The Wailing

The Wailing ★★★★½

Unsettling. Visually stunning. Gripping. There’s no doubt that this succeeds in the basic aim of a horror film: to frighten or disturb you. It has that same mounting feeling of repulsion that appears in only a handful of other horror films: an unnerving sensation that you’re watching something forbidden or unnatural in some primal, inscrutable way. I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that this was a huge influence on Ari Aster, as both “Hereditary,” and “Midsommer” contain that same lulling sense of dread that builds and builds until finally climaxing into a cathartic (though horrifying) release point.

If there’s an issue that people will have this film, it’s probably going to be with the film’s somewhat confusing ending. There’s a certain sequence of events that occurs, which definitively points to a singular conclusion, however the director purposely seemed to lend an air of ambiguity to everything. On one hand, you’re left with an initial feeling of frustration that things didn’t quite seem to add up. Yet on the other hand, that ambiguity aids its horror elements, as you’re never quite sure what side is truly evil or not—and multiple twists and turns occur throughout the film that flips your assumptions around one way or another. I think it’s that unfulfilling feeling of uncertainty that makes this comparable to serial killer crime dramas like “Memories of Murder,” where the emphasis on the uncertainty of truth is an integral part of the film’s power.

Again, if you go over the film carefully, there does seem to be a definitive truth, but I kinda liked the film better when my confusion over trying to figure out exactly what was occurring matched the main character’s own in trying to figure out which side was helping or hindering him in his journey. Your experience mirrors his, as the deeper you probe into this, the clearer it becomes and yet it’s that very same search for clarity that entraps you into its fold. If the film has a message it seems to be on the murky value of faith. We ascribe faith or doubt to something due to the very nature of its intangibility. The manifestation of that struggle is a direct confrontation with something that's completely absent of reason.

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