“Great K-Horror with No Easy Answers”
I’m stating that up front because, while THE WAILING is a great film with lots of atmosphere, some excellent performances and a lot of very interesting ideas, if you like a film that ties everything up neatly at the end with an explanation be warned - THE WAILING doesn’t do that. At all.
THE WAILING opens with a passage from the Bible that becomes relevant close to the end (I’ll leave you to discover exactly how). Then we find ourselves in a dreary, rainy village in South Korea (the film’s original title refers to the mountainous region where the village is located). Strange things are occurring, including a series of murders where the killers have gone mad and in some cases been affected by a skin condition akin to boils.
Local police sergeant Jong-Goo (Do-won Kwak) learns that the deaths only started following the arrival of a mysterious Japanese man (Jun Kunimura with his leg all better after Takashi Miike’s AUDITION) who lives in an EVIL DEAD-like cabin in the woods. When Jong-Goo’s young daughter starts to behave bizarrely, it’s time to call in a shaman, who claims that a demon has arrived in the village and if it isn’t driven out everyone in the village will die. He seems to know what he’s doing, but does he actually end up making things better or worse?
That’s just one of the questions you’ll be asking yourself long after THE WAILING is over. Before that you will have been treated to a plot that keeps you guessing as to just who can and can’t be trusted as Jong-Goo deals with horrible murders, demonic possession, at least one zombie (I think) and a sense of almost Old Testament-style Smiting.
As I’ve said above, the ending leaves you with plenty of questions unanswered, & if you’ve a mind to there are plenty of message boards on the internet trying to come to grips with what THE WAILING is all about. It has been compared to David Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE in its complex plot, but whereas the Lynch film makes perfect sense once you find the right way into it, I have a feeling THE WAILING isn’t the kind of film that’s designed to have a definitive explanation.
As long as you don’t mind that, I’d very much recommend THE WAILING. The running time clocks in at over two and a half hours but the film doesn’t feel that at all. In fact, it’s a rare film that gets to ninety minutes only for me to be relieved that there’s at least another hour to go - that’s how well made and engrossing this one is.
THE WAILING is only getting a DVD release in the UK. If the transfer that hits the shelves is anything like the review disc I was sent I’m afraid to report it’s pretty grotty, with blurring of the lush countryside every time the camera moves. As far as I can tell the release will have no extras.
THE WAILING is out on UK DVD from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment on 30th January 2017