Epic, Gripping and Creepy as F***: Our Review of ‘The Wailing’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 03, 2016
Epic, Gripping and Creepy as F***: Our Review of ‘The Wailing’

When something special up and rears its head, guess what…we pay attention.

After a successful bow at this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Na Hong-Jin’s latest The Wailing hits our shores and it is an epic, visceral & simply unforgettable experience that wants to shake you down to your very core and equals some of the efforts that the best masters of suspense have ever put on the big screen.

Nobody really likes change, especially in a small rural town where everybody basically knows everybody and when a mysterious foreigner comes to town, no one is all that happy especially when the typical small town hysteria turns to violence as the townsfolk are falling victim to brutal outbursts where they are killing each other for no real apparent reason.  As the investigating officer is frustratingly not finding any answers even while he has to watch his own daughter succumbs to the violence that has gripped his town.  He agrees to consult a local shaman for help, but little does he know…that’s only going to make things worse.


I’ll admit it, the run time of 156 minutes gave me some pause…but don’t be scared because The Wailing has an effortless flow that sucks us into high drama and a creeping sense of dread that we as an audience just can’t help but walk straight into.

Writer/Director Na Hong Jin has developed his reputation with his previous two features as a masterful storyteller (Full Disclosure; I haven’t seen his films The Chaser or The Yellow Sea, but god knows I will be soon enough) but here he takes what at worst is a Korean knockoff of George A Romero’s The Crazies and turns into something that is such a unique mix of genuine drama, suspense and flat out gore that we as audiences members are just transfixed by a story that keeps winding us down the rabbit hole, and even though we know that something horrible is coming we can’t look away.  The narrative unfolds in such a subtle and effective way that before you know it you are on the edge of your seat and you simply can’t look away.  With elements of mythology, various religions and straight up Korean voodoo it’s one of those movies like The Exorcist that transcends any genre labels as Na Hong Jin throws everything AND the kitchen sink against the screen in order to improve our overall experience.  Along with some beautiful photography, stellar set design and great location shooting makes this a completely sweaty, upsetting and immersive experience.

Fans of Asian (particularly Korean cinema) will see lots of familiar faces spread throughout this film and every single person involved came through with some strong work.  It’s not a film about any singular performances; it’s a true ensemble piece as it has to sell the environment and mood that is sweeping over this small town.  Thankfully, everyone bought into it from beginning to end as this town slowly tears itself apart.TheWailing1

Ultimately this is the kind of movie that makes it hard to find any genuine fault in it all as The Wailing is the kind of movie that you can’t pigeonhole into any kind of genre.  You just have to drink it in and be better for the experience.  In the tall grass of the generic blockbusters, there is refreshment for those looking for something beyond the popcorn entertainment experience and this is easily one of the best films of 2016 so far.

  • Release Date: 6/3/2016
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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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