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Memories of Murder (2003) | A Gripping Thriller from Start to Finish

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Bong Joon-Ho’s second feature length film was given a stunning 4K re-release in select cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema last week and it is a real treat to watch- particularly in a cinema. A smart, and surprisingly funny, thriller that really delivers and holds up for the entirety of its 131 minute runtime

Since Parasite became the first foreign film ever to win Best Picture at the Oscars back in February, director Bong has been the man of the moment and audiences around the world have been discovering his fantastic filmography and watching his great films such as The Host (2006), Mother (2009) and Snowpiercer (2013) to name some of my personal favourites. Previously Memories of Murder was practically impossible to find in the U.K. at a reasonable price so Curzon’s re-release was a real wallet-saver and I was so pleased to be able to see it.

Memories of Murder is loosely based on the true story revolving around a set of the first serial murders in Korea. The film follows three detectives trying to crack the case of who has been raping and murdering the local women of a small town in Korea and stars Song Kang-Ho (Parasite) as the lead detective.

It’s been about a week since I saw the film but it has been on my mind ever since. It really is a lot to take in and yet it stands out as an incredible piece of filmmaking right away. We instantly take a liking to Song Kang-Ho’s Detective Park Doo-Man and he brings a certain level of charm to the film. Much like Parasite, the film is actually very funny and witty in the first hour before the next 70 minutes completely rip you apart and change your entire perspective of the film. For a film revolving around a killer who rapes and murders his victims, I laughed far more than I had any right to. And it wasn’t just me laughing, there were multiple times when the entire cinema was laughing because Bong manages to do an incredible thing in blending genres. Whilst Memories of Murder is a dark thriller at heart, there is surprisingly a lot in here to laugh at and to bring a smile to your face at times.

But over time, as the film builds towards its crescendo, the laughs start to fade away as the detectives keep picking away at the case with little luck and the laughs turn into terror. The tension continues to build all the way through the end and the final 30 minutes of this film is truly edge of your seat material that will leave you entranced. It’s truly remarkable that director Bong has crafted a film that tonally, is in many places at once and yet you still feel the terror of the murders for the whole duration of the film, even when you’re laughing and even when you’re on the train home half an hour later. I walked out of the cinema in awe at the film and lost for words, and now, over a week later, I have managed to find some words to describe it but I am still in just as much awe.

A fantastic film, delivered with great skill by director Bong Joon-Ho, that fills the audience with fear throughout and ends with an incredibly chilling final shot that will leave you speechless, proving that Bong was one of the greatest directors in the world, long before Parasite weaved its way into our lives.

Rating: 4.5/5

HORROR

FrightFest 2020 Review: Don’t Look Back

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For the second time in 2020, the Arrow Video FrightFest has gone online after cancelling the physical event that was planned to take place in Leicester Square from October 21-25. Despite not being in person, FrightFest still has plenty of films and scares to be had.

Don’t Look Back is the directorial debut from Jeffrey Reddick who’s best known for creating the Final Destination film franchise. Reddick’s directorial debut has many similarities to Final Destination; in Final Destination, we see a group of people cheat death and so death comes for them. In Don’t Look Back, it’s karma that comes to kill them. Despite the similarities, Reddick manages to show that he’s got a lot to offer in the director’s chair.

Don’t Look Back follows a young woman called Caitlin, played by Kourtney Bell, who is still overcoming her traumatic past when she, and a few others, witness a man being attacked in the park and none of them do anything to stop the attack. The witnesses including Caitlin then start getting targeted by someone, or something out for revenge.

The film begins with phone-footage of witnesses watching people being attacked. Instantly the film starts to make you question what you would do in these situations and if you would just stand and watch or would you be the one to intervene and to help the victims?

Don’t Look Back gets straight into it as very early on we get a scene that gets straight into the action and sets up the trauma that Caitlin then experiences for the rest of the film. Whilst the films does get straight into it at the start, it does go a little quiet for some time. One slightly disappointing thing about the film, particularly when compared to Final Destination, is that there are very few scares in this film. There isn’t much blood or gore or actual horror to it which is a shame, but the film is still entertaining without any of that.

The film plays a lot on the idea of karma ad it’s an interesting concept to play about with although at times it can be a little too on the nose. Sometimes all of this, in particular the film’s opening, and the idea of karma is just waved in the audience’s face far too explicitly and perhaps a slightly more subtle approach would have been better.

