Raman Hui’s MONSTER HUNT
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
There were several moments of overdone cute cheesiness that almost caused me to stop watching MONSTER HUNT. I decided to keep watching. I’m glad I did.
I was reminded somewhat of Roger Rabbit by the plot: humans living uneasily with a race of nonhumans. Interactions between the two cultures are fraught with moments of humor, sweetness, violence, and even cruelty.
What’s fascinating about this movie, at least to this Westerner’s eyes, is that the story takes place in a mythical ancient China where humans and monsters live uneasily separate lives. There are still remnants of earlier conflicts in that human “monster hunters” still seek out and capture the monsters who try to pass themselves off as human through the clever use of human disguises. The crossover of monster “royalty” provides the basis for the movie’s story, humor, and action.
The underlying mistrust and even cruelty that exists between these opposing cultures is made cinematically palatable by a cast of likable human characters as well as charmingly cartoonish “monsters” that apparently come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
While the movie does at times lapse into overly cute mawkishness and occasional (and forgettable) musical numbers, the likable lead humans and strikingly well-done action sequences that blend CGI characters with kinetic physical set pieces are consistently entertaining.
As a fan of Chinese cinema there are many familiar flourishes in this film, chief among them being the outlandishly integrated hand to hand combat scenes involving unbelievable wire work and athleticism. Main characters are played by actors recognizable to any fan of Chinese cinema, some playing against type.
There are some very silly and even a few outright disturbing elements to the story. One weird one involves cross-species pregnancy. I won’t spoil the story with a description of how this proceeds but let’s just say it’s bizarre and played for laughs of the slapstick variety.
Another element is cross-species cannibalism. Again I won’t spoil it but there are children involved in ways that might appear uncomfortable to some Western sensibilities.
The version via Netflix I saw was in Mandarin with well done and easy to read subtitles. The photography, set design, editing, and special effects are extremely well done; this is a bright and colorful film. Creatures are state-of-the-art CGI and their cartoonish designs are very well executed.
In summary, while some of the humor is overly broad and a few story details undeniably weird, I enjoyed the film and recommend it if you’re looking for something unusual and entertaining.
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald