Day 23: The Wailing

I realize that it’s been a few days since my last game of Netflix Roulette. However, since I don’t want to push my luck (let’s be realistic, hitting gold twice in a row on Netflix is not likely (okay, I know that I’m falling prey to the gambler’s fallacy, but still, it just seems greedy to want to win again)) I decided to go to my curated list and pick a movie that have been recommended (after this write-up, it means that I’m down to five (so, please keep those recommendations coming)). I did use a bit of random selection, but mostly because I didn’t want to know anything about the movie I would be watching.

What I ended up with was the The Wailing, a 2016 South Korean horror movie that clocks in at just over two-and-a-half hours. I decided to include these two descriptors (i.e. country of origin and time) not to dissuade potential viewers, but to let them know what they are in for. Be prepared to read subtitles for a while. I truly hope this doesn’t scare anyone away. This movie was fascinating and gripping. It is absolutely worth the time (and reading) commitment.

The Wailing is a twisty-turny movie, so my plot description is going to be understandably (I hope) vague. The movie revolves around the intersection of a series of gruesome murder-suicides in a small town, a police officer involved in their investigation, and a Japanese stranger. I warned you, it would be vague.  In many ways, The Wailing is more of a mystery film than a horror movie… don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of horror elements throughout (gruesome murders, gore, a supernatural element, etc.)… it’s just that, while there are scares, I spent most of the film trying to figure out exactly what was going on and who (or what) was to blame. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say that it satisfies in its own way, even if it’s a bit challenging.

Challenging is actually the perfect word to describe the movie. This is one of those films you have to watch closely. Things happen, sometimes suddenly and without warning, and scenes change abruptly in a way that can make it seem disconnected. Add to this the fact that the movie will build on to scenes introduced much earlier, and it can be easy to lose the thread. However, if you give this movie your full attention, eventually everything starts to come together.

There are a couple of things that I think are worth mentioning, though, before you jump into this film. They are not critiques, just things that you should be aware of. First, as with any foreign film, there are clearly cultural elements that, since I am not well versed in the socio-political history of South Korea, clearly kept me from understanding and enjoying certain scenes and plot developments at a deeper level. Again, this is not a critique, as the movie works completely on its own, and there are certain elements (like xenophobia) that are universal. To its credit it made me want to do a deep dive in the history and culture of South Korea. Second, and this serves more as a warning. There are a few scenes of violence towards animals. Now, these scenes are not gratuitous… they serve a purpose and move the film forward. Nevertheless, they are distributing and therefore I feel warranted a mention. One scene, in particular, made me call my dog over and give her a giant hug. As before, I hope this doesn’t scare you off. It is absolutely worth getting through these scenes.

So, if you have nothing going on and don’t mind a late evening and a long read, give this movie a shot.

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