The Wailing | Chicago Reader

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156 minutes · 2016

Drama, Horror, Mystery
When the small South Korean town of Goksung (translation: "Wailing") is struck by a mysterious disease that turns villagers into crazed, zombie-like killers, a local cop (Kwak Do-won) investigates a Japanese stranger (Jun Kunimura of Kill Bill) to whom all signs of evil point. Writer-director Na Hong-Jin (The Yellow Sea) suggests that the town's seemingly collective xenophobia is misguided but then confirms it is not, which gives this otherwise ingenious probe of religion and superstition an unfortunate taint of isolationist propaganda. Still, the film justifies its epic length, meshing ancient east Asian mythology and rituals (village gods, exorcisms by shamans) with more recognizable horror tropes (demonic possession, zombification, the devil represented by a black dog and rams' heads) in a way that feels novel and unpredictable. The actors are uniformly strong; as the policeman's young daughter, Kim Hwan-hee rivals Linda Blair in The Exorcist. In Korean and Japanese with subtitles.

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