The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 film, Memories of Murder, has received a 4K remaster this year and it really sucks that I won’t be able to see it in theaters. I still need to watch more of his filmography, but the quality of Snowpiercer and Parasite alone are enough to get me hyped to watch another Bong film, even one of his earlier works.
Memories of Murder is Bong Joon-ho’s second film, a crime drama set in 1986 South Korea. As seen in his other films mentioned above, Bong Joon-ho has a very clever and empathetic eye for direction. He shows a strong understanding of the craft, knowing what to do to make you feel a certain way and provide such strong visual storytelling that you will most likely understand the gist of the complex story if no audio or subtitles were present. It’s not as strong as his later work, but that’s like saying one piece of pie isn’t as good as another piece of the same pie. If you’re wanting to watch this for a Bong Joon-ho film, that’s what you’re going to be leaving with.
Based on the Hwaseong serial murders, the first instance of serial killings in rural South Korea, Memories of Murder is set in 1986 and follows two detectives, Park Doo-man and his partner Cho Yong-koo (played by Song Kang-ho (Parasite) and Kim Roi-ha respectively) attempting to find the killer. A younger, but more experienced, detective from the city (Kim Sang-kyung) volunteers to assist in the search, his method clashing with Park’s. As the killings become more frequent, the clues come together and the mystery slowly unravels.
As you may expect, the plot takes some exciting twists and turns. As you may not expect, the film also contains a lot of humor when satirizing the incompetence of the police force at the time (and it still speaks volume today with police brutality being brought further into the light in the United States). The film is tight and concise, never losing focus nor skipping a beat as it leads to a chilling ending.
Bong Joon-ho Has A Very Clever And Empathetic Eye For Direction
MEMORIES OF MURDER (4K RE-RELEASE)
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Look, Song Kang-ho is an amazing actor. I can watch his performances all day, every day. I feel sad when he’s sad, I laugh when he’s being funny, and I squirm uncomfortably when he intentionally looks into the camera to make me uncomfortable. That said, the rest of the cast more than pulls their own weight here thanks to the rich material written by Bong Joon-ho and Shim Sung-bo. The dialogue is sharp and motivated and, when complimented with Bong Joon-ho’s direction, purely captivating.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There are a few scenes where the score makes itself known, then there are moments of pure silence that are scarier than any scene before it. It all boils down to Bong Joon-ho’s style and how he just knows how to make an emotionally engaging film. Once again, I wish I had the chance to see this in theaters to experience the sound design at its fullest potential, shaking me in my seat to get my heart pounding then drop into silence to unnerve me.
Man, I just need this pandemic to be over.
I’m not sure how much, if any, of the film incorporates visual effects, but the overall production design is top notch. The interior locations feel well worn and lived-in with a muted color palette and lighting to mimic the 80’s noir film look. Despite its lack of gore and excessive view of corpses, Memories of Murder still manages to be vastly disturbing with how it emotionally engages the viewer and has them imagine the more gruesome bits it doesn’t show (similar to how Quinten Tarantino pans away from the characters in Reservoir Dogs when one of them gets their ear cut off. The viewers’ imagination will always be scarier than anything the creators could put on screen).
At the time of making Memories of Murder, the Korean Zodiac Killer had not been found. It wasn’t until recently, in the latter half of 2019, when the killer confessed to murdering 10 of the victims. Seeing who the real-life killer was after watching the film… It’s an eerie feeling, to say the least. Without giving away spoilers, the film does get a little meta at the end and it’s just… weird, but in the best way possible. I may never be able to see this one in theaters, but I will definitely be picking this up when it’s released on Criterion!
MEMORIES OF MURDER - NOW AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL & VOD