A tense blend of genres, The Wailing succeeds at combining a mood of deep unease with visceral gore.
Na Hong-jin emerged on the scene in 2008 with his accomplished feature debut The Chaser, and two years later established himself as a talent to watch with his follow up, The Yellow Sea. Both films are dark thrillers involving lone, lost men caught up in events far beyond their control and, on the surface, The Wailing seems to follow a similar path.
The film tells of a small suburban village that is quickly overshadowed by a wretched sickness. The focus is on the beleaguered police sergeant Jong-Goo, played by Kwak Do-won with a brilliant mix of exhaustion, indecisiveness and fear, who is baffled, along with the rest of the local police force, by the onset of a series of horrifically violent and inexplicable murders. The killers all show the same zombie-like symptoms and as the bodies pile up and Jong-Goo’s own daughter is affected by the strange curse, he decides to team up with a mysterious woman and a spiritualist in a desperate attempt to break the cycle of hell.
A tense blend of genres, The Wailing succeeds at combining a mood of deep unease with visceral gore, buddy cop comedy, and a hallucinogenic mix of horror tropes, and in this sense the film becomes a unique creation of its own, setting its terrible events against the gorgeous landscapes and mountains of South Korea. And although overlong and not without flaws, there is enough in The Wailing to warrant a viewing, and the subtle force of the film confirms Na Hong-jin’s reputation as a director to be reckoned with.
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