“… was able to captivate, and terrify me at the same time.”
Yesterday I finally got around to seeing The Wailing and it is easily the second scariest movie that I have seen all year (the top spot goes to The Witch). The Wailing is a film about a small South Korean village, and a series of brutal murders that start occurring in the area. The film follows officer Jong-Goo as he attempts to get to the bottom of these crimes, but things take a turn when his own family may be in danger.
The Wailing is a very interesting movie, because it almost felt like two movies put together. Of course the film’s insane runtime adds to this effect, but I want to point out that this isn’t a bad thing. The Wailing starts off as what I can only describe as a film that is paying tribute to someone like David Lynch. Much like in Lynch’s films, The Wailing features stunning visuals, and absurd humour mixed in with very dark subject matter. This portion of the film is interesting, because it’s not what I expect out of a horror film. The end of the film (which I won’t discuss here) and the beginning of the film are so drastically different that if I showed you a chunk from each part you wouldn’t know that they were from the same movie. Or maybe you would, I don’t know how observant you are with things like that. Anyway, the point that I am trying to make is the film’s two ends are on different sides of the metaphorical planet. This would usually be a bad thing in a film, but it actually worked really well in The Wailing. What The Wailing was able to do was make the transition from Lynch-esque to straight horror as seamless as possible. Even though the two halves of the film are so different when I look back at them, I didn’t feel the shift as it was occurring in the movie because it was done so well. The beginning of the film did a good job of easing me into it’s story. It got me to laugh more than a few times, but it still had some pretty intense scenes. As a matter of fact, the scenes that were scary were only made more intense by the sunny disposition that most of the characters had. Then, slowly throughout the course of the film, the comedy goes away. Now you would think that the scenes would get less scary, based on how I just described the relationship between comedy and horror, but you would be mistaken. The Wailing, again very slowly, ramps it’s horror up to eleven which causes me to spend a majority of it’s runtime on the edge of my seat.
I would go so far as to say that The Wailing is a film that was well executed on every single front. The film featured brilliant acting from all cast members; I particularly enjoyed the performances of Kwak Do-won (who played Jong-Goo) and Kim Hwan-hee (who played Hyo-Jin, Jong-Goo’s daughter). The performance of Kim Hwan-hee was doubly impressive because despite her age she was still able to deliver a performance that could go toe-to-toe with anyone else in the film. The Wailing also featured a brilliant score that was great at underlining the tone of the film. And I can’t forget to mention the wonderful direction in The Wailing. Many times films (especially horror films) will feature direction that is there to emphasize certain points, making sure to blatantly feature them as if the audience is legally-blind. The Wailing does this as well, but to an extent that is less in-your-face. The Wailing shows you things, even fairly innocent things, but it is able to make you afraid of them. This is both a mixture of direction and score, and it shows just how great both of those are. The different shots used in The Wailing also does a great job at highlighting just how beautiful South Korea is. The village where the film takes place is close to a very lush mountain, so not only are we introduced to the beauty of South Korea in the film but forests are also very ominous places (which adds to the horror). The writing in The Wailing was also brilliant, not only because of the amazing tone-shift that I mentioned earlier but also just because of the characters. The Wailing felt like it took place in the real world. Everyone had their own side of the story, nobody was perfect, but there was also this very real sense of community that you could feel within the village. The film also features an absolutely brilliant story (which I won’t spoil here) that was able to captivate, and terrify me at the same time.
Ultimately The Wailing is movie that I would definitely recommend to everyone that I meet. The film tells a great story, is beautiful to watch, and is scary as hell.
I give The Wailing an A