The wailing (4 stars)

In Cinema Nova fashion of arthouse and eccentric film, a preview of director Hong-jin Na’s The Wailing (Goksung) unveils a personification of evil in a different kind of horror narrative.

Starring Jun KunimuraJeong-min HwangWoo-hee Chun, The Wailing employs archetypal horror tropes of cruel and unusual death, the haunted house, ineffective barricades against evil – even a shaman cannot dispel it, a creepy child and cannibalistic zombies. When a Japanese stranger arrives in a South Korean village and evil surrounds him, a laughing stock cop must toughen up when that same evil threatens his family.

As far as storytelling goes, horror can be an exhausted genre, and artists and producers are continually hunting ways to tap into audience curiosity by reinventing the genre. The Wailing is a somewhat appropriation of Scream in its mystery, horror and comedy blend, but that’s as far as similarity goes. No inane pretties racing screaming up the stairs of a trapping mansion

Opening scenes are parodic with laconic, dry humour. But the mood goes increasingly sombre when the audience must confront darkness in a child. Enter primitive and the obscure with shamanism, faith and mind play, twist after twist. Director Hong-jin Na reinvents the supernatural in genre hybridisation that contains a who-dun-it, exorcism and ancient tradition in an unsettling wallow in evil.

The narrative goes full circle, adds up and assuages an hitherto undecided audience dissuaded by its jesting start. In its play of anti-Japanese sentiment, this is not a film that will cure inherent cultural Korean and Japanese animosity. The alienation of a Jap stranger in a Korean village does not encourage the audience to engage with difference.

For cinematic effects and the disquiet it brings, this mystery, crime, drama horror emerged a pleasant find for the Cannes 2016 critics, and continues to be a box office pick in Korea, also stealing the spotlight in Hollywood as a foreign entry. In crossing genre, this world cinema with sub-titles is for a broad audience. Look out for its general screening at Cinema Nova.

Produced by: John Penotti

Running time: 2 hours, 36 minutes

Rating: 4 stars

Image courtesy of Pan Media & Entertainment