Review – Hwayi: A Monster Boy

Hwayi: A Monster Boy is melodrama mixed with mayhem. It’s bloody, it’s brutal, and it’s blunt in its delivery… but it works. I enjoyed this movie so much I watched it twice.

The plot is relatively simple – a young boy is kidnapped and held hostage, but something goes wrong in the exchange. Rather than kill the boy (or, you know, return him), the group of vicious criminals known as the Daylight Robbers decide to keep the kid and raise him themselves.

Shockingly, the young boy grows up to be a solid student, a talent artist, and an overall nice guy. Sure, he’s got obvious problems… like imagining a gigantic, horrific creature stalks him, always just around the corner. He seems shy around girls, which is not surprising considering the only female influence he’s had is the shattered woman the gang keep chained to the kitchen sink. But overall, all things considered, our hostage seems to be hanging in there with his rowdy bunch of degenerate fathers.

Of course… that’s all about to spiral drastically out of control in the next hour and a half of the film, so… buckle up.

The main plot kicks off right before our young protagonist is set to go off to art school and possibly escape his “family.”  Fate lures the whole gang back to the beginning – to the boy’s parents and secret grudges and haunting connections between all the characters. It was… tragic and heartbreaking and deeply, deeply disturbing.

This movie felt like someone had condensed an entire 16 episode violent melodrama drama down into 2 episodes. Each character felt fully realized, unique, and solid in the world – and it was easy to imagine exploring each of their backstories and current lives in more detail had it been a drama series instead of a film. The twists and turns of the plot were wild but also worked easily within the narrative and world of the story. The acting was exceptional – in particular the two male leads (Kim Yun-Seok and Yeo Jin-Goo) – though even side characters charged into their scenes with the gusto and confidence of a leading role, as if each were trying to steal the entire movie.

Watch it when you want an evening of exciting, blood-soaked melodrama.

4.5/5 Stars

Review – Signal

Review – Signal

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I heard everyone raving about this show but I thought, “Ugh, a cop show.  Ugh, sounds like Frequency.  Ugh, matching up an older woman with a younger man again.  Ugh Ugh.”  I should have slapped myself across the face.  And so should you, if you are entertaining such thoughts.  Snap out of it!  Signal is AWESOME.

Yes, it’s a cops-solving-crimes show that jumps back and forth between the past and present, connecting cops and crimes across decades.  And yet I was riveted.  None of the cases ended like I thought they would.   None of the future’s interventions had the outcome I expected.  None of the usual cliches and tropes applied to this show.  There was no noona romance, for one thing.  Instead, a seasoned female cop works alongside a young cute rookie and NOTHING HAPPENS except for work.  Gasp!  I was sooo happy.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, men and women can be friends.  They can care about each other and not want to have sex.  It is, in fact, possible to live and work in a nonsexual way with half of humanities population.  Signal was a revelation!

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It was also very dark.  The crimes were horrible and gritty.  The justice system struggled, realistically.  Crimes were unsolved.  People died and their killers were never brought to justice, not in this past, not in the present.  It was hard to know what the right thing to do was.  People are so many shades of gray, after all.  The story lines were complicated and compelling and every single episode was gripping and intense.

I highly recommend not reading too much about it before starting it up.  It’s nothing like Frequency (the movie or the show).  It’s a mystery and all mysteries should remain vague and ponderous until you actually watch it unfold before your eyes.  I don’t like to do lengthy reviews on mysteries for that very reason.  So I leave you with this – just watch it.  When you’re done, you can pick at the little pieces and discuss characters and debate the ending all you want to.  Somewhere else.  This review is just to get you to bite and spend sixteen hours devouring this amazing show.

Overall Rating – 10/10.  Dark Crime and Magical Realism.