Full disclosure: Na Hong-jin’s confounding, unsettling horror tale is the kind of movie that could, upon reflection, turn out to be either much better or much worse than first impressions dictate. In a small South Korean village, local police officer Jong-gu (Kwak Do-Won) investigates a series of murders in which residents appear to be going suddenly, homicidally mad—and it all appears connected to the recent arrival of a Japanese stranger (Jun Kunimura). At 156 minutes, The Wailing has plenty of time for multiple often-disorienting tonal diversions, from broad comedy to actual zombie attacks. But Na is also wrestling with some genuinely thorny ideas—including xenophobia and multiple Biblical references in its exploration of faith and evil—built around the plot device of a possibly-possessed young girl, with all the accompanying Exorcist-esque discomfort. By the time the third act reaches its crescendo—cross-cutting between at least four settings, each one with its own tension-filled sense of consequence—The Wailing becomes the kind of unsettling drama that might be profound, or might be sacrilegious, or might be all of the above in one freaky package.
Director: Na Hong-jin
Producer: Robert Friedland and John Penotti
Cast: Kwak Do-won, Kunimura Jun, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee, Jang So-yeon and Heo Jin