The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #22 July / August 2016
At the Cinema
Monster Hunt
by Erik Zidowecki
July / August 2016 | 

I have to admit, this issue's film for review, Monster Hunt, surprised and, at times, confused me. This recent release (2015) from China is a fanciful look at a world in the past in which both races, human and monster, existed alongside one another.

At first, it was peaceful, until the humans drove the monsters away in an attempt to claim total control over the land. The monsters, however, learned to disguise themselves as humans and live among them, so special Monster Hunters were trained to track them down and capture them, for which they were paid very well.

Xiaolin preparing to fight disguised monsters

When a civil war started in the monster controlled lands, the monster throne was usurped and the pregnant Monster Queen became hunted. She, along with two protectors, Gao and Ying, fled into the human lands and hid.

Disguised as humans, they end up in the village of Tianyin, a young man who, although his grandmother keeps reminding him that he is descended from a line of monster hunters, wants to just be left alone to cook and sew. The monsters are exposed by a real monster hunter, Xiaolin, but after a fight in Tianyin's house, the guardians are caught by another monster hunter, Gang, while the Monster Queen escapes on her own.

Altogether, it is a very light and playful story, somehow managing to not to get bogged down in some of its own topics, like torture, monsters-eating-people-eating-monsters, or cross gender birthing.

Furious, Xiaolin ties Tianyin up, planning to use him as bait to capture the Queen, but the Queen captures him first during the night. She tells him she is dying and begs Tianyin to protect her baby, then impregnates him with it (I wont go into details about that, other than to say it is not the anatomically correct way to do it). Xiaolin finds them as they attacked by a larger monster who is also out to capture the Queen.

After that, things get strange.

Protectors Gao and Ying in their natural monster forms

Xiaolin and Tianyin escape back to Tianyin's village, only to find all the townspeople have been captured by the Monster Hunter Bureau (turns out, almost the entire village is comprised of monsters in hiding). The Bureau is also hunting for the Queen and baby.

Our two heroes escape and manage to get the monster heir "birthed". They learn to take care of it, with Tianyin acting as its mother. However, even though Xiaolin finds herself developing feelings for both of them, she is also drawn by greed to the money she can get for selling the baby monster, whom they have named "Wuba".

The Queen Monster, begging a terrified Tianyin to protect her child

Meanwhile, guardians Gao and Ying escape from Gang with a little song and dance, literally. I had pretty much got used to only seeing dancing and singing in Bollywood films and some Japanese productions, but here was a full on musical number with monsters crooning about life, along with various strange creatures and odd frogs, as they manage to turn the tables on the veteran monster hunter.

Eventually, Wuba ends up in the kitchen of a restaurant where monsters are served as food and several attempts are made to cook him while Xiaolin and Tianyin, along with the Queen's guardians, who managed to escape from the monster hunter, attempt to rescue him.

Xiaolin, confirming Tianyin is pregnant

This film was a major hit in China and one of the biggest commercial successes of all time there. This is in part due to the "monsters", who, rather than being something horrific, are more comical, bouncy beings of CGI. Even the most ferocious seems more cartoonish than dangerous, which makes this film great for kids. This is in complete contrast to the Korean horror film I reviewed last month, The Host, which featured a truly horrendous creature which graphically preyed on terrified citizens.

Having said that, it completely failed to get any attention in the US, which seems to surprise some reviewers, but I do not find it strange at all. Most of the films I have reviewed over the years rarely found their ways into American theatres, and when they did, they were in smaller venues, specializing in foreign or "odd" films.

Adorable newborn Monster King, Wuba

The film is entirely in Mandarin, so there is not much there in terms of linguistic opportunities (although the monsters do speak their own language a few times).

Altogether, it is a very light and playful story, somehow managing to not to get bogged down in some of its own topics, like torture, monsters-eating-people-eating-monsters, or cross gender birthing. I would definitely recommend Monster Hunt to anyone wanting a fun foreign film to watch. It is a family film, and does have plenty of childish humour, so do not expect a lot of sophisticated jokes. Make sure you watch the very end for a strange dance number that are part of the credits!

At The Cinema - Monster Hunt
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
• "Monster Hunt" Internet Movie Database <>
All images are copyright Edko Films

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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