Thursday, 14 July 2016

REVIEW - THE WAILING (NA HONG JIN)


What good is fantasy if it is not rooted in reality? After all, those most potent fantasies, those dreamt up in daydreams, are rooted in the reality of the human experience, ever tethered to the universe as we perceive it. The Wailing thus anchors its absurdities in a world quite unknown to the vast majority of viewers - a rural valley in South Korea - yet wholly knowable. It's a world of banal concerns and trivialities, intruded upon by unthinkable terrors; The Wailing is a work of comedy and tragedy alike, action thriller, psychological thriller, dramatic thriller - always thrilling. Na Hong Jin devises supernatural scares, unnatural occurrences, presented as natural. The film is thus insidiously frightening, imprinting images whose impact is not extended, rather it is delayed - Na is an unusually straightforward stylist, and eschews showiness in favour of an economical, narrative-centred approach to storytelling. The result is a film that doesn't assault you but coaxes you, lures you in. There's seduction to its suggestions, always kept tantalizingly at bay by scepticism that is entirely encouraged; there's subtle power to its sights and sounds, a power that doesn't assert itself on first viewing, as one focuses on taking it all in. Instead, it builds in the memory over time, accumulating chilling strength as the horrible heft of Na's narrative conceit only settles further, refusing to subside. Accordingly, The Wailing comes not to a frenzied crescendo but to an eerie diminuendo, its outlook narrowing, its editing slowing (amid an outstanding cross-cut sequence), its soundtrack softening, its terror intensifying. Aided by a fine sound mix and a selection of magnificent performances from his cast, Na has made a most singular, successful horror movie.