Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fantasia '16 Film Review - The Wailing

Somebody got killed are the opening remarks of small village cop Jong-gu (Jo Wan Kawk) before returning to the family table to have breakfast with is daughter Hyo-jin (Kim Hwan Hee) and mother in law (Heo Jin). From there Jong-gu heads to the multiple victim crime scene. In the small aluminum home are brutalized bodies, a large human sized nest in addition to the expected perpetrator sitting out front on the step shivering, covered in muck and sporting visible infected boils and rashes.

The cause of the maddening act is pinned at first on tainted wild mushrooms.  A fellow officer tells Jong-gu a tale of a stranger with red eyes that roams the forest feeding on dead deer carcacsses. Jong-gu dismisses the story but begins to have terrible nightmares about the stranger. A sense of foreboding hovers over the town as more residents start to show the rash, display erratic behaviour and commit extreme acts of violence. Rumours surfaces about a Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) who appeared recently in town occupying a place up in the woods.  The towns folk claim that the killings and disease started after his arrival.  Jung-gu brings a colleague and a translator Yang Yi-Sam (Kim do-goo) a Catholic priest along for the visit. The effort is not productive as the police invade the strangers space. Upon his return home Hyo-jin begins to act strange body.

Director Hong jin-Na continues to bring a special take to the thriller genre as he did with his two prior films Chaser and Yellow Sea. The story has a strong sense of slow building dread that will continue to grow in the community. Jin-Na mixes in religion, the occult, friendship and duty to drive the plot. The viewer can see that the town is dealing with a situation that they are ill equipped to handle.

Cinematographer Hung Kyung-Pyo's lens is crisp, bright and flush throughout the piece. When it rains as it often does in Gokseong the viewer can see the light bouncing off the raindrops as the fall from the sky. Jin-Na uses this element for one particular memorable crane shot of Jong-gu making him look to the heavens for answers to the case.

Jo Wan Kwak is well suited for the role of Jong-gu. He is a mistake prone police officer in a small sub district prone to thoughtless fits of rage. He's the burly fellow the role requires that's willing to kick over a hornets nest. Jun Kunimura is perfectly cast as the Japanese stranger. He can be completely stoic as is on full display the two times the police attend his mountain home. Then very expressive during a ritual; eyes glowing, arms flailing as he works himself into a frenzy. Kim Hwan- Hee stands out as Hyo-jin. She is a smart, bright intuitive officers daughter at the outset then switches with ease to foul-mouthed, confrontational and violent as the disease takes hold of her.

The Wailing is a superior achievement in a police thriller occult toned mystery. The pacing and intensity grab the audience for the full  156 minute run time.  Director Hong jin-Na has elevated the crime thriller to a new level. The narrative races downhill provides twist and turns along the way with the outcome and orchestrator in doubt right up to the final frames. It's a film that I can highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

The Wailing | Hong-jin-Na | South Korea | 2016 | 156 Minutes.

Tags: Goksoeng, Village, Murder, Police Investigation, Serial Killer, Rash, The Occult, Religion, Shaman.

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