Out: Now / Run time: 150 mins / Rating: 15 / Kaleidoscope Entertainment / Dir. Na Hong-jin
Out of his depth, police officer Jong-goo investigates a spate of killings, as well as an outbreak of madness connected to the arrival of a mysterious Japanese man who resides in the outskirts of the village. What’s more, he is horrified to discover his young daughter may have fallen under the stranger’s curse. Jong-goo calls on a charismatic shaman to free his daughter from the stranger’s dangerous influence, but the shaman’s exorcism threatens to worsen the situation…
THE WAILING is the third full length feature from South Korean director Na Hong-jin that is available on VOD as well as being briefly screened at some UK cinemas. Throughout 2016 it has been released in various countries and has been met by huge critical acclaim.
And this review will be no different to those dozens of positive appraisals of THE WAILING. This is an excellent film that has the makings of being a classic of world cinema. But there are a couple of minor issues with the movie that will be touched upon later. For now it is safe to say Hong-jin’s latest work is a must see for those that appreciate the horror genre and cinema as a whole.
From the very start this hits the viewer full with it’s intentions with a opening sequence that establishes THE WAILING has a lot more of the same to come. It is a little reminiscent of Seven (1995) in it’s approach here and introduces intrigue as well as the more typical horror elements to the story. Throughout the entire runtime THE WAILING has moments or scenes that will bring to mind some classics of the genre. The Exorcist (1973), The Shining (1980), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and even The Evil Dead (1981) are the most noticeable yet there are others tucked away. It isn’t done in a way that suggests theft of ideas or a lack of his own from Hong-jin. It feels as if these are being added to and creating something new and original, in a post modern way.
There is also a a sense of humour to the first half of the movie, mainly in the form of Jong-goo (played by Kwak Do-won). The first 30-45 minutes he plays his role as a bumbling, useless charlatan and his interactions with other characters (and their reactions to him) further this. But as the more dark and disturbing elements of the feature completely take over Jong-goo becomes a desperate and highly emotional man. Do-won’s performance makes the role believable in every way.
The aesthetic is outstanding. The direction, lighting, editing and cinematography give this film a vibe and appearance that is flawless. It looks far superior than most American blockbusters and has the actual content to match it’s slick appearance. Projectile vomit has never looked so glorious.
Sadly THE WAILING does have some tiny problems that some viewers may find difficult to ignore. While starting off with some attention grabbing scenes proceedings during the middle of the feature do slow the pace. Some scenes feel as if they could have been removed and their absence wouldn’t have been noticed. Considering this movie runs for a rather long 150 minutes (two and a half hours) those that struggle to sit through a regular 90 minute film will find this difficult to finish. Those that don’t mind a movie going beyond the norm and puts serious effort into story and character development will be right at home with this.
After all the scenes of demonic possession, blood shed and projectile vomiting THE WAILING ends on quite a sombre, melodramatic note. It’s a little unexpected after all the madness but it packs an emotional punch regardless.
A stunning piece of world cinema, THE WAILING is hefty but most definitely worth seeing.