Goksung / The Wailing (2016) - By far the best movie of the year - 10/10 (09/11/16)
''The Wailing'' is easily the best movie of the year 2016. It's at least the best Korean film since the vivid action-comedy flick ''Quick'' and the war epic ''My Way'' five years ago. It's on the same level as horror and thriller classics like ''Memories of Murder'', ''Oldboy'' and ''Sympathy for Mister Vengeance''. I would say that ''The Wailing'' is at least the most intense horror movie since the first part of the ''Insidious'' series six years earlier. Since this movie doesn't get a wider release in North American and European cinemas despite being a massive success at the South Korean box office, I urge you to buy it on BluRay or DVD as soon as you can to experience this unforgettable masterpiece.
The story of this mystery and horror film takes place in a remote and rather poor Korean village where a series of strange events occurs. People seem to commit horrible crimes while being under the influence of what seems to be an abominable disease or a weird drug. People kill their own family members, friends or neighbors for no apparent reason by stabbing them to death or burning down their houses among other elements. Local police officer Jong-goo is scared and shocked by those horrible events but grimly determined to uncover the mystery behind those crimes. Despite being initially analytical, grounded and reluctant to investigate superstitious claims that those crimes are related to a mysterious Japanese shaman living in the woods and feasting on raw animal meat, Jong-goo feels more and more confused, haunted and helpless when he can't find any logical explanation for the series of gruesome crimes and confronts the mysterious stranger. Soon after this, Jong-goo's own daughter seems to change as she is abnormally hungry, behaves strangely and reacts aggressively towards anyone who is approaching her. Jong-goo realizes that he must solve the mysterious incidents in his village as quickly as possible in order to save his daughter.
There are many elements that make this movie so outstanding. One element is the sinister story itself that keeps the audience guessing until the end. Just like the main character, the audience quickly doesn't know what to believe in anymore and the haunting ending only adds to the brilliance of the movie.
The movie's strongest key to success is probably its intense atmosphere. Most scenes take places during storms or heavy rainfall which adds to the tension of the film. The fitting locations include dark forests, dirty huts and empty highways. The slow and menacing pace of the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat as it is regularly interrupted by sudden graphic or sinister scenes that feel so shockingly realistic because they aren't exaggerated or overwhelming. A brooding soundtrack, fitting costumes and settings and sinister light techniques only increase the almost unbearably tense atmosphere. Despite an epic running time of more than two and a half hours, this film doesn't have any unnecessary lengths in my opinion.
Another winning element is the incredibly detailed work by director Na Hong-jin. Each scene serves a specific character development, an increase of seemingly supernatural and stunning elements or a particular clue to involve the audience and let it put the pieces of the puzzle together. The movie took more than half a year to be made and it really pays off in the end. This film feels incredibly detailed, stunningly acted and perfectly produced.
The actors and actresses are all giving the best performances of their lives. One has to point out main character Kwak Do-won who changes from a caring, determined and strong father to a desperate, helpless and impulsive shadow of its former self who is haunted by nightmares and tries to solve his problems in violent manners. It's easy for the audience to identify with this charismatic, emotional and realistic character from start to finish. The supporting actors are just as great because there are many mysteries revolving around them and you never really know whether they are good or bad or somewhere in between. Police officer Jong-goo meets a mysterious woman dressed in white who seems to give him clues to solve the strange murder cases and save his daughter but at certain points in the story, she seems strangely passive and might even try to fool the main character. Jong-goo also encounters a young shaman who seems helpful and powerful at first contact but whose scary rituals seem to harm the main character's daughter more than anything else. Obviously, there is the mysterious Japanese stranger who only communicates in his mother tongue and whose recent appearance in the remote Korean community evokes numerous questions.
The combination of an extremely professional director, an intriguing script and story that requests multiple views, a cast consisting of young and veteran actors who put all their heart and soul into their performances, an intense yet realistic atmosphere supported by a haunting soundtrack, scary settings and costumes and gloomy light techniques and a great production that takes its time to develop a perfect pace without any flaws such as shaky cameras or unrealistic special effects make this film a masterpiece of the contemporary art of film-making. If you like mystery and horror movies, there is no way for you to get around this movie. If you were to miss out on this movie, you simply couldn't consider yourself an expert of these two genres anymore. Stop reading other reviews and purchase this film right away.
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