Having been reared on a steady diet of sugar, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven as children, we’ve become a little desensitized to Hollywood’s often stale attempts at horror. Sure, once in a while something wicked pokes its head out of California (did you see “House of The Devil” yet?) but for real screams, we often have to turn our attention east where a new generation of horror and thriller filmmakers has been scaring the bejesus of paying audiences since the end of the 1990s. Head-and-shoulders above this pack of directors is Korean Joon-ho Bong whose nightmare flicks with heart will be shown in an abbreviated festival format at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek starting this Thursday the 25th on through Monday March 1st.
For those not familiar, what separates Bong from more cynical western directors, who seem to aim more for laughs and vicarious kill thrills than true dread, is his patience and emotion. His biggest hit, the almost fairytale-like “The Host” (2006, screening along with a Q&A with the director this Saturday), is as much a loving “aw-shucks” portrait of an adorable family at the end of their economic rope a la “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory” as it is a big-budget thriller about a giant mutant monster terrorizing a city. “Cloverfield” may have had bigger, nastier beasts, but as Matt Reeves played “Ten Little Indians”, slaughtering his hot young cast as if checking off a grocery list, it became impossible to give a damn. So too does the current, bleary “Red Riding” trilogy pale in comparison to the similar, equally bloody, yet far more delicate and disturbing “Memories of Murder” (2003), which delivers almost the same amount of fear in less than a third of the time. No wonder both of these Bong works are being remade by Hollywood for stateside consumption.
Along with those two watershed titles comes “Mother” (2009), Bong’s latest and perhaps most conventionally dramatic work, the truly bizarre tale of city life “Barking Dogs Never Bite” (2000), and a compendium of his short films. Weather reports have it that this weekend will be a dark, stormy one in the Big Apple. Might as well spend it squealing in the dark with a friend at BAM.
“Monsters & Murderers: The Films of Bong Joon-ho”
The Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
For information and ticket sales go to
For more on Bong and other Asian horror films and where they were shot, pick up a copy of our “Film + Travel: Asia, Oceania, Africa”.
Above (clockwise from upper left): “Memories Of Murder” (2003), courtesy of Vivendi Entertainment, “Barking Dogs Don’t Bite” (2000), courtesy of Magnolia Pictures, “Mother” (2009), courtesy of Magnolia Pictures, “The Host” (2006), courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.