Can you feel it creeping ever closer, my ghouls and ghoulies? Yes…it’s coming, the 31st of October is nearing faster and faster, and it won’t be long now until we can all rejoice and take pleasure in that wonderful holiday. Although for some people that holiday is torture, but eh can’t win them all is what I always say. Unfortunately that means this series of posts is also nearing it’s end. Fear not though, there are still three more installments to come after this one, so it ain’t over till it’s over. Which is especially true when it comes to horror I suppose, as it’s a genre that’s famous for shock endings, infamous resurrections, and more fun stuff like that! This week I’m tightening the screws of terror with a Korean movie that dates back to 2016. If you are a horror fan you will know that in many ways the Asians are able to create an atmosphere of fright in their horror films, that other countries can only dream of. I don’t know how they are able to do so, or even why that is, but I can say that quite often they succeeded in scaring the living daylights out of me. And then there are movies that go even beyond this level of scares and are just genuinely disturbing. The Wailing falls into this last category.
Jong-Goo is a police officer in a small rural town called Gokseong. It’s one of those sleepy little towns where nothing really happens. Which is why the police isn’t prepared for the horror that is about to land at their doorstep. When Jong-Goo is called in the middle of the night to a very bloody crimescene, together with his partner Oh Seong-Bok, he can’t believe his eyes. A diseased man covered in sores appears to have slaughtered his entire family. And this incident is just the beginning as soon another equally horrifying crime like this one occurs. At a loss to explain what is going on, Jong-Goo begins to hear rumors that a mysterious Japanese man who has recently moved into town might be responsible for these strange events. At first he doesn’t really believe all this superstitious nonsense, but things become more serious when his own young daughter Hyo-Jin seems to have contracted the strange disease and is acting ever more irrational. At a total loss of what to do, he even turns to a shaman to perform an exorcism on his little girl. Eventually the helpless police officer is forced to face the truth that an evil presence has entered the town of Gokseong. An evil that isn’t going to be turned away very easily…..
It isn’t very common for a horror movie to have a run time of nearly two and half hours. For a movie such as this to keep it’s audience’s attention it needs to make sure it keeps up the pace and the tension. Imagine a needle that slowly enters the skin of your hand, and then gets pressed deeper and deeper inside, until you can’t help but scream your lungs out. That’s how I could describe the feeling that this movie instills upon the helpless victims that watch this masterpiece. Because it truly is just that. Blending together multiple different horror genres from zombies, supernatural scares, exorcisms, and unimaginably horrifying imagery, this cocktail succeeds in putting your mind into a total overdrive and have a meltdown. One that will last for many hours, maybe even days long after it’s final scene. At the start of this film, things aren’t even so bad. Hell, the bungling efforts in trying to solve the crime by Jong-Goo and his partner, might even be called humorous. It’s also just that what’s so clever about this film. The sense of false security that at first takes hold of you when you watch it, while at the same time you are feeling that something just simply isn’t right here. Where you might at first think all this isn’t to be taken too seriously, your mood soon changes, when things go down a darker path, faster and faster.
This mood is further enhanced by the use of it’s incredible cinematography. Beautiful rural landscapes are mixed with horrifying and often quite disturbing scenes of absolute and total horror. A horrendous downpour that is almost continuously present also adds to the atmosphere of this movie. It would be a mortal sin to not also mention the high level of acting that this film has to offer. Jong-Goo’s character played masterfully by actor Kwak Do-Won, is no superhero. In fact he’s just an ordinary, and one might call even incredibly clumsy guy, that’s thrust into a situation that’s just far above his (or anyone else’s for that matter) pay grade. It doesn’t stop him from trying though, and I loved the journey that he was taken on throughout the course of the film. His love for his daughter turned him into something so far removed from how he started out, that it only takes a special actor to make this believable. Kwak Do-Won accomplished this feat though. I have often wondered what the effect is on young children that have to play in horrorfilms. I don’t know if that’s a healthy thing really, especially not when you see what horrors the young Kim Hwan-Hee who plays Jong-goo’s daughter has to endure during the course of this film. But man, what a performance this, at the time of this movie only 14 year old actress, delivers. Both incredibly frightening, but also totally believable, it’s one of the many highlights this film contains.
It’s almost impossible to believe that someone so young is able to play a part that older actors would struggle with. She pulls it off though, and you can’t help but be both in awe, as well as horrified by her skills. With all these positive notes, is there also something negative to mention about this film? Well, one could argue the fact that the ending might not be to everyone’s taste, as it leaves a few threads of the story (as well as the mystery) unanswered. Quite honestly I thought it fitted the film perfectly, and if one pays close attention there are also quite a few answers that can be found. The Wailing is a film that will keep you guessing until the end as to what exactly is going on. Or even more importantly, who or what is responsible for the unspeakable terrors that are unleashed upon this helpless town. It’s also a film that once again proves how incredibly skilled the Koreans are in making movies that are unconventional, but at the same time highly entertaining. A movie such as this simply could not be made by Hollywood. If they would ever be dumb enough to attempt a remake, it would fail. Pure and simple. The Wailing is a deeply disturbing, genuinely frightening, cinematic masterpiece that I cannot recommend enough to fans of horror movies. Just don’t expect to be sleeping well for a few days after you have seen this one.
I give The Wailing a 9 out of 10 score.