During the ongoing age of the pandemic there’s been hardly any activity concerning the big screens and the new hot weekly releases, and movie buffs really miss the coveted visits to the theatres. However, if one is not so much strained about watching movies on computers or on mobile screens then one can still have lots of enriched watching on the OTT (Over The Top) platforms that stream a rich variety of movies from world cinema apart from their much-publicized web series. There’s a concern no doubt for harming your ear drums with continuous use of the headphones; but one can be judiciously selective about it. During such a restrained and judicious practice of wearing the headphones this writer has come across various movies and web series that really kept alive his cinema-appreciation instincts. One such movie is The Wailing (2016), a South Korean (officially the Republic of Korea) horror film, written and directed by the celebrated award-winning South Korean director Na Hong-jin whose earlier movies like The Chaser (2008) and The Yellow Sea (2010) were screened at the Cannes Film Festival and won various awards in other festivals. The Wailing was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival and got numerous nominations and several awards at various film festivals. The main actors in this movie are Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee and the Japanese star Jun Kunimura.
The Wailing cannot be described as a ‘horror’ film in one breath, because it has a storyline that covers all other genres of mystery, suspense and of course, horror. And the movie boldly defies the implicit ‘rules and regulations’ of a typical horror film: glorifying gore; capturing the most unimaginably ugly faces of ghostly ‘monsters’; the use of the loudest possible sound-track where a simple telephone ring shakes up the whole auditorium; the jump cuts; and figures moving behind your backs. Instead, this movie has a highly intelligent mix of mystery, intriguing dialogues, a normal sound-track, no jump cuts or sudden movements behind your back, no monsters of the typical variety and an entirely different script for a horror flick. Then how it scares, you will definitely ask! Mind you, it still has all the scares of the supernatural, the occult practices, the possessed and the exorcism, the zombies, a lot of gore and violence without glorifying it though and a whole lot of dialogues that you cannot help but listen to attentively.
The movie has a rather intimidating length of over two and half hours, a length that normally is valid for Indian films of any genre, but once you get in there’s not a single moment that’d bore you or make you think of putting off your headphones. It puts you into a persistent dilemma of believing or not believing with the elements of mystery and suspense in full play, and this glorious uncertainty of the plot continues till the very end-frame. And mind you, you may not find the climax as gratifying as the usual horror flicks. The film just flows on with brilliant cinematography and a lilting background music score. The performances are powerful and the storytelling is convincing.
The story begins with a police investigation when in a Korean village people start getting murdered mysteriously. As the investigations proceed we come to know that a peculiar sickness seems to infect the villagers: once someone gets the infection somehow he or she becomes violent and ends up murdering all members of his or her family. All the doubts were cast on a mysterious Japanese stranger who lives in a hut in the mountains and local people are telling frightening stories about him. The police raid his hut several times, but still fail to link him to the horrible goings-on. In the meantime a mysterious lady also moves around in the village, seemingly giving leads to the police. The police sergeant of the village Jong-goo, the hero of the film played by Kwak Do-won, becomes terribly emotional and desperate to solve the mystery when his little daughter Hyo-Jin gets the infection and starts to demonstrate odd behaviour patterns, gradually becoming violent. The policeman’s mother-in-law invites the local shaman or the exorcist, suspecting it to be a case of possession. Well, nothing more can be said about the storyline to avoid a spoiler.
The Wailing is a horror movie with a healthy difference from the genre, and it can more than match the all-time Hollywood horror greats like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Poltergeist, The Conjuring and so on, and can beat the loud and typical horror flicks in popular display both in Hollywood and in Bollywood hands down. This movie is a must-watch for all lovers of mystery, suspense and horror flicks. This writer has discovered this movie quite a bit late, but still holds the view as expressed. The world of cinema has been a territory vastly unexplored by many a viewer due to lack of access or the regional or the language barrier or of the like and if the film buffs keep on trying they’re sure find many more surprises like The Wailing.