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Title: The Wailing

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:78

“The Wailing” was a film that seemed to come out of nowhere and garnered incredible critical response in such a short amount of time. While they’re not the same type of horror film, I can only liken it to “Babadook”, which also just came out of left field and ripped up the horror playing field for a foreign film. It’s what you would call a slow burning, but steady building, horror film that relies heavily on introspection and uneasy tension to slowly amp up the fear and infighting between the people to a breaking point. At times I wondered if it would ever really pay off, but the beautiful lead up and the gorgeous Korean cinematography makes for a hauntingly gorgeous and disturbingly creepy time.

“The Wailing” is a strange mix between supernatural horror and a police procedural murder mystery, as the film opens up with a scene of mass murder from a crazed villager in a Korean town. The local police view it as a shut and dry case, but a few officers think something spooky is going on. The general consensus is that some mushrooms from the forest were eaten by the supposed perpetrator and made him crazy enough to slaughter the entire family. However some of the officers are not nearly so convinced that a few magic mushrooms would cause someone to do that. One in particular is having horrible nightmarish dreams about a guy in the woods eating the flesh of animals and people, and some are swapping old ghost stories about a possessed woman and a murderous Japanese ghost who haunts people.

Strange things get even stranger when more and more villagers begin to kill each other off with the same mysterious amnesia that the first one had and the mushrooms found in the room. Investigation soon starts leaning towards a mysterious angle when a seemingly crazy girl whispers out hints of a ghost, and Detective Joon-Goo, a hapless cop whose job is on the line, starts digging deeper and finds out that the mysterious man in this dream actually is living outside in the surrounding forest. This outside soon becomes the focal point of a ghostly investigation that becomes more and more terrifying with every new clue uncovered.

What gives “The Wailing” such a different tone than most other horror movies is the way that characters interact with each other. There is very distinct and almost strange vibe to the way that the eastern philosophies of character interaction are played out on screen. You have some very tense and emotionally awkward scenes that are amplified by the traditional “eastern” ways of doing things. Especially when it comes to show respect and responding to questions. Just look at the scene where the creepy outsider is interrogated after he is found in the woods. The silent tension is just plain eerie and creepy.

Also, while the “Babadook” is similar in the fact that it is a cerebral horror film, it is also different in the fact that “The Wailing” is a bloody affair that shows some very grim and horrific murders interspersed with the more talkative parts of the film. Although more traditional horror plotlines are introduced, such as an exorcism and shaman ritual for the demons who seem to be infesting the land of the living and this plays out very much like your average supernatural thriller.

As much fun as the movie is, there is some silliness and goofiness in the first 35 minutes or so that throw the pace off a bit. There’s some joking and silliness with Joon-Goo and his daughter catching him in the act of hooking up in the car, as well as the general banter between the police officers regarding the female ghost and if it’s real or not. It just seems out of place with all of the creepy and more goreific parts of the film.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4stars:
Well Go USA brings “The Wailing” to the U.S. with a really nice looking 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray. Right off the bat you can tell the visuals for the film is going to be great, as we’re shown a beautiful and dirty shot of a murder scene filled with luscious green foliage, deep maroon blood and guts strewn around, and the dirty brown of the wet soil around the hut. Facial details and clothing look amazingly accurate, and the individual fibers on the police jackets and the drops of water adorning their ponchos and hats are perfectly replicated. Blood tends to look a bit dark, as does much of the movie, and the shadows maintain a healthy amount of clarity, and even though there is some minute banding, and mild softness throughout the film, it is a very good looking encode that foregoes most of the flaws seen in other Well Go USA titles. Supposedly the film was shot with Arri Alexa cameras, but I can't ascertain that for certain, as most of the major information sources don't list what the cameras were in the shoot, although they have a very distinct look that mimics the Arri or the Red camera systems commonly used. There is the standard teal blue color grading going on with the film, giving it a sort of haunting dusky look, and the saturation is a little on light side comparatively. Long shots of the film focus on the gorgeous Korean countryside, which is filled with deep greens that stretch on for mile after beautiful mile. Easily one of the best looking Asian films I've seen this year.

Audio :4stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA Korean audio on the disc is very pleasing as well. It’s a well nuanced track and one that has a distinct forward heavy mix due to many many scenes that are nearly all dialog. That’s not to say that the surrounds get ignored, because there is still ample opportunity for those side channels to stretch their wings. There are several moments where the heavy rain going on flows through all channels equally, and you can hear the drumming of the drops hitting tin roofs and slapping into the earth. The forest scenes with the outsider tend to be a bit more active as well, with rustling leaves and rattling rocks under footsteps. LFE is strong and powerful, adding some weight to the ethnic feeling score as well as huge down beats of bass for dramatic impact.

Extras: :1.5stars:

• The Beginning of The Wailing
• The Making Of
• Trailer

Overall: :4stars:

“The Wailing” is a surprise foreign hit, and while it’s not a perfect horror movie (it’s rather overstuffed in my personal opinion and drags on for about 20 minutes too long), it is one of the better examples of Asian horror. The mood is palpable and the tension builds up steadily and creepily to the rather scary ending. I usually don’t jump at ghost and spirit horror movies anymore due to being desensitized to the genre JUST a tad, but I actually ended up feeling very uneasy throughout the film. Something which pleases the horror nut in me deeply. Audio and video are very good for the disc and the extras do a good enough job at giving us some nice supplemental. Definitely recommended for a good watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Woo-hee Chun
Directed by: Na Hong-Jin
Written by: Na Hong-Jin
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Korean DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 156 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 4th, 2016

Buy The Wailing On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch

More about Mike

2,762 Posts
Wife and I saw this movie and really enjoyed it except we started to fall asleep towards the end and we had to give the last 30 mins a rewatch. I only wish it was a little shorter and 2h 36mins is a little too much I think. The end was something we did not expect and we were asking many questions but it all comes together and everything starts to make sense.
Now Mike I want to ask you something with the spoiler tag. Please people if you haven't seen the movie do not open the spoiler.
How was the shaman working for the Jap? Maybe he gave a hint and could have been a moment when our mind started to shut down.
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