Starring Jun Kunimura, Jeong-min Hwang, Woo-hee Chun, The Wailing employs archetypal horror tropes of cruel and unusual death, the haunted house, ineffective barricades against evil – even a shaman cannot dispel it, a creepy child and cannibalistic zombies. When a Japanese stranger arrives in a South Korean village and evil surrounds him, a laughing stock cop must toughen up when that same evil threatens his family.
As far as storytelling goes, horror can be an exhausted genre, and artists and producers are continually hunting ways to tap into audience curiosity by reinventing the genre. The Wailing is a somewhat appropriation of Scream in its mystery, horror and comedy blend, but that’s as far as similarity goes. No inane pretties racing screaming up the stairs of a trapping mansion
Opening scenes are parodic with laconic, dry humour. But the mood goes increasingly sombre when the audience must confront darkness in a child. Enter primitive and the obscure with shamanism, faith and mind play, twist after twist. Director Hong-jin Na reinvents the supernatural in genre hybridisation that contains a who-dun-it, exorcism and ancient tradition in an unsettling wallow in evil.
The narrative goes full circle, adds up and assuages an hitherto undecided audience dissuaded by its jesting start. In its play of anti-Japanese sentiment, this is not a film that will cure inherent cultural Korean and Japanese animosity. The alienation of a Jap stranger in a Korean village does not encourage the audience to engage with difference.
For cinematic effects and the disquiet it brings, this mystery, crime, drama horror emerged a pleasant find for the Cannes 2016 critics, and continues to be a box office pick in Korea, also stealing the spotlight in Hollywood as a foreign entry. In crossing genre, this world cinema with sub-titles is for a broad audience. Look out for its general screening at Cinema Nova.
Produced by: John Penotti
Running time: 2 hours, 36 minutes
Rating: 4 stars
Image courtesy of Pan Media & Entertainment
About Eugen Bacon
Eugen M. Bacon studied at Maritime Campus, less than two minutes walk from The Royal Observatory of the Greenwich Meridian. A computer graduate mentally re-engineered into creative writing, Eugen has a PhD in writing. She has published over 100 short stories and creative articles, and has in work a creative non-fiction book and a literary speculative novel. Her short stories are published in journals, magazines & anthologies worldwide. Eugen is editor of MELBOURNE Magazine and sub-editor of FICTION Magazine at The Australia Times.
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