M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on May 20, 2016. Available on DVD, BluRay, and On Demand from Well Go USA! Also streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi!
THE WAILING (2016)
Directed by Hong-jin Na
Written by Hong-jin Na
Starring Do Won Kwak, Woo-hee Chun, Jeong-min Hwang, Han-Cheol Jo, So-yeon Jang, & Jun Kunimura as The Stranger!
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
I’ve heard the words a tour de force used in terms of films and I guess that means a myriad of emotions are tugged and jostled leaving the film somewhat uncategorizable in terms of what specific type of genre it rests in. If that’s the case, THE WAILING is such a film as it is equal parts drama, comedy, tragedy, horror, and police procedural. And the sum of these parts makes it one of the most engaging and harrowing films you’re going to see this year.
Do Won Kwak plays Jong-Goo, a loving father, dutiful husband, but a bumbling police officer. When a string of seemingly random acts of violence plague the small village he lives in, it is only Jong-Goo who sees the connections between them and follows the trail to the shack of a mysterious Japanese man living in the hills outside of town. This stranger (Jun Kunimura) has very little to say, but the secret rooms in his shack indicate some kind of black magic going on. This black magic seems to follow Jong-Goo home and possesses his little daughter. Seeking the aid of a shaman (Jeong-min Hwang), Jong-Goo begins a harrowing journey to save the life of his daughter from the clutches of evil spirits that are invading his small village and his own home.
What I absolutely love about this film is the seemingly seamless transition Jong-Goo makes from clumsy policeman to desperate father through the course of this story. THE WAILING is a long one—clocking in at about two and a half hours, but this gives the characters a chance to really evolve and show multiple sides of their characters. The film starts out comical as Jong-Goo stumbles through investigations, screams like a little girl at the creepy shit that is going on, and takes part in almost slapstick scenes where he attempts to take on these evil spirits. Do Won Kwak is the perfect actor to play this because he is somewhat pudgy and not your typical leading man material, but his love for his daughter allows the viewer to really get to know and like him beyond his comical stumblings. So when Jong-Goo’s family is threatened and he ventures into darker and darker territory, you’re with him 100%. When things get dire, this closeness you feel to his character really carries weight.
I also loved the way this film twists and turns your expectations from beginning to end. Hollywood films dumb down their stories to reflect simply one style or genre. THE WAILING is many all wrapped up into one. There are moments of sheer tension as Jong-Goo unravels this mystery. There are moments of cultural beauty and oddity as we are made witness to a shamanistic exorcism performed to save the life of Jong-Goo’s daughter. There is even thematic heft involving mistrust for those from outside one’s own culture as the South Korean police immediately peg the strange Japanese man in the woods as the culprit. And the humor works as well as I laughed out loud at some of the scenes where Jong-Goo reacts at the sight of a supernatural creature (one specific sequence where a zombie like creature appears out of the woods and a group of villagers comically attempt to battle it with shovels and rakes comes to mind). And there are moments of sheer terror as the stakes are risen to biblical levels by the end of this thing with not only the life of Jong-Goo’s family at stake, but possibly the entire world. All of these elements fit together perfectly without a moment of awkward transition.
I can’t recommend this South Korean masterpiece more as it tugs on heartstrings and then rips them out with fiendish glee. It will make you laugh and shriek. Those who don’t enjoy international cinema are missing out on some amazing horror these days as this is where the real risks are taken. THE WAILING is a rollercoaster of a film. It’s long and complex. It’s equal parts heartwarming and wrenching as the story goes on. It firmly embraces the realm of horror, but does so in a way that doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence. THE WAILING is one urban ghost story that is worth seeking out with fantastic performances, surreally beautiful culture, and absolutely riveting moments of sheer terror.
THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!
#14 – THE WAILING
#15 – THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE
#16 – MORGAN
#17 – DEATHGASM
#18 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
#19 – DER BUNKER
#20 – DECAY
#21 – EMELIE
#22 – NINA FOREVER
#23 – HUSH
#24 – THE MIND’S EYE
#25 – DARLING
#26 – SUN CHOKE
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – BASKIN
#29 – HOLIDAYS
#30 – THE HALLOW
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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