The Wailing (2016)

I think Korean horror is becoming a new favourite sub genre of mine…

A stranger arrives in a rural village and soon after a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman is drawn into the incident and is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.

There is no other way to describe Hong-jin Na’s film then the word epic! I loved this movie so damn much. It has absolutely everything that you want – quirky humour, horror, suspense, mystery, good, evil, ghosts, shamans, rituals, even a little bit of zombie-ness and a dash of B movie flair. Do not let the length of this movie scare you away. The film justifies its imposing length of 156 minutes with atmospheric chills that relentlessly become darker and darker and a plot that is incredibly unpredictable.

This South Korean gem is a cleverly constructed mystery whilst being deliberately disjointed… the film is almost too crazy for its own good. Na manages to avoid all horror tropes of shock cuts and jump scares, nor are there scenes built around a single chill, rather it’s just one long continuous stream of rabid madness.

The film is gorgeous, there are some beautiful scenic location contrasted against the cluttered rural village. The first hour Na wins the audience over by creating a lovable dim witted police officer, Jong-Goo (Do Won Kwak), before turning him into a very dark and malicious character who will go to any lengths to help his daughter. This is where the films first half of humour quickly falls away and Na does well to introduce east Asian mythology, religion and rituals.

It’s absolutely mesmerizing from the look and feel, its atmospheric suspense encapsulates you and works in a horrendous fashion, slowly incapacitating you like a virus, so in its final minutes you already feel utterly damage and exhausted. Even the thunderous shamanistic rituals are hard to handle, and not just because they are appropriately loud, but visually it becomes chaotic and stressful.

From the moment it started to the final scene, I had no clue as to what was happening, who was good or who was evil? It is almost impossible to turn your brain off during the film, throughout the story you are left guessing, and in its final act, like the protagonist, you are plunged into an inferno of doubt and helplessness as you race to quickly try and piece the puzzled story together before its reveal.

The Wailing is visually graceful while horrifyingly fascinating, but best of all the story is just so good, and the acting is perfect. Prepare to have the wits scared from you and your heart broken in this unpredictable masterpiece. There is a looseness here that is missing from mainstream horror, a sense that absolutely anything can happen.

9.5 / 10

“Not everything that moves, breathes, talks is alive”

 

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