Na’s screenplay takes viewers to the root of evil in a manner that subverts expectations and cleverly manipulates cause and effect at almost every turn.
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Forget the inflated Trumpian moral dilemmas of "Superman" and "Captain America." The summer’s most powerful and most disturbing thriller has arrived, in the form of an intensely atmospheric Korean movie called The Wailing.
The Wailing might be a somewhat meandering and nonsensical genre recombination, but that spell never breaks over its lengthy running time.
Na Hong-jin's The Wailing is a work of thriller maximal-ism, a rare case of more actually being more rather than less.
This is horror filmmaking that's designed to work on you like a virus, slowly incapacitating your defenses so it can build up and do some real damage.
As dark and pessimistic as the rest of South Korean thrill-master Na Hong Jin’s work, The Wailing (Goksung, a.k.a. The Strangers in France) is long and involving, permeated by a tense, sickening sense of foreboding, yet finally registers on a slightly lower key than the director’s acclaimed genre films The Chaser (2008) and The Yellow Sea (2010).
On the one hand, the film is a gripping whodunnit, exemplified by a scene of classic Hitchcockian suspense, when Jong-gu makes a frightening discovery while snooping around the Japanese man. At the same time it treads into supernatural territory through nightmarish dream sequences that feel unnervingly real.
That the film has so many partial reference points only makes the ultimate amalgamation stranger, as the chimeric whole can't be fully explained by its parts. The Wailing enters the world malformed and screaming, as powerless to stop itself as we are.
The film is a bullet train of laughs, gore, frights and folklore, making the two-and-a-half hour runtime feel like a couple of minutes. Blink and you might miss the whole thing.
Designed and choreographed with stupendous pizzazz, it’s an explosion of colors, noises, and murderous zest that floods the senses, reminding you in a (skipped) heartbeat how frightfully entertaining these supposedly artless horror flicks can be.