Sunday, January 22, 2017

"The Wailing \ Goksung (2016)"

-a film review by CatsMando

"See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." -Luke 24:37-39

    Been a while I've seen a film that really delves deep into the supernatural. Maybe it's because of the fact that this isn't an American film. I often feel American horror films have this urge to try and make sense of things at the end, no matter how otherworldly it gets. And yeah it's good when they work, I got no qualms with the approach. I'm just saying, this film makes a point that sometimes, it's okay to be confused, to be thoroughly afraid of the senselessness, frustrated with the unknowable. Because some horrors simply relish in such chaos and senselessness.

    It's a police investigation-horror film, sometimes funny, sometimes unsettling, always entertaining. The story at times is a bit loose on parts, but it's held strong by its overall theme/point. It's a pleasant surprise to know that with this and Train to Busan, South Korea proved it could dish out horror flicks of such caliber.

    To give a bit of the story, frightening things starts to occur at some small town. Grisly murders and suicides performed by suddenly-crazed individuals. Weird sightings deep in the residing forest. And some mysterious sickness plaguing various homes. Confusion starts to envelop the townsfolk, and rumors and unconfirmed tales starts to spread, thoroughly overwhelming the local police force in their investigations. Our main point-of-view and protagonist is town police Jong-goo. A proper every-man just contented on passing days being a good father. Not great, as evident in early scenes, but it's clear he's trying. As he's roped deep into the investigations, it's slowly becoming apparent that the horrors are starting to inch towards his direction.

    ...this is a difficult film to summarize, lest I accidentally spoil something. It's just better for me to say it's that good and just watch it. The story is very interesting and well-delivered. It's so easy to fall through and go through with, even at it's two and a half hour running time.

    So okay, jumping into the technical stuffs. First off, in case it isn't obvious enough with the given sample images, the cinematography is great. There are no convoluted shots like shaky-cam panic scenes, quick cuts, and obnoxious color corrections. Well there are some color manipulation, I doubt any film today wouldn't go trough one, but here the only time I'd noticed it is in some darker scenes. Most of the time the color compositions feels natural. It's a weird statement to say, I know. But yeah, for a horror film, it's just pleasant to the eyes.

       The cast are great. Reminding me of "Hell or High Water", it pulled off the "make everyone interesting" card because it seem to understand, it gotta sell the town's vibe. The whole town's sense of panic won't be really felt if the only characters we could relate to in the end are only, like, three. The various townsfolk telltale-ing and rumor-spreading are interesting. It's a noteworthy move that the film makes these lore-building moment our respite and its levity. So by the time something unsettling occurs, we're not tired and we're, in some ways, informed.

    But for my personal pinpoints, Kwak Do-won(Jong-goo) pulled the whole vibe of the film off. Pretty much carries the brunt of the film's emotions(as he is the lead character after all) and he did it. He does crazy stuff, but you always understand his motivations, emotions, and desperation. Hwang Jung-min(Il-Gwang) is a standout. As his character's a tad ridiculous, it's a feat he managed to turn it into something charismatic. Chun Woo-hee(Moo-myeong) and Jun Kunimura(Japanese stranger) are great as the two characters playing tug-of-war with the word "ambiguity". And Kim Hwan-hee(Hyo-jin), is back-and-forth with adorable-frightening, interesting character despite being the film's designated 'obvious trope'.

    My only gripe here is that while the story is interesting, it does admittedly go in illogical heights(structure and  plot-wise), just to sell the climactic "are they, aren't they?!!" struggle in the end. IT IS interesting and it does have a point that I get, mind you. It's just that, it feels a bit convoluted even by it's own mark there.

     But as I say again, it is actually the film's main point. Sometimes, something truly fucked-up happens. Sometimes, it doesn't make sense. Sometimes, it is what it is, an undecipherable moment in an individual's life. And it is something that we must learn to respect, and to accept, or else we will fall into it and go mad in the end. "The Wailing" is a very good horror film, it is in ways cryptic because, hell, that's how evil works best.

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