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Horror Movie A Day: MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003)
I'm thinking the killer can't have any hair down there... a total baldie

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.] I somehow missed this one while it was doing the fest circuit and getting chatted up all over the place. I got the DVD forever ago, but it always stayed on the “to watch” stacks that ended up getting so big that I started this column. I knew it was going to be great, I knew I’d be in for a surprise, but I always let my regular day to day workload keep it on the back burner. If you have been like me, putting this flick off just because there’s so much else going on, I have to strongly, strongly, strongly advise to knock down the rest of your movies on your Netflix queue and put this one at the very top.

Seriously. I love Joon-ho Bong’s THE HOST, but this movie’s got that one beat. Now, I will say that MEMORIES OF MURDER doesn’t have one single scene that is as awesome as the introduction of the creature in THE HOST, but as a complete feature it’s a better movie. The film is based on the true story of South Korea’s first serial killer and the incompetant police force trying to catch him. Set in the ‘80s, the detectives can’t fall back on technology, even if they had it, to capture the killer, but that doesn’t really matter. You get the impression that even if they had the best forensic team with the top equipment, the main detectives would still find a way to fuck it up. But that’s not to say that they’re unlikable. Not at all. Kang-ho Song is the main character and he’s quickly becoming one of my all time favorite actors. He was the father in THE HOST and The Weird of the amazing Noodle Western adventure flick THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD. He’s so great in this movie. He’s got a great face for one, but his real talent is how he sells humor without losing reality as a character. His Detective Park Doo-Man could have easily been a caricature. He’s a horrible policeman, he’s an arrogant incompetent man, but he’s still likable. It blows my mind how I walk away from this movie without hating this man, but Kang-ho Song is the sole reason I don’t. The writing is strong, but I can tell that even on the page this character demanded an actor like Song to work. And if you had any doubt that Joon-ho Bong is one of the world’s best working filmmakers then all you need to do is look at this movie. His shot selection, pacing, performances, color palate and the deep emotional punch he can deliver is top shelf. He also has the talent of telling a story that defies classification. This is a story about the men hunting down a relentless murderer, strangler and raper of women, but it doesn’t get to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS levels. There is a stalking scene in this film that is genuinely creepy, as creepy as anything in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS… okay, I take that back. Whatever the fuck was in that bathtub at the end of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS gives that movie the edge, but my meaning is that this scene is as creepy and suspenseful as you could want, but the movie’s overall tone doesn’t fit into that category.

I’ve been told that this film can best be compared to David Fincher’s ZODIAC and that’s right on. Sure, you have the surface similarities (serial killer avoiding the detectives hunting him down in a period setting), but Bong’s talent is equal to Fincher’s… and coming from me, that’s a helluva big compliment. Also to be commended is Sang-kyung Kim, as a Detective from Seoul who comes in to help with the investigation. His story is the most tragic and really the heart of the movie. When he first arrives, you can tell he’s appalled at the poor policework. He watches evidence being planted, confessions beaten out of suspects and does so silently, while doing the real policework seemingly on his own. He has one single mantra and that is that reports don’t lie, the black and white facts on paper are to be trusted and hold the key to finding the identity of the murderer. The main arc of the movie is following this character as he falls, ultimately becoming just like the flawed detectives he came in to help and culminating in a fantastic scene where he breaks his mantra, betrays his core belief, and essentially loses the ability to actually capture this murderer. MEMORIES OF MURDER is a fantastic film, beautifully shot by Hyeong-gyu Kim and held together musically by Taro Iwashiro’s beautifully haunting score. It’s not a film of answers, but of characters driven to do their best even if their best falls woefully short of actually bringing their target to justice. The final scene in the movie is haunting, even if it’s in bright daylight, with no visual atmosphere to support that feeling. It’s all in the character work and the two hours that led up to that point. What’s brilliant about it is it gives the audience a degree of closure without betraying the rest of the film or the real events. Final Thoughts: MEMORIES OF MURDER is a moody masterpiece of filmmaking that you can’t easily shake after viewing. There were those that questioned the inclusion of this film in the horror list… While I would agree after having seen it that I wouldn’t classify it as a horror film, I have to say that it felt perfectly at home in an October genre run. I can’t classify it as a horror film, but I also can’t classify it as not a horror film. That’s part of the reason I loved the movie so much. It’s a movie full of flawed characters, real characters that you can’t help but love. From the half-retarded original suspect to the brutal detective who always fucking kicks everybody… the entire cast is likable, engaging. Add on to that fantastic direction, a great script, an amazing score and breathtakingly, bleakly beautiful cinematography and you get one that is a must see for anybody who even thinks they like movies.

Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October: Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here! Now it’s time to pull the next HMAD! Next up is:

Interesting. Here’s another one I’ve been meaning to see for quite a while. See you folks tomorrow with that one! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells

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