MON MON MON MONSTERS (2017)
Directed by Giddens Ko
Written by Giddens Ko
Starring Kent Tsai, Yu-Kai Teng, James Lai, Meng Tao, Bonnie Liang, Carolyn Chen, Yan-xi Hou, Kai Ko, Emerson Tsai, Eugenie Liu as the Older Monster
Bullying is a monster I have some experience with. And if you’re a horror fan or even just a genre fan, I’m pretty sure that you’ve felt like an outcast and been shamed for it in one way or another in your life. I immediately bristle up when I see bullying in films, which is exactly the visceral reaction Giddens Ko is going for in the Taiwanese anti-bullying monster film MON MON MON MONSTERS.
A group of bullies torment a kid in school, causing the lot of them (including the tormentee) to face detention in the basement of the school. Unbeknownst to them, this basement is connected to a system of tunnels that lead to the lair of a pair of monstrous feral people with teeth, claws, an appetite for blood, and an allergy to sunlight. Somehow, this group of assholes trap one of the beasts, chain it to a wall, and torture and mock it for their own sadistic pleasure (pulling the kid they bullied into the fray as well). With the other monster frantically rampaging through the night streets in search of its sibling/partner, the bullies become bored with their torture-fest and devise a plan to trap and kill the other beast to save their skins and shove their problems under the rug. Much blood and uncomfortable times lay ahead for all involved.
MON MON MON MONSTERS is THE BREAKFAST CLUB meets Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN—a blending of adolescent horror and forced identification with monsters of all shapes and sizes. It expertly communicates its themes while never feeling preachy or aiming for the bleachers with the sentimentality, sympathy, or message it’s trying to imbue on the viewer. It simply shows the monsters for who they are. Also, there are greasy, grimy feral people in this film that often feel more human than the monstrous teenagers battling them. It’s this dichotomy that makes you root for the monsters to win—something horror fans are used to, but in this sense, you not only want to see the monsters succeed, but you yearn for bloody comeuppance and when that happens can’t help but cheer. That might put the viewer in an uncomfortable spot—rooting for the monster to not only get its revenge but do it as messily, but the real teenage monsters are the true beasts in need of some ass-whupping.
One of the things that I loved about this film is that the monsters are ambiguous—not quite vampires, but definitely not human. They are dirty, animal-like, and dangerous, but they also treat each other with a humanity that the school kids seem to lack. While the wrath of the monsters is horrific, the way the bullies demean and torment their classmates, their teacher, and the monsters themselves is the ugliest thing you’re going to see here. I doubt anyone with an inkling of a soul won’t wince at the happenings in the opening moments as the bullies take over the class and make it impossible for learning, let alone surviving being in a room with them. Giddens Ko is painting an ugly portrait of youth here and that is the real horror going on in MON MON MON MONSTERS.
This is a monster film, for sure. But the monsters aren’t the ones doing the monstrous things. Sure, there’s a lot of bloodletting and organ-splooshing as the monster scours the city for its partner, but none of this would have happened if not for the evil things these kids unleash. MON MON MON MONSTERS is a powerful horror film, but not only is it a gory masterpiece, but thematically, it is going to challenge you in ways most films don’t. You simply must see this one for the way it handles horror on so many, many levels.