to be experienced first hand to truly appreciate. Although it has seen mixed reviews, getting rankings from 2 stars on some sites to 94% likes on Rotten Tomatoes, I can hand on heart say this is a fantastic film that I loved and would happily recommend as well worth a watch. Just beware though that the English versions of the film are English dubbed and not English audio, so there will be subtitles. If you don’t mind them, though, you are in for a treat.
Thank you very much for checking out the review. If you are interested in Monstrum and would like to check it out, to form your own opinion, you can find it on Blu-Ray, DVD and select streaming platforms like Amazon’s Prime Video and Shudder.