Top 7 Must-See Korean Genre Films!

07 November 2018

Since the early-2000s, South Korean cinema has produced a wave of boldly creative – and intensely confronting– genre films. The latest addition to this glorious canon is RAMPANT, a breathtaking period film that melds staggering martial arts action with visceral zombie-demon chills. RAMPANT hit Aussie cinemas on November 1st, and to celebrate we’re taking you on a journey through the seven must-see Korean genre films!

OLDBOY (2003)
This fantastically demented tale of revenge boasts one of the most enthralling action scenes of this millennium – but it’s the genuinely unpredictable and downright harrowing twists that stay with you. OLDBOY  is the story of Oh-Dae Su, a man who has been locked in a room for 15 years with no knowledge of who has done this to him or why – so upon his release, he embarks on a brutal crusade for vengeance. Director Park-chan Wook would later become one of the most acclaimed Korean filmmakers of his generation due to his beautifully stylised, but nonetheless character-grounded, gutter/arthouse hybrids. But even compared to his later works, OLDBOY stands out as a wickedly demented cinematic oddity. 

THE HOST (2006)
Even more unhinged than OLDBOY, this mash-up of monster-movie madness and searing political screed perfectly embodies the unique ‘splatter seriousness’ that defines contemporary Korean cinema. Here, the slow-witted Park-gang Du is forced to rescue his sister when she is kidnapped by a terrifyingly mutated sea creature – the grotesque product of American experiments. Bong Joon-ho went on to achieve Western success with SNOWPIERCER and OKJA, but THE HOST is still his most daring and successful film, being the highest-grossing Korean film for eight years following its release!

The most horrifying film on this list – and also one the funniest – I SAW THE DEVIL contains shares many elements with other films on this list: violent psychopaths, brutal quests for revenge, and utter disregard for social taboos. The film focuses on a law-enforcement agent whose wife is brutally murdered by a sadistic murderer – motivating him to track down the killer to inflict the same pain on him. This effort comes from Kim Jee-won, who cut his teeth on horror with 2003s excellently unnerving THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS: here, he retains the creep factor but dials up the grisliness to a level that’s extreme even by the standards of new Korean cinema!

Director Na Hong-jin, following-up on 2008s beloved actioner THE CHASER, returns with this white-knuckle action/crime thriller guaranteed to get pulses pounding. A gambling addict is forced to perform an assassination to pay off his debts – but when the hit goes violently wrong, he finds himself pursued on all sides, with no option but to make a desperate run for it. This effort boasts two  scenes that have to be seen to be believed: a completely unpredictable car chase and a grotesque action scene where a bone is used as a vicious murder weapon. If any of that sounds like your jam, you’re in luck, because you can head on over to the Monster Shop and grab it today!

Park Chan-wook returns with another excellent genre piece that rivals his own OLDBOY! This effort swaps out the bloody revenge tale for a complex plot of con artists and deceit, while also incorporating a number of explicit (and highly original) sex scenes. THE HANDMAIDEN takes place in 1930s Korea, where a poor female villager is ensnared by a beautiful con-woman into stealing an elderly heiress’s fortune –but the plan slowly spirals out of control when the two women begin to fall for each other. This erotic con-job melodrama proves that Korean cinema can bring us beautiful period romances without sacrificing any of their audacity or shock value!

Another Korean horror gem, THE WAILING is a beautifully stylised head-trip of a movie that defies easy categorisation. It takes place in a small Korean village, where an outbreak of a mysterious illness, alongside grisly murders, leaves the local cop scratching his head – until his daughter falls ill, and he must race to find a solution before it’s too late. Blending horror, paranoia and goofy comedy in the way only Korean films can, THE WAILING packs everything you could ask for in one film – including a wallop of an ending!

Boldly adding zombies to the Korean film-canon, TRAIN TO BUSAN remains one of the most successful Korean films of all time, and it’s easy to see why. True to its title, the film takes place in a crowded train to Busan as a zombie outbreak threatens the lives of all aboard – including a workaholic father desperate to ensure his daughter makes it out alive. The viciously-realised zombies, mixed with the intense claustrophobia of the train setting and a persistent undercurrent of class warfare make TRAIN TO BUSAN not only one of the best Korean films, but one of the best zombie films – period. Which bodes extremely well for the producers (Next Entertainment World’s) period-zombie follow-up: the gorgeous and terrifying RAMPANT!

Neither dead nor alive, demons are rampant in Joseon. With his home country on the verge of collapse, Prince Ganglim (HYUN Bin) returns to Joseon, only to be greeted with peasants who seem to be infected with a mysterious virus. He is forced to kill his own people alongside Baron Park (JO Woo-jin) and his men, and he unwillingly joins their crusade to eliminate all the demons before they reach the royal palace. Meanwhile, Minister of War Kim Ja-joon (JANG Dong-gun) has his eyes set on the throne and uses his authority and influence to gather enough support to dethrone the king and uses the virus to create chaos in the palace.

Don’t miss your chance to catch RAMPANT on the big screen: in cinemas now! For further ticketing information head here.