Ghosts have bodies in Na Hong-Jin’s The Wailing. Set in a sleepy picturesque Korean town, the story is a supernatural procedural, centering on a disease that transforms its hosts into boil-ridden homicidal zombies. A policeman whose daughter falls prey to the condition becomes personally invested in locating the virus’s origins. We’ve mentioned homicidal zombies but Dawn of the Dead this is not. There’s no contagion, little eating of brains. Zombies appear in isolated cases and die just as randomly. That there is no simple explanation or resoundingly clear resolution is precisely what makes The Wailing chilling. Not exactly a slow-burn horror film, more a long-burn horror film, The Wailing clocks in at over two-and-a-half hours, taking a while to develop. For forty-five minutes it remains tonally light with digressions and dream sequences and a dab of the absurd. Then it dives into the muck. The last hour of the film is filled with twists and turns and a good deal of confusion for which familiarity with scripture and Asian shamanism is helpful. At times the preferred mode of acting is overacting. The violence is graphic but not pervasive. The end may leave you wailing.
In Korean & Japanese.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White