January 8, 2017

The Wailing: Taking Its Time to Meet the Devil

The Wailing is that type of horror movie that takes its own sweet time building its world and then doesn't back down from its supernatural elements by trying to write them off as psychological aberrations. No. Ghosts, shamans, satan, and zombies are all very much real in Na Hong-jin's small-town world. And what starts off as a series of disturbing deaths — are they murders, suicides, fatal-disease-caused-by-a-mushroom victims, who can say? — are soon revealed to be part of a larger battle between good and evil. Or, to be honest, us and evil, after acknowledging that we're actually not so good. When the teams are defined that way, evil feels like it has an unfair advantage. But isn't that what we've suspected all along? God help us indeed!

And poor, unlucky Jong-goo (an excellent Kwak Do-won) definitely needs some help! Because he's just a local cop, a cheating husband, a doting father, and a scaredy cat. He's not ready to take on the devil when the dark underlord decides to take possession of the body of his daughter (Kim Hwan-hee)? If that's even what's going on! Definitely, the Japanese guy (Jun Kunimura) is creepy. As is that young woman (Chun Woo-hee) in white who keeps showing up and acting all strange. Yet does it go to follow that they're actually agents of Hell? Should he go along with his mother-in-law (Her Jin) and have an exorcism performed? Even if it drives the little girl crazy? Why isn't that skinny priest who is the cousin (Kim Do-yoon-I) of his partner more help? Can the shaman (a superb Hwang Jung-min) be trusted? I completely understand why he'd round up his friends to attack the enemy but next time, bring something more lethal than gardening tools!

This is only the third feature film by the director Na but man, what a great track record he's got. The other two are The Chaser and The Yellow Sea, both of which made my best of lists at the end of the years I saw them. This one is definitely going to be a contender for 2017, even if we are only one week in.

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