Turns out Korean phenom Joon-ho Bong, just out with an English-language debut pic (SNOWPIERCER/’13) after making his Stateside rep with one of the best horror/monster pics of recent vintage (THE HOST/'06), had previously shown his strengths on this tremendously assured, mood-jangling serial-murderer/police procedural. Suggested by a real, infamous Korean case, the investigation is being bungled by townie cops when a young, smarty-pants detective from Seoul takes charge. Or thinks he does. Bong finds an invigorating mix of tones with low-brow comic riffs bumping into nauseating police brutality on likely suspects, while never ignoring the horrific nature of the crimes or forgetting to carefully integrate set suspense pieces of action and stillness. It’s all held together thru Bong’s almost unnervingly apt mise-en-scène; the guy has an unerring nose for just the right camera set-up & shot selection. With fabulous casting choices on every role, the story is much easier to follow than typical for the genre, and the quick switches from farce to tragedy never seem forced on the material in either the main action, which is set in the mid-‘80s, or in the short, memorable epilogue set in 2003. Tremendous stuff.
DOUBLE-BILL: Unless you’re completely allergic to the horror/monster genre, get thee to THE HOST.