There was a period, at the beginning of this century, where South Korea was making the most innovative and exciting films in the world. Oldboy, Memories of Murder, The Host, My Sassy Girl, Tale of Two Sisters, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and A Bittersweet Life could go toe to toe with whatever Hollywood had to offer. Sadly, good things come to an end and Korean cinema subsequently had a quiet patch. However, with the likes of Snowpiercer, and particularly The Wailing, fortunes seem on the rise again.
In a little village in the mountains life passes without much excitement. Officer Jong-goo (Do Won Kwak) mainly passes the time having an affair and getting drunk. When a mysterious sickness spreads through the village causing people to commit violent murders, Jong-goo suspect a Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) who has recently arrived. In a desperate move, when their daughter gets sick they seek the help of a shaman (Hwang Jung-min). Meanwhile, the bumbling detective vows to catch the culprit.
Director Na Hong-jin makes great use of the runtime to build the drama and tension whilst ensuring that The Wailing never seems slow or drawn out. The plot twists and turns, heightening the intrigue and keeping you guessing to the very end. The visual style only adds to the air of mystery which pervades. The Wailing recalls the Brilliant Memories of Murder, if not in theme then definitely in tone. It’s a brilliant Korean horror which melds tension and intrigue to make it compelling viewing.
The Wailing is out in cinemas from Friday.