loved 'okja'? 5 bong joon-ho films to stream next
A man on a journey to kidnap barking dogs, a string of serial murders in South Korea, and a human-created ice age are just some of the auteur’s best plots.
With the Netflix-produced Okja, cult South Korean director and screenwriter Bong Joon-ho has delivered a magical-realist film that comments on the ever-growing influence and irresponsibility of mega-corporations. For English-speaking audiences, the film is a great introduction to Ho's storytelling prowess and it's likely you're craving some more of his unconventional storytelling. Don't worry: we've put together a Bong Joon-ho 101 for you. Our list includes the grim Memories of Murders, based on real-life serial murders that occurred in South Korea, and the offbeat dark comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite, which is about a man who kidnaps the irksome barking dogs in his apartment complex. So you see, Bong Joon-ho's films never stick to the conventional — and that's why we love him. Here are five films that will pull you blissfully down the Bong Joon-ho rabbit hole.
Memories of Murders (2003)
This crime drama is perhaps Joon-ho's darkest film. So dark, in fact, that Quentin Tarantino named it one of his favorite films of 1992. Memories of Murders begins with Detective Park Doo-man taking on the case of a murdered woman found in a ditch. Soon after, another dead woman is found in the same location. What follows is a mission to catch a serial killer who sticks to a strict pattern (like waiting for rainy nights to commit his atrocities and calling in to a radio station and requesting the same song before each murder). Due to the ineptitude of the police force, Detective Doo-man hits brick wall after brick wall. Eventually, the never-ending chase drives our tragic hero into his own realm of madness. If you're expecting justice, Memories of Murders is not the film for you.
Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)
This film is definitely lighter. A dark comedy about an unemployed man who has nothing better to do with his time than take out his frustrations on the barking dogs in his apartment complex, kidnapping them and then abusing them, Barking Dogs was Joon-ho's first feature-length film. Despite the animal cruelty, the film offers some comic relief — moments where you feel bad for laughing, but just can't keep in your cynical giggles. Joon-ho's real focus, however, is portraying a city empty of hope. Our main character, Ko Yun-ju, represents someone who has been kicked down by the system and the only sense of control he can reap is through the domination of other animals. Okay, clarification: this film is a little bit lighter than Memories of Murders.
Snowpiercer was Bong Joon-ho's first English language film. It features an impressive cast of Hollywood actors that includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Jamie Bell. The science fiction flick features a world where, in an effort to combat global warming with climate engineering, a second ice age was inadvertently sparked. The only people still on Earth live inside a giant traveling train perpetually circumnavigating the globe (stick with me here). Even in the middle of an apocalypse classism persists: the wealthy inhabitants live in the front of the train while the poorer ones live in the back. Curtis (played by Chris Evans) begins a revolt among the lower train residents to change things, ushering in a high-stakes thriller.
Joon-ho co-wrote Haemoo with Shim Sung-bo (who directed the film and previously collaborated with Joon-ho on Memories of Murder). The labyrinth of plot twists showcases Joon-ho's storytelling. The film is based on the real-life story of 25 people who suffocated to death inside the Taechangho fishing vessel in 2001. It's a grim, but stark, portrayal on the dangers of human trafficking. Strapped for cash, the vessel's crew decides to illegally transport Chinese immigrants to Korea. South Korean Maritime Police officers spot the vessel and begin chasing it down. To make matters worst, the crew's run from the law is during a fierce rainstorm. They shove the 30 illegal immigrants into a chamber, putting all of their lives in danger.
Incoherence is one of Joon-ho's earliest works. Acting as his graduate film from the Korean Academy of Film Arts, the short film contains early hints of the director's signature stylistic touches. It's split into six bite-sized episodes, about three men who go on to make regrettable decisions and the after-effects these decisions cause. While some of the mishaps may seem trivial (like a professor sending a student to go get some papers off his desk, then freaking out when he remembers he left a porn magazine out), Joon-ho's dark, comical obsession with tragic heros can be seen in its roughest form.
Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Screenshot via Youtube