1986 Gyunggi Province. The body of a young woman is found brutally raped and murdered. Two months later, a series of rapes and murders commences under similar circumstances. And in a country that had never known such crimes, the dark whispers about a serial murderer grow louder. A special task force is set up in the area, with two local detectives Park Doo-Man and Jo Young-Goo joined by a detective from Seoul who requested to be assigned to the case.
With South Korean director Joon-ho Bong’s first English language feature ‘Snowpiercer’ out next month, I thought I would take a look at one of his earlier films ‘Memories of Murder’. My first introduction to Joon-ho Bong’s films was with his awesome monster movie ‘The Host’, that I was lucky enough to catch on the big screen at the Adelaide Film Festival with a Q&A with the director. Since then I’ve been meaning to catch up with his other work and finally managed to see ‘Memories of Murder’ and glad that I did.
‘Memories of Murder’ is a serial killer mystery that somehow manages to mix ultra-dark comedy with an incredibly dark tale. It becomes even more disturbing that the film is based on the real life investigation into South Korea’s first serial killer. An extra layer of discomfort is also added by the extremely unorthodox measures the local police team go to in order to find this mostly invisible killer that involves the torture of their suspects.
Despite the grim outline to this story it not only manages to be compelling viewing but incredibly funny at times. As one of the victims are discovered our police team arrive at the crime scene to find officers sliding down embankments, kids running around, farmer’s tractors driving through evidence in a scene that’s incredibly funny. It also highlights the helplessness and hopelessness of their efforts to track down a clever killer as they are surrounded by disorganised madness.
As the body’s keep turning up and the cops seem to be getting nowhere in their investigation the film tends to lag a little in the middle. However this is a first class procedural cop thriller, I could only imagine the Coen Brothers being able to pull off anything like this in tone. The film is also craftily bookended by a scene in a drain that ties the film up beautifully, providing a haunting conclusion that will stick with you for some time. Can’t wait for ‘Snowpiercer’!
Review out of five stars: ★★★★ Stars
Review by Andy Marshall – to find me on Letterboxd click HERE
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