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Stars: Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae, Paul Lazar

Director: Joon-ho Bong

In classic 1950s creature features, movie monsters such as Them!, Godzilla and The Amazing Colossal Man were the result of atomic radiation from American A bomb tests. Bong’s gleeful shocker about a giant galloping mutant tadpole that erupts from Seoul’s Han River and proceeds to lay waste to luckless locals follows in the tradition of blaming the Yanks, but this time – a nod to the green lobby, perhaps – the catalyst that creates the monster is pollution rather than radiation.

But the man to blame is, as ever, American, a scientist who insists on dumping dangerous formaldehyde into the river and so creating the multi-limbed marauder.

The splendid special effects that bring the galloping, people-eating big beast vividly to life are American, too, and the USA re-enters the proceedings when we find the monster rampaging with an enjoyable, deeply cynical line in political chicanery. Not that Bong allows the show to become a political allegory. It’s first and foremost an archetypal ‘monster on the loose’ epic with, in the final analysis, a peculiarly tangy Korean flavour, compounded of out-and-out gross horror, offbeat characterisation and a strong vein of deeply black humour. And it does the grisly business of thrilling and chilling very entertainingly indeed.

Alan Frank

South Korea 2006. UK Distributor: Optimum Releasing. Colour.
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 25 Nov 2006