Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 26, 2020)
With 2017’s Mon Mon Mon Monsters, we get a horror effort out of Taiwan. The film introduces us to Lin Shu-wei (Yu-Kai Deng), a high school student who tries to cope with bullies.
When Lin gets unjustly accused of theft, he finds himself assigned to community service. Unfortunately, he performs these activities alongside the same students who torment him in school.
During this activity, the teens find two flesh-eating monsters in a run-down home for the elderly. One of them gets away, but they imprison and torment the other.
This turns into a bad choice. The escaped creature attempts to return to free the other, a feat that comes with horrific consequences for the teens.
Despite the description of the characters as “monsters” or “creatures”, the two title roles actually come in humanoid form. When I read about “flesh-eating monsters”, I figured we’d find something closer to The Blob, whereas that doesn’t become the case.
We eventually learn backstory on the “monsters”, which I won’t spoil. In any case, they come across more like sentient zombies than anything else, though the film makes sure it tells us they’re not the walking dead.
Mon comes with a twist in that the “monsters” prove wholly more sympathetic than the humans – even Lin, the only even vaguely likable one among the main roles. Mon paints Lin as the most sympathetic personality, but he comes across as so flawed and weak that we don’t bond with him much either.
Still. Mon goes out of its way to depict the roles as horrible, with an obvious sense of irony that the humans are more awful than the “monsters”. These people laugh and take selfies in front of a woman engulfed in flames, for God’s sake!
According to Wikipedia, Mon evolved while writer/director Giddens Ko suffered from bad publicity related to an affair. Apparently he wanted revenge on the people of Taiwan for the way they treated him.
To be sure, a severe sense of misanthropy pervades Mon. This film doesn’t offer a hopeful view of humanity, as instead, it paints people as petty, cruel and indifferent.
All of which comes as a major contrast to the movie’s cutesy title and publicity. If you look to the left, you’ll see the Blu-ray’s cover art, an image that depicts a pretty teen girl as she blows a bubble in the face of a threatening creature.
Some of that saucy attitude comes through in Mon at times, as it doesn’t provide a relentlessly grim affair. However, at best it gives us a sense of dark irony, so it comes far from the wacky endeavor one might anticipate.
Taken within its pessimistic worldview, Mon works, though it loses some steam as it goes. I think this occurs because 112 minutes tends to feel too long for a horror movie of this sort.
The average frightfest goes closer to 90 minutes. Obviously that doesn’t mean every effort in this genre needs to stick to that running time, but the 90-minute range became typical for a reason.
Mon feels like it might come with a stronger impact if it lost some of that “extra time”. While I can’t claim the movie seems padded, it also comes with more than a few scenes that don’t really advance the narrative, so there’s room to tighten up the tale.
Even so, Mon offers a fairly solid horror effort – if you can get past the relentless sense of negativity on display. Despite the occasional moments of semi-lightness, this remains a grim tale the majority of the time, one without much optimism, as it emphasizes the impact of karma.
And one shouldn’t expect a happy ending – at least not anyone who paid attention to the prior 100 minutes. While not a consistent effort, Mon gets points for the unusual manner in which it treats its story, and it becomes a largely effective flick.