(South Korea 2016)
Original Title: Gokseong
Directed by Na Hong Jin Produced by Hyun Suh Dong, Kim Ho Sung
Starring: Jun Kunimura, Hwang Jung Min, Kwak Do Wan, Chun Woo Hee, Kim Hwan Hee, Jang So Yeon, Kim Do Yoon, Park Seong Yeon
Reviewing: Kaleidoscope/Well Go USA UK DVD Release
Genres: Horror / Mystery / Thriller
Rating - 4.5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: In this critically acclaimed and incredibly tense supernatural thriller, a foreigner's mysterious appearance in a quiet village causes suspicion among the locals – suspicion which quickly turns to hysteria, as the residents begin killing each other in brutal outbursts, seemingly without motive. As the hopelessy out-of-depth investigating officer watches his daughter fall under the same savage spell, he agrees to consult a shaman for answers – unknowingly escalating the situation. From the globally-acclaimed director of The Chaser and The Yellow Sea, and more than six years in the making, this meticulously crafted thriller is a stunningly realised, visual tour-de-force. Grippingly intense and terror-filled, it will keep you on the edge of your sofa throughout.
Views: With over 30 award wins and a further 50 plus nominations, The Wailing tells a tale about the small town of Gokseong that has been hit with a host of mysterious murders, illnesses, and happenings. As officer Jong Goo and his men reluctantly investigate the strange goings-on, he soon finds the very same problems following him home as he suffers from horrific nightmares and realises that his beloved daughter, Hyo Jin, is coming down with the bizarre illness. After his mother-in-law recommends a local shaman to help, Jong Goo heads out to find the home of a mysterious Japanese man who has been rumoured to be somewhat of a boogeyman to the locals. Accompanied by a fellow cop and a young priest who speaks Japanese, the trio come across an altar of sorts that includes hundreds of photos of townsfolk and victims – along with a single shoe that belongs to Hyo Jin! Returning home to get some answers from her, Jong Goo is shocked to find that his daughters attitude has changed dramatically, and comes across a book of hers filled with sketches of demons. Taking matters into his own hands, Jong Goo and the priest return to the Japanese man only to find the photographs missing, and altar removed. As things quickly get out-of-hand and Hyo Jin's condition worsens, Jong Goo quickly finds his life (and that of his family) on a downward spiral as brutal attacks, gruesome murders, and horrific actions quickly escalate resulting in a brutal shaman versus shaman stand-off that revives the dead and brings more horror to the town than ever before!
Blending some political social commentary with religious beliefs with old Korean folklore, writer and director Na Hong Jin manages to craft a tense and compelling tale that keeps you gripped for its two-and-a-half-hour running time. Shrouded in mystery and mysticism, The Wailing is a film of two halves with the first offering plenty of dark humour as its story builds before shifting into a second-half that proves to be extremely unsettling for the most part. From possessions to exorcisms, things can get more than a little heavy for the average viewer – even the shaman versus shaman battle just after the halfway mark is pretty frigging intense. Unlike that seen in the likes of Sammo Hung's Encounters Of A Spooky Kind, the Mr. Vampire series, or even the classic Black Magic from Shaw Brothers, this is a battle of magic in the darkest of ways that makes you cringe and hold your breath, as opposed to laugh and get excited like the aforementioned titles would make you do. But what else would you expect from the man behind such incredible films like The Chaser, and The Yellow Sea – and with only his third feature film?! It's an incredibly tense and well-written story that is so well done it can only explain why there was a 6-year gap between his second film and this...
Of course, only such an incredible story could be brought to life with the right cast and it's here that The Wailing makes sure it delivers a memorable one. Kwak Do Won stars as Jong Goo, the lazy cop who is easily intimidated and who's daughter has him wrapped around her little finger. Having just been in the business for just over a decade (at the time of writing), Kwak wasted no time in getting strong roles in some fantastic South Korean movies such as Mother, The Man From Nowhere, The Berlin File, and more. As Jong Goo, he delivers one of his best performances to date as he plays a bumbling cop and desperate father who is pushed to the edge in order to save his daughter. The wonderful Jun Kunimura, from films such as Kill Bill 1 & 2, Ichi The Killer, Audition, and Attack On Titan 1 & 2, leaves a lasting impression as 'the Japanese man' and the so-called devil to the story. Starring in what would be his first Korean production since his beginnings in the film industry over 40 years before, Jun offers up a menacing performance that sees him hide behind the corner of every twist and turn, resulting in a final scene that highlights the great work of the effects department in a transformation that I just was not expecting. The brilliant Hwang Jung Min appears as the shaman brought in to help save Hyo Jin, who soon finds himself up against a force he never expected, as well as bringing in his own twist to the story. Launching his acting career back in the early 90s, Hwang has gone on to appear in some amazing titles including A Bittersweet Life, Heaven's Soldiers, The Chase, Ode To My Father, New World, and The Battleship Island, which went on to make him the third actor in Korea to become a member of the '100 Million Viewer Club' in Chungmuro. It's safe to say that everyone involved gives an incredible performance to be honest, from Kim Do Yoon as the unfortunate young priest that finds himself getting in too deep and attacked by a reanimated corpse, to Kim Hwan Hee who does an amazing job as Hyo Jin shifting from a sweet and loving daughter to a possessed, foul-mouthed and violent being that would put the fear of god into anyone.
The cinematography is handled by Hong Kyung Pyo, the man behind the visuals of the Oscar-winning Parasite, Snowpiercer, Burning, Brotherhood, Love Exposure, Mother, Sea Fog, and so much more, and provides some stunning shots that really stand out. These are backed by a great score delivered by Dalpalan who composed the music for hits like A Bittersweet Life, The Good The Bad The Weird, Assassination, and Adrenaline Rush to name but a few. He is joined once again by Jang Young Gyu with both working alongside each other on many of the aforementioned titles, as well as Jang composing for films like Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Woochi The Demon Slayer, The Yellow Sea, and Train To Busan. Along with Hong's visuals, they help make Na Hong Jin's gripping thiller an amazing experience. I absolutely loved The Wailing. It's such an intense watch that proves to be as gripping as the awesome Parasite and should definitely be seen by more fans of horror/thrillers, regardless of its place of birth!
Overall: Dark, gripping, and highly entertaining, The Wailing is one of the best modern horrors from South Korean cinema, and is most definitely worth the watch!
DVD Extras: Behind The Scenes, Making of Documentary, Trailer