Filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo has long been shaking up genre with his smart, high-concept movies. Firstly and most impressively he played around with time travel in Timecrimes, next he took on alien invasion with a low-key drama in Extraterrestrial and then he delivered a convoluted take on the cyber thriller with Open Windows.
His fourth feature film is an ambitious and inventive play on the monster movie and it’s a blackly funny doozy.
Anne Hathaway is on fire as Gloria, a semi-functioning, out of work, alcoholic who after being chucked out of her apartment by her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens playing the British fop often seen in vacuous romantic comedies) heads back to her home town to recuperate.
Hathaway not only delivers on the funny but adds a genuine pathos to this complex character who is battling not only with her own demons but the fact that she occasionally turns into a gigantic monster who is terrorising the South Korean city of Seoul. Jason Sudeikis is perfectly cast as old school friend and pernicious bar owner Oscar who offers Gloria a job in his establishment.
Intimate after-hours drinking sessions with a couple of regulars from the bar turn from invitingly warm to increasingly tense as the film continues. As things take a turn for the darker Vigalondo adjusts the interplay between his characters to develop nifty comment on toxic masculinity, and in turn he delivers shrewd social commentary on patriarchal reign and personal accountability and responsibility.
From very early on the film poses a question to the audience, asking who the real monster is. That it doesn’t simply turn the monster into metaphor for alcoholism and instead allows room for a more provocative battle of the sexes narrative to play out works greatly in its favour to deliver a fist-pumping and empowering conclusion. Not all of the crossover between Gloria and her beast entirely works if you really think about it but the blend of hilarious physical comedy, stirring human drama and magic monster fights is captivating to watch.