(director/writer: Na Hong Jin; cinematographer: Hong Kyung Pyo; editor: Kim Sun Min; music: Young Gyu, Dalpalan; cast: Kwak Do Won (Jong-Gu), Hwang Jung Min (Il-Gwang-the shamn), Kunimura Jun (The Stranger), Chun Woo Hee (The Woman of No-name), Kim Hwan Hee (Hyo-jin), Jang So Yeon (policeman),; Runtime: 156; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Suh Dong-hyun, Kim Ho-sung; Well Go; 2016-S. Korea-in Korean and some Japanese, with English subtitles)

“Better, different and stranger than most exorcist horror pics.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dark and bone-chilling masterful thriller by Korean auteur Na Hong Jin (“The Chaser”/”The Yellow Sea”).Goksung is the name of a small Korean town (the hometown of the filmmaker’s grandmother) in the countryside that becomes plagued with strange and violent deaths and a spreading epidemic of rashes and boils after the visit of a strange ghost-like Japanese man (Kunimura Jun). “The Jap, how he’s called in the film,” is blamed for everything, even if there’s no proof. The bumbling local cop Jong-gu (Kwak Do Won) investigates when a farmer’s wife is killed and her husband’s corpse is dragged outside in a bag by a shocked uncommunicative relative, covered in boils and rashes. A mysterious young woman in white (Chun Woo Hee) haunts the town like a ghost and accuses The Jap of the crime. There are more brutal murders and more cases of rashes. When the cop’s young daughter (Kim Hwan He) has the sickness and it worsens, the cop listens to his mother-in-law and calls upon a shaman (Hwang Jung Min) to treat her and perform an exorcism for the village. It plays out as a blend of a ghost story and a bizarre crime story. The atmosphere eerily charged with unusual heavy rains, disemboweled livestock and a demonically possessed child. For further fright, there’s a rabid zombie going from one victim to the next, with his sharp teeth bared. As the demonic spirits are unleashed on the village, we still question who is the devil and why is this happening. The supernatural suspense thriller moves with ease from realism to the nonsensical, and does so with a sense of foreboding danger and original film-making. The Wailing opens and closes quoting Luke 24:37:39. The ambitious film, perhaps too ambition for its own good, has its moments of religious symbolism, weird comedy, philosophy, scary cries, startling fantasy fright scenes, and is most disturbing because of its gruesome depictions of slaughter and the ease in which the evil spirits work their way in a once serene community. The Wailing is better, different and stranger than most exorcist horror pics. If looking for an American horror film it might resemble, I would say it is kin to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973).

The Wailing