By Chase Whale | June 6, 2016
Director: Na Hong-jin
Writer: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Do Won Kwak, Jun Kunimura, Chun Woo-hee, Hwang Jeong-min, Jang So-yeon, Jo Han-cheol
“Of all the evil I’ve seen, this is the strongest. You disturbed it.”
Have you ever watched a movie and chewed through every fingernail? Do you remember that movie? I do. It’s called The Wailing, a nail-biting slow burn worth every chomp.
Someone died. Disease and death are starting to envelop a little town in South Korea where bumbling cop Jong-Goo (Kwak Do-won) lives. It’s a small enough town where everybody knows your name. The story revs up when a questionable Japanese man visits. Is he here to do good or cause widespread panic? Moreover, what is he? Jong-Goo believes this man is involved with the illness and deaths but doesn’t know why or how. Once his daughter starts to show symptoms of the virus, he goes full Dutch: If it bleeds, we can kill it.
I don’t want to go further with the plot than that because it’s so much better if you go in as cold as possible and watch the madness unfold.
Plus The Wailing leaves a lot of questions, ambiguity, and spiritual ubiquity to chew on long after the end credits roll. This movie is full of tension, surprises, and holds a tenacious grip on you without letting go. You will be on the edge of your seat screaming WHAT IN THE HELL IS HAPPENING MY FINGERS ARE BLEEDING BECAUSE I NEED MORE TO BITE ON!?!?!
When The Wailing opens, a scripture from the Bible kicks things off. That scripture is Luke 24:37 – 39 and reads, “They were startled and frightened thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and See; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” These words were spoken by Jesus Christ himself after he rises from the dead on the day kids hunt for plastic eggs with money in them.
Lead Kwak Do-won is mostly known for his supporting roles, but The Wailing will surely skyrocket his career to more prominent leading man characters. His Jong-Goo is a bit goofy, a bit clumsy, and a bit foolish, and Do-won masterfully pulls off this vulnerable and determined father willing to tear the world apart to save his daughter.
The Wailing is written and directed by Na Hong-jin, who became a household named to cinephiles with the harrowing thriller The Chaser, and the haunting story of desperation, The Yellow Sea. What makes Hong-jin such an energetic and compelling storyteller is his patience. He takes his time to fill in ample detail to keep your heart racing and eyes glued to the screen while the story slowly unravels. As far as masterpieces go, The Wailing is of epic proportions.