A battle between good and evil takes place in a small Korean village and it’s up to a bumbling police officer to save the day—and his daughter—in The Wailing, a dark, disturbing horror-thriller that defies genre convention and serves up an unpredictable and intelligent climax.
At nearly two-and-a-half hours long, The Wailing would have benefited from some significant editing—as interesting as the story is, there’s no reason for a movie like this to be so long—but length aside, writer/director Hong-jin Na has put together an incredibly alluring tale of murder, possession and demonic forces.
The movie isn’t perfect. The protagonist (Do Won Kwak) is so useless and idiotic earlier on that his character is played for laughs, odd given that very little about the movie is even remotely funny; it’s a weird, tonal paradox that diminishes the power of some of the film’s earlier scenes. The idiotic nature of a few of the characters makes the film aggravating at times.
But overall, The Wailing is so unique and unusual it’s hard to look away. The ending is confusing—I didn’t understand it at first, and the Internet proves that there is continued debate about what actually happens—a sign that Hong-jin Na has hit on something special. The more I think about the ending, the more impressive I find it.
The Wailing isn’t for everyone, but fans of intelligent horror will not be disappointed. Had it been forty minutes shorter, it would have been close to perfect.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.