Tuesday, 7 March 2023

The Wailing (Gokseong, 2016)

This Korean mystery horror film is also a bit of a ghost story, really. You'll need to keep on your toes whilst watching to pick up on the clues as to who is what and what's going on. Like all good mystery films! The outcome and journey are certainly worth the two and a half hour runtime!

In a rural village with continual rain it seems, our story starts with the main character who is a lazy, not very competent or committed police officer, more interested in his family than his job. Some grizzly happenings begin on his watch involving families being murdered by one of their own (who has become 'sick'), which he approaches as part of his job, until it involves his own folk. Slowly those in the know seem to suspect that all this is kind of otherworldly!

Meanwhile, out in the woods, there's a Japanese stranger living an apparently quiet existence with his rather aggressive dog. The trail leads to him, as he always seems to be lurking around the crime scenes, so it's not long before he's confronted by the team. Including a priest in training who, happens along as a friend of one of the policemen! By this stage they are suspecting even more that there's something sinister and superstitious. When our policeman's daughter becomes apparently 'possessed' with the same thing, he ramps it up and goes all-out to find out what's going on and looking for a solution.

There's a young girl hanging about too, who they think is a bit of a fruit-loop, getting in their way, throwing stones at them as they try to process some of the crime scenes. Anyway, they confront the Japanese man, things get out of hand, our policeman is getting more and more irate and aggressive, well outside the professional role expected of him in his job. In the end, the family decide to employ a Shaman to cast out the 'spirit' from the daughter, who goes about his ritualistic antics in the mix, making a shedload of cash out of them in the process.

I guess that probably gives enough of the back-end of what's going on without heading down the road with spoilers and more information. Rest assured that if you pay attention, there is a kind of logic to it all and in the end, though it does indeed remain a stretch in terms of reality, ghostliness and the supernatural. Be warned!

I shall focus instead on the excellent performance of the main leads. The little girl, played by Hwan-hee Kim, sometimes playing a near 'The Exorcist' role and does it staggeringly well. She's only young and yet she grasped this role and made it very convincing, being 'possessed' and acting that out. Our policeman is played by Kwak Do-won in a gripping portrayal of the man caught in the middle of all this chaos and the Japanese man is Jun Kunimura (of Kill Bill fame). The supporting cast do their bit very well and director Na Hong-jin holds it all together nicely.

It's a bit mad in places and can be a bit gory. Not a lot is left to the imagination and we meander sometimes into near-zombie territory, so you can imagine what to expect from that! It's an excellent thriller, laying aside the supernatural mumbo-jumbo and an enjoyable ride, shot beautifully with excellent cinematography throughout. The film is littered with mysterious characters and it's often hard to keep track of where the story is going - or even where it is! It's a long film, so factor in a break when watching - available now on various streaming services. Just pay attention!

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