MON MON MON MONSTERS
Directed by Giddens Ko
Closing Night Film, 2017 Hong Kong International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2017 Udine Far East Film Festival
Writer-director Giddens Ko follows up his record-smashing, landscape-altering rom-com You Are the Apple of My Eye with a tale of some really bad apples: a hell-bent quartet of troublemaking teens who move from victim to victim, laying waste to the weak while stoking fires with their devilish laughs. When the film starts, they’re tormenting their friendless classmate Lin Shu-wei. But when some community service at an old folks’ home goes awry, they stumble upon a couple of ragged street crawlers who turn out, in the blink of an eye and a rip of the flesh, to be meat-eating monsters.
Instead of proceeding to tell a cat-and-mouse story of victimizers-turned-victims, Ko pulls a fast one. The bullies inadvertently capture one of the two zombie-like monsters, tie her up, and figure out her kryptonite, turning her into a living piñata. Shu-wei, the closest the film has to a conscience, can empathize with the helpless monster, but knows that the moment she’s killed or that he saves her, is the moment he resumes his position as the bullies’ easiest prey.
Starkly performed and enlivened by agile visual storytelling, MON MON MON MONSTERS stutters around such ethical questions while dancing with the devil in a universe where you’re only as good as the person you can bully. The social graces designed to keep order – the promise of love, the Confucian respect for authority – are subsumed by anxieties over social standing. Inconvenient alliances lead to herd behavior. Survival instincts lead to blood-letting. Waning innocence leads to a rhapsodically brutal set piece on a bus as “My Way” sways in the background. Timed to a savage comedic beat and infused with hellish teen angst, MON MON MON MONSTERS is a fast-moving existential thriller as only Taiwan’s most popular novelist-turned-director can tell it. –Brian Hu