At first glance, Giddens Ko’s latest movie Mon Mon Mon Monsters may seem like a gory slasher flick. But the best-selling novelist turned filmmaker said that there is more to the movie than meets the eye.
Better known by his pen-name Jiubadao (Nine Blades in Mandarin), Ko was recently in town to promote Mon Mon Mon Monsters with the movie’s leading man Kent Tsai.
Ko took Asian cinema by storm in 2011 with his directorial debut You Are The Apple Of My Eye, a semi-autobiographical campus romance.
Mon Mon Mon Monsters also takes place in a campus, but has a decidedly darker tone, using horror tropes to tell a gruesome tale of schoolyard bullying.
Tsai, who plays the movie’s alpha bully Tuan Jen Hao, said he never encountered any bullying in school due to his size.
“I was very tall and larger than most of the other students, so the bullies did not pick on me,” offered the 20-year-old actor, who also stars in Taiwanese rom-com All Because Of Love.
Ko was also not bullied in school due to his combative nature. “I was forever brawling in school. In fact, I loved fighting so much that I even organised fight clubs, like the one in You Are The Apple Of My Eye,” shared Ko.
The 28-year-old director added that he developed the script for Mon Mon Mon Monsters after watching videos of bullying in school. He spent a long time trying to figure out how to portray the villains in the movie.
“When the actors came for the casting session, they had no idea what our movie was about. They didn’t even know the genre. During the audition, we asked them to mimic animals such as spiders, but we did not tell them why, because we didn’t want to give away the plot,” Ko said.
He even thought of getting either a yoga instructor or gym teacher to play the part because of their flexible bodies and ability to contort their limbs into impossible-looking positions. “Then, I realised that the role actually required a person who can act, because the facial expressions are very important ways for the monsters to express themselves,” explained Ko, who ended up casting Eugenie Liu and Lin Pei Hsin as the two man-eating ghouls.
“On the surface, Mon Mon Mon Monsters may be about campus bullying. But on a deeper level, I am trying to show how difficult it can be for a person to choose to be good and to do the right thing,” said the director.
“These days, bullies not only go around assaulting people, they also record the cruel acts and then upload them online to gain fame and score likes.
“But the question is: Who is the monster here? The bloodthirsty beast whom the public identifies as a scary monster? The cruel bully who continually tortures her? Or the quiet observer who stands by and does nothing about it?” he said.
Mon Mon Mon Monsters received positive reviews from critics after it was screened as the closing film at the 41st Hong Kong International Film Festival. It also won the NH Audience Award at the 21st Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.