Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 6 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU (MAY HAVE) MISSED we will be checking out Korean horror flick The Wailing. Let’s get to it:
Day 6 of 31: The Wailing (2016)
Director: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Kwak Do-won
IMDb Trivia: According to director Na Hong-jin, this movie was made on the basis of folk religions in Korea and Nepal, and on Catholic faiths.
Plot: Soon after a stranger arrives in a little village, a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman who is drawn into the incident is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.
Review: I’ve seen dozen of horror comedies but what do you call it when a movie starts off with characters and moments that make you laugh out loud, only to lead you down a road that becomes painfully bleaker the further you go until you end up left with nothing but pain and nightmares? And what does it mean when you realised you totally enjoyed every moment of it? Don’t look at me; I have no idea. But if you personally want to experience all of the above for yourself, then The Wailing is the movie for you.
Jong-gu is a policeman in his hometown, a small village where everyone knows everyone else and life is quiet and simple. These things go out the window though as soon as a strange infection takes hold, and people start dying with no answers as to what is causing the illness. It’s up to Sergeant Jong-gu to investigate these mysterious deaths, a task he is woefully underqualified for. And without spoiling anything, I’ll say things only go from bad to worse as we the viewers are left to wonder, is this infection man-made or supernatural? Who is the strange Japanese man with the creepy photographs and weird cabin? Do these people have any chance of surviving with such a simple and inept police force as their only hope? I’ll leave it up to you, but I think you may already know the answer to that last one.
This South Korean movie covers a lot of ground, and while the story itself is straightforward (mostly) the underlying themes can easily get lost on the casual viewer. And the runtime of two hours and some change may be too much even for hardcore horror fans. But here’s what makes The Wailing so compelling to me—it’s a mystery that you just need to see through to the end. Writer/director Na Hong-jin expertly creates characters you can connect with, even when they do things that will likely make you yell at your screen. The tension feels like a vice grip on your chest and sort of sneaks up on you as the film’s tone changes course. The movie is beautifully shot and the sound design (like in the exorcism scene or when the Japanese stranger was doing his rituals) crawls beneath your skin and only adds to the dread that builds as the story unfolds to its heartbreaking climax.
The Wailing is one of those films that feels deliberately messy. The pieces are not meant to fit together neatly because the writer wants us to feel as unsure and confused as our lead protagonist. It’s also a film that enjoys throwing horror clichés to the wind. If this movie was made in America, I’m pretty sure our hero would look like Chris Pratt, his fellow police officers would be badasses (these guys scream and run away constantly) and the ending would’ve been filled with exposition. Instead we have people who look and feel more realistic in their reactions to the terrifying circumstances they’re facing, and characters who grab at logic as most people would do, even when they’re faced with the unexplainable.
Its aspects such as these that made The Wailing such an interesting horror movie to watch. It might just leave you with more questions than answers but then again, that’s the real world for you isn’t it?
Sommer’s Score: 7.5 out of 10
You can check Part 5 of my 31 Days List Resolution below together with my review of Korean horror anthology series Goedam:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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