DVD: The Wailing | reviews, news & interviews
DVD: The Wailing
DVD: The Wailing
Ambitious South Korean horror smash bites off more than it can chew
In the extras on the DVD release of The Wailing, South Korean director Na Hong-Jin says, “Every genre of film has its own strengths and weaknesses. By combining many genres you could say that I was able to build and emphasise the strengths, while diminishing the weaknesses.” And indeed, over its monumental 156 minutes, The Wailing attempts to meld comedy, an overt homage to The Exorcist, zombie movie tropes and social commentary. Unfortunately, the different stylistic elements play off against each other instead of melding into a cohesive whole, making The Wailing lack consistent tension.
The Cannes-screened horror drama was an award-winning, box-office record breaker in South Korea and Na’s follow-up’s to 2010’s gritty thriller The Yellow Sea. After six years in development, The Wailing (Goksung: 곡성) took six months to film: most of the shooting was undertaken on location in real-life rural villages and challenging terrain rather recreations of where the action is set.
The film's main character Jong-Gu (Kwak Do-Won) is a bumbling, lazy policeman. Although he steps up to the plate as events unfold, the characterisation seems there solely for its (ill-fitting and unfunny) comedic value. Gruesome murders take place and houses are burned out as it becomes clear a demon may be possessing locals. His daughter is affected and turns into a foul-mouthed, hate-filled monster. A mysterious Japanese stranger is blamed. A shaman is called and, in a bravura set piece, performs a ritual to end the young girl’s possession. Jong fights off hordes of the afflicted as if they are zombies on the rampage. The lack of resolution at the end implies a sequel is on the cards.
Although The Wailing is intermittently impactful, despite its evident cleverness, the craft brought to bear and the effort expended, it is too long and too unwieldy to hold the attention. The same cannot be said of the two extras on the DVD additional to the trailer: both are short puff-piece makings-of. One is an edited-down version of the other (apparently, no one involved in the release noticed they were essentially the same thing). Although worth seeing, this elaborate film would have benefitted from fewer ideas and more focus.
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