The Wailing – Review


On one level there’s admiration to be expressed for what Na Hong-jin wishes to set out for with such a film because this is undeniably his biggest feature yet but there’s a level to which the ambition ends up consuming the whole product and distracts it from being much more. That’s not to say The Wailing is a bad film, but it suffers from a recurring issue that seems to be running through everything else I have seen from him so far and that one issue being that his films seem to contain way too much all at the same time to the point a conflicting sense of storytelling is left behind. A great film The Wailing is, perhaps even Na Hong-jin’s best at the moment (conflicted between this and The Yellow Sea) but not without noticeably rough patches.

Kwak Do-won confronted by everything around him in The Wailing.

It’s interesting at least in the sense that it is an unpredictable effort but the tone which is created is never exactly as constant as it should be. There are so many different sorts of horror films which The Wailing is aiming to be, whether the topic range from zombies to exorcisms or so much more at hand, but in spite of never keeping everything at a constant rate, Na Hong-jin transitions into each different sort of horror film without any sort of trouble coming his way. No matter where it moves into, the shifts in tone do feel rather smooth and then they capture a good sense of flow for The Wailing to follow along with. It is most certainly paced beautifully, but it can’t find itself making up for much more prevalent issues at hand.

The biggest problem that comes along whenever I watch one of Na Hong-jin’s films seems to arise from their length – for even if they may never be boring films there is a distinct feeling to which certain sequences drag on far too much for their own good (The Yellow Sea comes to mind as it certainly drags itself out to sustain a two-and-a-half hour running time). It seems as if this is the case for The Wailing, which also clocks in at a running time similar to that of The Yellow Sea. Though the tension racks up enough in order to create what most certainly remains a joyous experience from start to finish, I can’t help but feel as if certain moments within the film feel far too long for their own good (a particular sequence involving a zombie beating does come to mind). While never boring, it seems as if there is very little justification for such a tremendous length for these moments come off as rather repetitive and in turn add little to the overall story.

Looking at how much the characters know little about the situation which they are in is where more tension comes in, for an unexpected turn of events confronting these people only goes to show the recklessness of civilization. In some sense, it can be driven down a path almost like Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, for knowing the mistakes which the characters make presents a look upon how unprepared civilization may be for a shocking turn of events that will confront them. In The Wailing, we have a much wider array of events coming up for these characters fared much worse and are met up by something bigger.

While the length may be drawn out there’s a lot of admiration to be had for the scale which Na Hong-jin wished to reach for The Wailing as it evidently presents itself as a political statement, particularly when looking at the relationships between Korea and Japan. When looking at how it pictures the small-town life, what The Wailing presents is truly a fascinating look at the deceiving safeness that is so blatant. Like the lifestyle, there are moments which present a good sense of humour which perfectly balances out all the biggest extremes which are left behind in the end, thus a rather intelligent form of commentary arises from what The Wailing has created.

The Wailing is not any ordinary horror film but some form of insanity that leaves some sort of a mystifying effect. Although it is overlong because of a nature to drag and repeat on certain sequences, The Wailing makes up for such from the flow which it moves by and the fine acting from its leads (a specific child performance coming out from Kim Hwan Hee stands out as one of the best to be found in a recent horror film). Terrifying, absorbing, and brutal as one would want from such a film, The Wailing may be Na Hong-jin’s best, although I still have my own reservations in regards to the length.

Watch the trailer right here.

All images via Fox.

Directed by Na Hong-jin
Screenplay by Na Hong-jin
Produced by John Penotti
Starring Kwak Do-Won, Hwang Jung-Min, Chun Woo-Hee
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 156 minutes


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