The Monster (2005)

"Very Good"

The Monster (2005) Review


In Hong Kong they don't have enough room for haunted houses, so they have haunted luxury high-rise apartment blocks instead. It's into one such complex that yuppie couple May (Qi Shu) and Ray (Alex Fong) move with their utterly adorable five-year-old son Chi Lo (Tam Chun Ho). That's the setup for The Monster, and even before the happy family finishes lugging all their boxes into the elevator, there's trouble. Little Chi Lo sees something -- or someone -- lurking in the elevator shaft.

May is a skittish and high-strung mom, a worrier. She has trouble mixing with the other yuppie housewives and looks to a birthday party for her neighbor's daughter as a way to break the ice. Fat chance. At the rooftop party, she watches Chi Lo disappear over the parapet. The weird thing: He doesn't fall. He is grabbed and pulled. When the police look for a splattered corpse at ground level they find nothing.

After a search of the complex, even May's hysteria doesn't encourage the cops to look further. But she and Ray persevere, handing out flyers and inspecting the bowels of the building. Eventually, they hear their son's plaintive cries inside the ductwork and locate him, only to see him dragged away once again by some sort of female apparition. Is she a ghost? A homeless person? A monster? May's sanity begins to snap, but her intense mother love makes her continue the search, even though her neighbors are worrying that her spook stories are starting to hurt their property values.

That's about all that should be said plot-wise, because the revelations of the identity of the mystery ghoul and the motives behind the whole affair are what make this creepfest so enjoyable. Qi Shu has a lot to work with here. Her role is both a physical challenge and a real emotional workout. She's great at hysterical freakouts.

But even more credit must be given to the amazing Tam Chun Ho. Remember how the young Shirley Temple was once honored by the Academy with a miniature Oscar? Well here's hoping the Hong Kong film establishment has a similar honor to bestow upon this remarkable child, who has to endure nearly constant terror including being left behind in cold chest-deep water in a basement, being dangled from heights, being attacked by a dog, and being clutched to the chest of a truly freaky ghoul for most of the film's running time. Director Pou-Soi Cheang freely admits in the DVD extras that the cast and crew needed to keep the poor kid frightened all the time to make sure they could get the reactions they needed. Sadist.

The Monster is scary in all kinds of ways, but it's most effective on the psychological level, delivering its shocks in Rosemary's Babyish ways that elicit not only fear but also sadness and sympathy. If you've ever considered living in a high-rise apartment, this movie will surely change your mind.

Aka Gwai Muk, Home Sweet Home.

I thought we told you to stay out of the oil cans.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Pou-Soi Cheang

Producer: Pou-Soi Cheang,

Also starring: , ,

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