It seems that the year 2020 is finally the year in which South Korean cinema is finally getting some well-deserved recognition. While a lot of big-named films made in the West have come about due to remaking certain films from the east, it is only now that a film received such a high honour.
At this year’s Oscars the film Parasite by Bong Joon Ho won four Oscars; a magnificent triumph for the Director. Now that many people will be delving into more of his work and the work of South Korean’s in general. Let’s go over some of the most impactful movies to come out from this country.
The Vengeance Trilogy
The first films on our list come as a trilogy, from one of my favourite directs: Chan-wook Park. Unsurprisingly, it’s probably rather easy to guess what each film revolves around. The trilogy aren’t actually connected in any way besides their theme but within this trilogy comes, arguably, one of the most famous South Korean films; Oldboy.
Some may know this name due to it being made into an abysmal American remake, but the original was very powerful and remains, to this day, as one of the biggest head-fucks you’ll watch.
Each film revolves around a character who has been wronged and wishes to take revenge upon those who are deemed to be the cause of all their suffering. Each film has a unique twist and none of them will go in the direction you believe they are leading.
I Saw the Devil
I Saw the Devil is another revenge film and in true South Korean taste is unforgivingly violent. This film has one of the more straightforward stories on our list but it still presses on that part of your brain; making you question how far can you go before you become the bad guy.
The premise is simple; the wife of a special agent is murdered by a serial killer. The agent decides to take it upon himself to track down and inflict pain upon the one who wronged him. The stickler with this film though is that instead of it being a simple case of finding the killer and killing him, the agent decides to play cat and mouse.
A Tale of Two Sisters
A Tale of Two Sisters is arguably one of the best horrors of the decade. It shares the same director as I Saw the Devil, so if you liked that you might like this. Like The Ring, this film was also picked up by Hollywood, who attempted to market it to the western audience. All the while ignoring any sort of nuance or spark in how to tell such a story.
I won’t go too deep into what the film is about. It quickly becomes weird and you’ll constantly be misguided throughout the feature. Unlike the other films on this list which look at the cost of revenge; A Tale of Two Sisters looks at how grief can overwhelm entire families.
If you’re a big fan of horror and all the intricacies it takes to make the hairs on the back of your neck prick up, this is definitely worth a watch. There are no Scream Queens, no characters acting stupid to move the plot along and no real horror movie tropes. It isn’t conventional and that is precisely what makes the story so captivating.
Other South Korean Films to Follow
There have been many South Korean films over the years which have absolutely captivated me which aren’t on this list. These only to act as a gateway into some of the best they have to offer and these are only the ones I’ve seen.
The writers and directors of each of these films have entire portfolios of incredible work. Works which are so different to the type of cinema the west has grown accustomed to. A few films on my immediate ‘to watch’ list are: Memories of Murder, The Handmaiden and Train to Busan.
The films on my watch list, again, are all very different from one another. They all tackle different themes and play into different genres. One of the great aspects of films coming out of this country is the absolute focus of telling a unique story.