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South Korea strikes again

OUT NOW! South Korean Na Hong-jin's supernatural horror THE WAILING splatters blood and ramps up the suspense with devilish mastery in another hit for the country this year.

The arrival of a Japanese man in a small, remote Korean village coincides with the outbreak of a mysterious malady, which sends its victims into a rabid homicidal rage, emitting a blood-curdling wail. Bumbling local policeman Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) is sent to the scene of the crime, where he finds a murderer in a catatonic state, covered in boils, having slashed his family to death. Battling with either psychotropic mushrooms or xenophobic scapegoating as case-closers, things quickly change for Jong-goo when his daughter Hyo-jin (a terrific Kim Hwan-hee) starts showing symptoms of the illness…

Na Hong-jin’s supernatural horror thriller is structured like a slow-burning procedural and is all the better for it, ramping up the suspense with devilish mastery. The filmmaker undoubtedly tries to fit a lot into the sprawling 156-minute runtime but succeeds, due in large part to Hong Kyung-pyo’s unsettling photography, a few humorous beats, and his refusal to diffuse the tension with cheap scares. Instead, and unlike most mainstream Western horror movies, Na Hong-jin takes his time and mimics the illness by infecting the viewer with a feverish sense of dread. It’s only when the climax’s haunting punch lands that you realise the film’s epic, delayed and nerve-shredding effect. And as your myelin sheaths recover, you may come to the realisation that in matters of genre cinema, South Korea has not only had a banner year (The Handmaiden, Train To Busan, The Villainess and now The Wailing) but the country’s films are increasingly in a league of their own.

The Wailing | Directed by Na Hong-jin (South Korea 2016), with Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Kim Hwan-hee. Starts Oct 12.

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