The Wailing (2016, Na Hong-jin)

What a stupid movie. Sure, The Wailing isn’t all bad. The cinematography from Hong Kyung-pyo is fine. It’s not great because, even its better moments, director Na never does a particularly good job. He likes long shots, he likes three shots, but he doesn’t like actually trying to scare the audience. It’s supposed to be scary because of the ideas in Na’s script, which are somewhat horrifying. The movie runs two and a half hours and the entire first hour is pointless. The supporting cast almost entirely changes at the halfway point.

Of course, the main cast is some of the problem. Lead Kwak Do-won sort of has the best material in the film and it’s not very good material, but Kwak is a little bit too ineffectual as the lead. For the first hour, he’s a bumbling cop. He’s still the only one who seems to get bothered with three people a day going crazy and killing three other people. But the police subplot pretty much disappears after the first hour. Once his daughter Kim Hwan-hee predictably becomes a target, it’s like there are no more cops.

Hwang Jung-min is okay as Kwak’s erstwhile sidekick, a shaman hired to figure out what’s ailing the village (in The Wailing); he’s got some crappy writing too. No surprise. The best writing is probably the stuff before Kim gets reduced to horror movie victim. Again, not great writing, not good writing, but better than anything else in the film.

The Wailing is supposed to be haunting and disturbing in its message. It’s not. It’s never even particularly engaging in the mysterious elements. After the first act or so, there’s not much chance it’s going to ever be good, maybe mildly diverting. Instead, it turns out bad and dumb. Na’s not so much a hack–his direction doesn’t have enough personality–as a waste of time. A lot of it.



Written and directed by Na Hong-jin; director of photography, Hong Kyung-pyo; music by Jang Young-gyu; produced by Suh Dong-hyun and Kim Ho-sung; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Kwak Do-won (Jong-Goo), Hwang Jung-min (Il-Gwang), Kunimura Jun (Japanese stranger), Chun Woo-hee (Moo-Myeong) and Kim Hwan-hee (Hyo-jin).


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