There’s more grisly goodness in “Mon Mon Mon Monsters!” than most horror films today.
The Taiwanese horror comedy is bold, original and bloody enough to satisfy most gore hounds. It’s also wildly uneven with a lackluster finale that robs the enterprise of its societal sting.
With a nip and/or tuck, “Monsters!” is an instant cult classic. As it stands, the horror import (on Blu-ray Feb. 4) falls short of must-see status.
Lin Shu-wei (Deng Yu-kai) is the kind of kid who’s easy pickings for school bullies. He’s shy and slight, which puts him in the cool kids’ cross hairs. That’s especially true in this high school. Think Mob Rule on steroids, or “Lord of the Flies” with less leadership.
The students overwhelm their pretty (useless) teacher, Ms. Li (Carolyn Chen). If writer/director Giddens Ko is commenting on the state of youth today, it’s a dispiriting one, at best.
Head thug Ren-hao (Kent Tsai) unofficially runs the class. He’s charismatic and crude, a bully of the first order. So when Ren-hao and his gang, including their pet project Lin, encounter a feral beast in an old age home, they do what no one else would in that scenario.
They capture it.
— VRV (@WatchVRV) May 10, 2018
“Monsters!” won’t sidle up to genre expectations. Think Lin is on a hero’s journey? Are you sure? Will the school’s teacher rally on behalf of common decency?
That giddy unbalance can’t survive the film’s running time. There’s little to justify stretching this conceit to the two-hour mark, especially given the film’s torture porn proclivities. That’s obvious long before the belabored finale.
“Mon Mon Mon Monsters!” showcases every pore of these hideous creatures right from the start. What seems like a mistake – delayed entrances remain a movie monster’s best friend – becomes part of the process.
We’re meant to connect with these creatures, even feel sorry for them. Sure, they feast on human blood and all, but the bond between them is undeniable.
Plus, any creature is preferable to Ren-hao and co.
FAST FACT: Variety says the film’s title, translated from Mandarin, reads “Report to the teacher!”
The ugliness on display in “Mon Mon Mon Monsters” is hard to digest. These teens are pure, concentrated evil. Has social media warped their souls? Societal neglect? Our digital age?
When tragedy strikes at the school the students scramble to capture it on their smart phones. Their toothy grins are scarier than any practical FX.
The film’s third act features a highly orchestrated set up that leads to a huge letdown. It’s impossible not to feel deflated. The epilogue is even worse, somber and dispiriting. The best art, from rom-coms to horror, flickers with a sense of hope, of humanity’s ability to transcend its baser instincts.
Flipping that script may seem edgy and dark, but it plays out as a narrative short cut.
None of that denies the fitful power of “Mon Mon Mon Monsters!” It’s unique and baffling, a horror movie you don’t dare turn off.