A stranger arrives in a little village and soon after a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman is drawn into the incident and is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.
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★★★★½ review by Todd Gaines on Letterboxd
The Wailing left me speechless in the very best kind of way. I gave up early in the movie trying to figure out exactly what was happening. I decided to enjoy the ride, and try to interpret the key plot elements on rewatches. If you think you can 100% understand this movie on one watch, you're a whole lot smarter than me.
The Chaser, The Yellow Sea and now The Wailing. Director, Hong-jin Na is now a 3 time winner at the game of making marvelous movies. The cinematography is spectacular. The script is one insane rollercoaster of emotions. The gore. The drama. The intensity. The feeling of dread. This is a real horror movie. Nothing cheap. Nothing gimmicky. Simply, pure holy terror.
I talk about the need for smart horror. This wins a gold medal for intellectualism. I don't want to give away too much, but there's a long extended scene of a shaman performing a ritual, that's cinematic bliss. The acting is beyond amazing. So many cool twists and turns. So many things done just right. I might've been clueless at the end, but what a ride The Wailing is! Maybe a chance for 5 stars on future rewatches. Check this one out, today!!
★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
One of the absolutely craziest of all South Korean films. And if you know Korean cinema, you know that's saying something. Also features what's probably one of the best child performances I've ever seen.
★★★★★ review by nathaxnne walker (retired) on Letterboxd
As parents, as friends, as partners, employees, we do the best that we can to help the ones we love in this life, to protect them against that which might hurt them, to help heal them when they are sick, to comfort them when they are in pain, to spend time with them to make them feel less alone, to let them know they are cared for, and that this care will extend throughout our time with them and beyond. That is what we hope, anyway. This world is vast beyond our understanding. Causality, and how it relates to our actions inside and outside of temporality, functions in ways we can only begin to dimly grasp. There is a limit to what we can do, there is also a limit to the extent to which we can perceive the effects of what we have done. When we act from fear, from panic, out of love, we don't always make the best decisions for ourselves or our loved ones. We cannot always fulfill the roles with which we have been entrusted in the manner we would like. Sometimes the world we know goes on in spite of our ignorance and our flailing about, and sometimes it goes completely awry even when we try our best and our hardest to make things turn out ok. It is not always possible to tell which is what at any given moment while it seems to be in progress, but always seems inevitable, as if it never could have happened any other way in hindsight. This is a function of limited perspective, one which perceives time and causality as linear, but as we are now, it is very difficult to see it any other way, and if that would do us any good even if we were capable of doing so is impossible to say. Every state or condition in which we find ourselves and those we love is the aftermath of a prior set of states and conditions superimposed or one translated into the next, inexorably. Divination is a set of tools about space as well as time. YOU ARE HERE, which is all well and good if there is a map and someone hasn't scraped off the arrow with a fingernail or the edge of a coin or obscured it with a decal or something. A kind of sonar or echolocation or a mapping of landmarks onto correspondences rather than the other way around. Still we are stumbling around in the dark more often than not, terrible at reading maps, half-listening to the GPS voice that is putting us to sleep or blending in with the radio or with other voices in the car. We mistake one landmark for another and get turned around, or even forget who we are, who we love, and get the whole of it confused. These consequences can be the sort which are tragic and irredeemable or they may be the kind we laugh about in a few hours, or relate breathlessly, our voices still shaking with adrenaline, once everything has recollected itself into memory, faded from the present. Some things persist over time, over space, even after themselves, in our hearts and minds, or outside of them, sometimes they are ghosts, sometimes we don't know what they are. Sometimes that not knowing is ok. Sometimes it is not. We can't know until we come up upon it, or even after, and then we remember or we think I should have done x or y or Thank Goodness! or we become lost to the future, persistent and unchanging in time, looped in past catastrophe, the past catastrophe that is always someone else's present, someone else's future, in which we play the role of ghosts, no matter how solid we might seem, and hope not to fail at that too.
★★★★★ review by YI JIAN on Letterboxd
Roosters and ravens as pawns in this supernatural game of chess. Na Hong-Jin's response to Robert Egger's VVitch is a bloodier and edgier story drenched in unalduterated paranoia. The only wailing you'll hear are from the audience subjected to two hours of emotional torment. It's been a while and I forgot how devastating these South Korean thrillers can get, The Wailing has been a brutal reminder.
Gripping and weirdly enchanting despite being absolutely terrifying. Will be thinking about this for-- well, forever I guess.
★★★★ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd
After catapulting himself into the league of South Korean cinema's brightest up-n-coming filmmakers with his extremely polished & mercilessly violent debut feature and then following it up with another thriller that was more or less a misfire, director Na Hong-jin makes a splendid return to form after six years of inactivity, and delivers a cinema that's drenched in blood, sickness & devilry.
The story of The Wailing unfolds in a small South Korean village where a mysterious illness begins to spread & claims many lives, following the arrival of a strange Japanese man in the nearby mountains. Investigating the case is a police officer who becomes all the more involved after his own daughter starts exhibiting similar symptoms, and enlists the help of a shaman to solve the mystery before its too late.
Written & directed by Na Hong-jin, The Wailing finds the budding filmmaker stepping into the realms of supernatural horror and features numerous elements that made his first film an instant classic. It is a considerable improvement over Hong-jin's previous film, plus his direction exhibits more confidence & comfort this time. The script is just as impressive although it still could've used a bit more refinement.
The film doesn't hold back on violence & gore and keeps the element of doubt alive until the very end. Also admirable is how successfully it manages to force its viewers to switch their allegiance from time to time and keeps them in the dark throughout its runtime. Humour is brilliantly utilised whenever it's required but the tone is grim for the most part and only intensifies as the plot nears its conclusion.
The technical aspects are finely executed. The rural setting & isolated surroundings provide a big enough canvas for the horror to play out. Camerawork is expertly carried out, filming each n every moment in fine detail. Editing is definitely a highlight, given the unpredictable nature of its plot in addition to unforeseen twists n turns, and despite its 156 minutes runtime, it never feels tedious and is actually cleverly paced from beginning to end.
Coming to the performances, the entire cast chips in with apt contributions in their given roles and play their part responsibly. Kwak Do-won plays the police officer investigating the mystery illness & killings and although a comic relief at first, he wises up as the plot progresses. Hwang Jung-min is in as a shaman and chips in with a fine rendition. But the two most measured inputs come from Jun Kunimura & Chin Woo-hee who play the Japanese stranger & a mysterious woman respectively.
On an overall scale, The Wailing is a fresh, fascinating & ferocious entry in the world of horror that makes terrific use of its atmosphere & supernatural elements to deliver a thoroughly unsettling & consistently engaging experience. There are, however, times when it may leave you a little lost or unsure of what's happening but the interest is never lost for once and only gains momentum as it heads towards its long-awaited finale. A work of mythic weirdness that's diabolical in more ways than one, The Wailing comes highly recommended.
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