The Wailing (2016)

The Wailing (2016)
Thriller/ Horror
Rated: 15

*Spoiler Free*

From the director of the hi-octane, brutal, serial killer-thriller The Chaser and highly rated action-thriller The Yellow Sea (Hong-Jin Na), The Wailing is a thriller with strong horror elements, rather than an outright bloody beatdown. This is not zombies, as some lazier reviews might suggest; more, The Wailing concerns infections, curses and ghosts with a subtext of religious examination. 

A violent sickness spreads in a small village in South Korea. The recent arrival of a mysterious, unnamed Japanese man engenders racism and superstition amongst the locals. Suspicious of the stranger, local police officer Jong-goo (Do-won Kwak) investigates, heading to the man's remote dwelling in the forest outside the tiny rural community. From there, well, let's just say events escalate.

There is something spiritual about forests in Asian culture. They have a supernatural power; a ghost like whisper in their wind, magic coursing through their trees and blood soaking their soil. The Wailing is no different, conjuring up the impression of oppression, as the woods surrounding the town close in on it. Teeming with sorcery and slaying, their spirits make madmen and murderers of the poor souls within.

It isn't only the village sick who go mad. The Wailing has an almost Thomas Hardy feel to the spiraling fortunes of Jong-goo and his family, as he flails desperately, confused and scared. Bouncing from bad decision to bad decision, Jong-goo needs, quite literally, a miracle as the spectres swirl and circle. The destruction they reap brings on that very Korean grief, the hysterical weeping. Wailing.
The film does manage to capture a believable absurdity in the character's actions. Horror films often fall flat when those in them act like dim witted idiots, but in The Wailing, Do-won Kwak perfectly portrays the right mix of ever so slightly hilarious, but realistic, pig headed idiocy. Jun Kunimura (Kill Bill), in his first Korean movie, is superbly neutral, yet always dangerous.

All these investigations, allegations and exorcisms are as disorienting for the viewer as they are for the characters. Reasonably lengthy at two and a half hours, The Wailing doesn't drag, as the mystery and mystics mix, creating a cauldron which Jong-goo fights desperately to escape.

A heady, horrifying mix of the infected, undead, legends, ghosts, demons and deities converge on, and emerge from this small village. The Wailing is superb, scary and ensconcing. 

The Cinematic Sommelier: There are many influences on The Wailing, and therefore many offshoots which may appeal. For further K-horror, you might enjoy the more action based Train to Busan, or the brilliant I Saw the Devil. If you're subtitled out (heathen) then Netflix based Deliver Us from Evil or perhaps the slightly lighter Drag Me to Hell (not on Netflix).

If none of those appeal, then you probably have just read the wrong post. Come back Sunday when I'm doing a comedy.

Bedsit it? This is excellent film making, Korean cinema is fantastic and if you haven't delved much into it I highly recommend you do. The Wailing is an intelligent film, with a thrillingly clever blend of social commentary, fear and claret. 8/10


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