The Wailing

The Wailing ★★★★½

I can't recall many modern horror films that successfully balance as many styles and ideas as The Wailing. It is equal parts police procedural, foreboding mystery, supernatural thriller, ghost story and heart-rendering human drama. Thematic elements that deal with belief systems, xenophobia and fear of the unknown are worked into the story seamlessly.

Director Na Hong-jin manages to make all of these converging ideas work by creating a world full of interesting characters and giving the film an emotional core in the father-daughter relationship. The horror is so effective because the characters have substance and are worth investing in. It tackles zombies, exorcisims, curses, evil children and mutilation amongst other things. It should be too chaotic to really work but the storyline is so well constructed that everything comes together naturally.

The cast is fantastic with the expressive Kwak Do-wan and the sinister Jun Kunimura both excelling, while Kim Hwan-hee gives one of the best child performances in recent memory. The remote setting surrounded by stunning mountain ranges and almost always soaked in rain is brilliantly distinctive, adding not only to the camaraderie between the villagers but to the feeling of isolation. For a film of such length, especially for the genre, it's really impressive how well paced it is with twists that keep you guessing and outcomes that leave unsettling implications.

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