The Wailing is a 2016 South Korean Horror/Thriller film that has been reasonably widely marketed in the US, but still flew under the movie news radar in many respects. As is typical for Korean films, I am discovering, it does mix several genres together , including a bit of comedy, but does this in a manner that makes it fit. To over simplify the plot, a policeman in rural South Korea experiences a series of supernatural, demonic events taking place in his tow/precinct, and progresses from being skeptical of the events (attributing them, like the local news does, to mushroom poisoning) to becoming more and more convinced that a demon lives in the woods by the town, to finally being personally affected by curses through the possession of his daughter. The film flows slowly, but for the most part, does not stagnate, and the cinematography of the Korean countryside is a visual treat, especially so when the director places outdoor shots after a dramatic event has occurs. This allows the audience time to breathe, and in my view, enhances the impact of the events in the film. For the most part, the horror elements in the film are personal and emotional, rather than being strictly visceral, however there were two scenes in particular that stood out as especially intense and engaging. The first is a series of scenes where the policeman’s family summons a shaman to come and perform a type of exorcism in the family’s compound to attempt to drive out the possesion from the young girl. Combining pulsing drums, bright costuming, ceremonial blades, and a scene of sacrifice, the entire montage stands out from the much less intense but impactful remainder of the film. Acting as a korean counterpart to Catholic exorcism scenes in Western films, it hit me as being exotic and familiar at the same time, and of course the soundtrack ramps up as well, immersing the viewer in the most sensual experience of the film. The second scene of intensity is when the policeman takes a friend and a Japanese speaking cousin to the hut of the supposed demon interloper, and after some searching around, finds a small room full of idols, relics, animal bits, and other occultic paraphernalia. The way the set is designed is grimy and exudes an aura of evil, transitioning the film into a confirmed conflict between light and dark forces, albeit less straightforward than Good/Bad etc…. Overall the film was solid, and combined elements both familiar and foreign for a Western viewer in a package that was a pleasant surprise for me. That being said, I do have criticisms of the ambiguity of the ending 1/4 of the film, and while a certain sense of mystery can be helpful in making a film stick in a viewer’s mind, I feel that the wailing’s director would have been better off tying up some loose ends, especially considering the fact that the main character does not experience a happy ending to his tale, thus understanding where he went wrong would have imparted a greater sense of tragedy, not less. His actions lead to his downfall, to an extent, but the way the film was edited removes some of this impact.
Pros: Visually stunning, well crafted in regards to length, foreign enough to compel western viewers, “Evil” scenes are designed for impact
Cons: Convoluted ending, could have been edited down,