Like most filmgoers, I’ve been itching to get back into movie theaters. Watching movies on my laptop (and spending half the time trying to make the cursor disappear) just isn’t the same. I couldn’t bring myself to go back to the theater for “Tenet” or “The War with Grandpa.” I wanted my first theater-going experience back from quarantine to be a movie that I actually wanted to see, which is why I was so excited to hear that Bong Joon Ho’s 2003 film “Memories of Murder” was coming to select Atlanta theaters for a two-night run in mid-October.

I went to see “Memories of Murder” at the AMC North Dekalb 16, otherwise known as “the theater with the sketchy tunnel entrance.” The nicest thing one can say about the theater is that you get your money’s worth. They forgot to turn off the lights before the movie started, so I had to go find and ask an employee to do it. When I tried to get water from the soda fountain I was informed that I had to scan a QR code, go to the soda machine’s website and hit the water button online. Spoiler: The QR code did not work. The whole experience reminded me of the film critic Nick Pinkerton’s tweet about Blockbuster video and how easy it can be to nostalgize things that are really kind of crap. We may miss movie theaters, but I’m not sure that anyone misses AMC North Dekalb 16.

The movie more than made up for the theater’s deficiencies. Set in 1986, Bong’s second film follows three detectives on the trail of “South Korea’s first serial killer.” Park Doo Man (Song Kang Ho) is a rural police officer and a brutal goon who claims that he can intuit a suspect’s guilt simply by looking into their eyes. Park and his colleague Cho Yong Koo (Kim Roi Ha) enjoy beating confessions out of suspects. Seo Tae Yoon (Kim Sang Kyung), a younger, slicker transplant from Seoul, disapproves of his rural colleagues’ methods, preferring to rely on logic and concrete evidence.

“Memories of Murder” is a profoundly bleak, ugly movie. The film recalls and predicts “Parasite” in its focus on subterranean spaces (in this case the police station’s basement interrogation room) where people forget how to be human. “Memories” also reminded me of David Fincher’s “Seven” (1995) with its apocalyptic sense of doom and its rainy, industrial hellscapes. There is a sense — compounded by frequent scenes of blackout drills reminiscent of the London blitz — that all of society is under siege and that its guardians, including the thuggish police of this rural city, are ill-equipped to handle it.

Bong’s film is exactly what movie theaters need. As a foreign film that’s not quite new and not quite a classic, it’s probably underseen in the United States. It’s also cutting and funny, a reminder that “Parasite” was not a fluke, and that Bong is a great director, a visual storyteller of the first order with an eye for atmospheric settings and clever symbolism. I don’t care how bad the popcorn is or how hard it is to find the entrance: if AMC North Dekalb 16 schedules more of Bong Joon Ho’s movies, I’ll show up.

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Stephen Altobelli (22C) is an English major from Westminster, Massachusetts. He is a resident advisor for the Clairmont community, an advising fellow with Matriculate and an avid David Lynch fan. Contact Altobelli at