★ ★ ★ ★ 

IF you think you’ve seen every kind of monster movie there is then think again. This effortlessly cool, refreshingly original fantasy-laden comedy drama slams together genres and twists expectations to compelling, entertainingly quirky effect.

We follow Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an out-of-work young woman with aimless direction in life and way too much fondness for drinking all night and sleeping all day. After being thrown out by her fed-up boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), she moves back to her old town and now empty childhood home in a vain attempt to recharge.

Once there she soon meets and reconnects with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who unfortunately for her alcoholic ways runs the town bar. When a giant monster suddenly surfaces in the South Korean capital of Seoul, wrecking buildings as it exhibits some very strange physical behaviour, Gloria slowly comes to realize that her consciousness is somehow connected to this mysterious monstrous phenomenon.

If that premise doesn’t grab you then the execution of it surely will as Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo – whose works includes mind-bending time travel mystery Timecrimes and romantically inclined sci-fi Extraterrestrial – blends the low-key musings of directionless adulthood in today’s fast-paced world with the outlandish, monster movie aesthetic into a singularly entertaining high-concept hybrid.

It’s a neat in-road to explore such rewarding and universally relatable themes as addiction, abusive relationships, the expectations we place on ourselves and those around us and the way in which personal chaos can wreak havoc in our lives.

The film cleverly uses the monster, as so many of the best fantasy films do, as a metaphor for many of these things Gloria is going through. You buy into it because the film feels assured in its ideas, as well as the pitch-perfect performance by a shrewdly cast Hathaway, both likeable and maddening as she simultaneously seems to fight and embrace her downward spiral while attempting to come to terms with her newfound “ability”.

There’s smart use of effects on a relatively low budget to make the monster – which looks like it’s straight out of the Godzilla or Pacific Rim universe but comes to behave like a dazzling cartoon – feel like it really is afflicting a city halfway across the world. While the daringness in the third act to warp proceedings from quirkiness into something far darker and more menacing is an inspired one, solidifying the fact that you never really know where the film is going to take you and leaves you feeling like you’ve seen something quite unique indeed.