Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee, Jun Kunimura, Kim Hwan-hee
Written by: Na Hong-jin
Directed by: Na Hong-jin
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Korean, Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 156
Date: 06/03/2016

The Wailing (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Smells Like Mean Spirits

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This horror film from South Korea quietly became one of the highest rated movies of 2016 on Rotten Tomatoes, winding up with 99% approval based on 68 reviews. It sports a daunting 156-minute running time, but once started, it establishes a fascinating rhythm that never lets up. The Wailing (2016) begins almost as a comedy as a bumbling cop Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) shows up at the scene of a gruesome murder; it seems to have been caused by a spreading sickness, possibly perpetrated (although unlikely) by mushrooms. The source of the problem seems to be a mysterious, reclusive Japanese man (Jun Kunimura).

Joon-goo finds a possible witness, a young woman, Moo-myeong (Chun Woo-hee), but she disappears. Then, his own daughter grows ill and begins behaving alarmingly. He hires a shaman (Hwang Jung-min), who begins performing rituals, but things only grow worse. Eventually, it becomes difficult to tell who is telling the truth, which forces are trying to help and which are trying to harm. But the mystery of it is deliciously exciting. Director Na Hong-jin keeps a miraculous balance between tones; it's more than just a typical horror movie. It has some monsters, ghosts, malevolent beings and spirits, and even some blood, but it's more of a mystery, and a family crisis, with moments set aside for a few chuckles, and for reflection.

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