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Chinese language cinema

Film review: Mon Mon Mon Monsters – Giddens Ko channels teen angst via nihilistic supernatural horror

There are no sympathetic characters in the Taiwanese director’s second film, which will leave viewers more shocked than entertained

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 9:03am

3.5/5 stars

Taiwanese writer-director Giddens Ko Ching-teng follows up his smash-hit debut You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011) with a considerably darker beast. While his second directing effort also takes place in a contemporary Taipei high school, Mon Mon Mon Monsters trades romantic comedy for murderous teenage angst and supernatural horror.

After building a voracious following as a bestselling author and voice of the millennial generation, Ko’s new film will surprise casual viewers for just how nihilistic it is. There isn’t a sympathetic character to be found, with humans young and old proving every bit as monstrous as the creatures they discover. Even Lin (Deng Yu-kai), the weak and introverted protagonist, does little to make himself likeable.

Relentlessly bullied by a gang of classmates, led by the loathsome Ren-hao (Kent Tsai Fan-hsi), Lin is in desperate need of mental and physical support – something even his teachers seem unwilling to provide. While doing community service, the group discover and capture a young female monster who has been devouring the elderly.

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The gang subject her to all manner of horrific tortures, and learn that she‘s like a vampire in her thirst for blood and deadly aversion to sunlight. But rather than help the creature, Lin revels in this opportunity to bond with his tormentors, while the girl’s older sister embarks on a murderous rescue rampage.

Despite its utterly bleak world view, Mon Mon Mon Monsters offers plenty to delight horror fans, with a dazzling visual style, a number of standout set pieces – including a bloody encounter on a school bus – and compelling performances from a mostly young cast.

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As a storyteller, however, Ko sells himself short. Emotional pay-offs are missed, supporting characters go underdeveloped, and a subtext about Taiwan’s neglected older generation slips by largely unnoticed. It seems Ko would rather fling his characters screaming into the abyss than offer them a modicum of redemption, thereby leaving viewers more shell-shocked than entertained.

Mon Mon Mon Monsters opens on July 28

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