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Featured DVD Review: Monster Hunt

August 7th, 2017

Monster Hunt - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Video on Demand (English Dub)
Video on Demand (Subtitles)

Monster Hunt

Monster Hunt was, well, a monster hit in its native Chinese. In fact, it was the biggest hit in that market until The Mermaid took the crown the following year. On the other hand, it only managed mostly positive reviews and completely bombed in theaters in the US. It did so poorly that it was dumped onto the home market on a featureless DVD. Is it a cultural issue? Does the film just not translate well from the Chinese to Western culture? Or does it deserve to be seen by more people?

The Movie

We learn in a prologue that the humans and monsters used to live together, but the humans wanted dominion over all of the land and chased the monsters to the mountains where they had to stay. This is how the world was for a long time, but recently there was a civil war in the monster world and the old Monster King was killed. The new warlord chased down all those loyal to the old king, including the Queen. The Monster Queen had to escape and the only place she would be safe would be the human world. The human world isn’t exactly a safe place for monsters, but it is safer than staying.

In the meantime, we meet Song Tianyin, the young leader of his small village. He became leader when he father left to become a monster hunter and he hasn’t really grown into the job yet. The villages don’t respect him, including his own family. Only his best friend, Xiao Wu, treats him with any respect. His grandmother thinks he’s a failure for not living up to his father. However, Tianyin doesn’t think his father was anything special. Abandoning his family to become a ... monster hunter? What kind of man does that?

You would think being a monster hunter would be a great honor. So does the Monster Hunt Bureau. However, monster hunters have been so successful at their job, that the population no longer thinks monster are real. They have learned about the civil war and the monster Queen. They plan on capturing her, which would send the monster world into more turmoil and increase the number of monster that try to escape into the human world. This will in turn increase their prestige back to the old days, but for that to happen, they will have to catch the pregnant Queen.

We go back to Tianyin at the outskirts of his village. He spots two travelers, which is a rare sight for his village. He’s so excited to talk to someone from the outside that he doesn’t seem to notice the women threatening to eat him. When they get to his restaurant, we learn they were followed by a lady, Huo Xiaolan. Xiaolan is a class two monster hunter and these two travelers are the monsters we saw in the prologue. She manages to nearly capture them, only to have her prey stolen by another hunter. Meanwhile, the Queen runs to the back of the restaurant, encounters Tainyin, spits in his face, and runs away. Xiaolan realizes Tianyin was marked and the Queen will return, so she uses him as bait. Unfortunately for her, the Queen is too smart for that and is able to capture Tianyin. Unfortunately for Tianyin, the Queen is dying and in order to protect her child, she inserts the egg into Tianyin.

After a spoiler happens, Xiaolan decides to protect Tianyin, because she wants to sell the monster baby in his belly.

While watching Monster Hunt, the phrase that popped into my mind the most was, “Second-tier Stephen Chow”. That might seem like an insult, but I really like Stephen Chow, so even though this film can’t compare to Journey to the West, it is still a fun time. Not everything works. Or to be more precise, not every element survives translation. If you look at Hollywood films that do well internationally, they tend to be action films, because an explosion sounds the same no matter what language it is in. Comedies have the most to lose in translation, even if you can translate the words without losing meaning. What people find funny differs from culture to culture and I think this film’s broad sense of humor might be a bit of a turn off. I can definitely see why the film didn’t click with the usual crowd that sees limited releases. Additionally, while the monster animation is good, it is cartoonish and I think this style is not what a lot moviegoers here are looking for.

There are plenty of elements to recommend, including the chemistry between the two leads. If you are looking for martial arts action, then there’s plenty of that, even if most of it is mixed slapstick. The end result is charming, but lighthearted. It’s not a very deep movie, but worth checking out.

The Extras

Like I said, there are absolutely no extras on the DVD.

The Verdict

There have been several recent Chinese films that were monster hits in theaters, but none of managed breakout success in the United States. Monster Hunt was no exception. It is worth checking out for fans of the genre, but the lack of extras on the DVD does limit the overall value. Perhaps it is better to rent it on Video on Demand.

Filed under: Video Review, Stephen Chow, Boran Jing, Wang Yuexin, Baihe Bai