Overall, whilst Don’t Look Back isn’t anything too exciting or different and it could do with a few more scares, it’s not bad and fans of Final Destination will definitely enjoy it and have a good time with the film.

2.5/5

Don’t Look Back is in cinemas and available on-demand in the US now

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LFF 2020 Review: Possessor

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London Film Festival is almost over and there’s been a lot of good stuff over the last couple of weeks. The 64th BFI London Film Festival has been all across the UK, inviting you to experience the world’s best new films wherever you are. Twelve days of UK premieres available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

Possessor (also known as Possessor: Uncut) is the latest film from Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, who’s known by horror enthusiasts as the king of body horror. Brandon has clearly learnt from the best as could be seen from his 2012 debut film Antiviral starring Caleb Landry Jones. Brandon’s second feature film, Possessor premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January and was released in America and Canada on October 2nd. I managed to catch an early preview of it at London Film Festival before it’s UK release at the end of November.

The film follows Andrea Riseborough’s Tasya Vos, an agent who inhabits other people’s bodies through a new technology and in doing so she commits assassinations to benefit her company. But slowly she starts to lose control over the system and finds herself trapped in the mind of Christopher Abbott’s Colin when trying to kill his father (Sean Bean).

Right from the start Possessor is a very gruesome and gory film. It opens with a very brutal and bloody killing that throws us straight into the futuristic world of the film. If the name Cronenberg on the poster didn’t already tell you, within minutes, we know that this film is not going to be one for the faint-hearted. The premise of the film is a little over the top, with the whole idea of inhabiting other people’s bodies and being able to control them. But it’s one that Cronenberg handles with ease and skill. As well as gore.

The film is disturbing but it’s carried out in a stylish manner so that it never really feels too disturbing. If you’re not a horror fan, or if you’re not someone that can handle much gore, then this isn’t a film for you. But if you relish the films of David Cronenberg then you should definitely seek out Brandon’s film.

Whilst the film does have its ultra-violent moments, there’s more to it than that; Andrea Riseborough gives a good performance in the lead role and helps bring life to the main character and the world the film takes place in as well as the bodies Tasya takes over. There are a lot of interesting ideas to unpack in this film and whilst Cronenberg doesn’t really get a chance to deal with them all in sufficient detail, he takes a good stab at it.

Overall, Brandon Cronenberg has created a film that’s a clear step up from his debut film and a welcome addition to the body horror genre that leaves you shocked but also excited to see what he goes on to make next.

3.5/5

Possessor is released in U.K. cinemas on November 27.

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LFF 2020 Review: Rose: A Love Story

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London Film Festival is well underway and there’s a lot of good stuff available now and coming your way over the next few days. The 64th BFI London Film Festival is all across the UK, inviting you to experience the world’s best new films wherever you are. Twelve days of UK premieres are available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

Before I get into it, I do want to highlight that it’s quite hard to talk about this film without giving it away or spoiling anything. This review will be completely spoiler-free so you don’t have to worry about spoilers however the review might be a little brief or vague as I don’t want to divulge any key points or anything that could ruin the viewing experience for you.

 

Rose: A Love Story is the directorial debut from Jennifer Sheridan and once film starts it instantly hooks you with a very interesting premise. Rose (Sophie Rundle) and her husband Sam (Matt Stokoe) live in a secluded woodland where Rose spends her time writing and Sam tends to vegetables and attempts to trap rabbits. But there’s a deeper mystery to their lives. We don’t really get any backstory for either of our two main characters and yet it doesn’t matter. Right from the start, you have questions you want answered and it keeps you hooked. We don’t know much about what’s going on but nonetheless we are intrigued to find out more.

However, whilst the film opens well and you want to know where it’s going, it doesn’t do a whole lot more than that. It’s a horror film although there isn’t a whole lot of horror in it which is a little disappointing. I was expecting a few more scares from the film than were delivered. I might even go so far as to say it’s also a drama film and it isn’t completely a horror. And it does walk some well-known horror tropes to the point that you can see where it’s going before it gets there if you‘re a horror film enthusiast.

As a result of all this, as well as some pacing issues in the second act, it does start to get a bit dull. The ending is good but not great because I found myself being able to predict where it was going and what was going to happen.

Even though the film was made pre-COVID-19, there are some interesting ideas regarding isolation and cabin fever in this film- and there are even face masks too!

Overall, Rose: A Love Story starts off with a really strong set-up but ends up doing very little with it making the rest of the film somewhat uninteresting and creating a rather predictable conclusion.

2.5/5

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