With Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s masterful monster movie/family drama/political satire The Host rampaging onto DVD today, it seemed time to look back at one of his earlier films.
Incredibly based on a true case, Memories of Murder follows two rural cops in the 1980s as they try to solve a brutal series of sexual killings. As the body count gets higher, a high-flying detective from the city arrives to provide help, much to their chagrin.
However, it soon becomes clear that all three are completely out of their respective depths, and as the city cop tries to go by the book and use cutting-edge techniques to catch the criminal, the [I hesitate to use the word “slow"] local boys, in their frustration, just start to fabricate evidence against anyone they have a vaguely bad feeling about.
What sets it apart from other serial killer movies is the historical context. At the time of the murders Korea was under military rule, with people living in constant fear and severe hardship. The deaths added yet another level of terror and pressure to the mix.
In the film, this is emphasised by the sound of a haunting siren, ostensibly to denote the start of the nightly curfew, but really just seems to announce the death of another innocent.
The cinematography is stunning, the acting imaginative and emotive and the characterisation dense. It drags the viewer into a world of ignorance, failure and desperation and essentially asks one crucial question - to what lengths are relatively good people willing to go to stop evil?
This, alas, is a question the policemen seem unable to answer, but the director carefully aims it at his audience, gently picking away at their morals and their concept of justice. It is a truly unsettling experience.
So where The Host is a vast amalgamation of Little Miss Sunshine, Alien and Fahrenheit 9/11, Memories of Murder is more like The Dukes of Hazzard meeting Dirty Harry in the dark rain-soaked alleyway from Seven.