The Wailing is the most unsettling Korean horror film in years, but it offers more chills than answers

THE WAILING LAYERS TENSION UPON TENSION, PARTICULARLY THROUGH THE ESCALATING PARANOIA THAT EACH OF THE TOWNSPEOPLE COMES TO FEEL FOR ANY AND ALL OUTSIDERS

There’s a pervasive hush and sense of stillness that lingers over the region of Gokseong, and scenes of brazen, crazed madness are often preceded by shots of tranquil mountain vistas whose lush, thickly forested landscapes increasingly feel smothering and secretive. This is a film as beautiful as it is gory, as painstakingly scenic as it is committed to stark visual interplays between darkness and light.

All the while, the story of Gokseong unfolds in fits and starts, each puzzle piece more confusing than the last. Are the residents of the town being systematically poisoned with a drug that causes them to become frenzied, savage killers? Are they being cursed? Or is it both, and for what reason? Na’s writing layers tension upon tension, particularly through the escalating paranoia that each of the townspeople comes to feel for any and all outsiders.

However, answers are much harder to find in this film than accusations. Horror fans wanting a plot whose ending dovetails nicely with all the elements that preceded it may wind up feeling frustrated, though many more may be drawn into the heart of its darkness: the conviction that terror has come to this town and there is no escape to be had.

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