The Wailing (Goskung),
directed by Hong-jin Na
(20th Century Fox, 2016)

Following the arrival of a mysterious stranger, a bizarre disease sweeps through a small, rural farming community in South Korea. The disease begins as severe rashes and blisters, eventually driving the infected person into a homicidal rage.

A bumbling local policeman becomes involved in the investigation into the grisly deaths when his daughter becomes one of the infected. Desperate for a cure, Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won) searches for the enigmatic visitor. As the town falls deeper into hysteria and dark characters begin to emerge one after the other from the shadows, Jong-gu's judgment begins to slip. Is it a human disease that's driving people mad or is it a supernatural evil? Enlisting the help of a shaman, Jong-gu inadvertently sets in motion a series of events that will destroy everyone he loves -- and swallow the town in unthinkable malevolence -- if he doesn't find a way to stop it.

What makes The Wailing such a pleasure is that it's so very well made in virtually every category: the powerful acting, the complex writing, the intensely beautiful camera work and the staggeringly effective atmosphere. It's actually quite a funny film, albeit a blackly comedic one, with bursts of horrid violence that are somehow effective because of, not despite, the nearly slapstick nature of the comedy; in fact, these well showcased opposites provide a great tonal balance. There is a full blown shamanistic exorcism in the middle of the second act, one of several heart-in-the-mouth moments. Most of all, there's the heart-pounding dread that burrows under your skin and won't let go, leaving you with a lingering sense of fright.

The Wailing is a truly an amazing film, one that demonstrates serious skill on every level of the story, rightfully making it one of the "best ever" horror films ever made.

review by
Mary Harvey

8 April 2017

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