Review: Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013)

Review by: Mountain Monkey
SCUM Rating: ★   


Released in October 2013, Hwayi: A Monster Boy, is the second feature film for director Jang Joon-hwan. His first feature was the quirky sci-fi thriller, Save the Green Planet! (2003).

While Save the Green Planet! proved to be a roller coaster ride through various film genres, Hwayi is a more straight-forward thriller. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Hwayi is a pretty exciting movie that stands well on its own — just don’t expect the Monster Boy in the film’s title to be anything other than a play on words.

The film revolves around a young teenage boy, Hwa-yi (Yeo Jin-goo), who’s raised by five members of a ruthless criminal gang. While these “fathers” dote on Hwa-yi and joyfully teach him the skills of their “trade”, they hold a deep, dark secret about Hwa-yi’s origins. Especially brutal is Seok-tae (Kim Yoon-seok), the gang’s quiet but ferocious leader — fan’s of Korean thrillers will find Kim familiar, as he co-starred in The Chaser (2008) and The Yellow Sea (2010).

Hwa-yi (Yeo Jin-goo) being taught the ways of the world by his adoring "fathers".

Hwa-yi (Yeo Jin-goo) being taught the ways of the world by his adoring “fathers”.

Things begin to fall apart for the happy criminal family when a series of chance events leads to Hwa-yi uncovering his true identity. As is inevitable with Korean thrillers these days, Hwa-yi embarks on a trail of bloody vengeance till the film’s violent climax.

If you’re into Korean thrillers, Hwayi: A Monster Boy won’t disappoint. It doesn’t live up to the likes of The Chaser (2008) or The Man from Nowhere (2010) though, so don’t expect twists and turns galore. It’s also rather disappointing that director Jang didn’t continue down the route of genre-mashups, as his first feature was a completely different “monster” altogether.

Hwayi: A Monster Boy is available on Blu-ray now.

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About The Author

Mountain Monkey's cozy childhood afternoons with Thunderbirds were forever shattered by a creepy matinee, 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon'. Things were never quite the same for Mountain Monkey, who developed a fascination for the esoteric side of cinema from a worryingly young age. These days, Mountain Monkey would rather be catching up with some shut eye and the latest Criterion Collection release, but the SCUM mission has come calling. Ohm...

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