Movie: **** 1/2
Video: **** 1/2
Article first published on Blogcritics.org
If there’s one genre finally getting a little more brains, it’s horror.
While not all of them can come out winners, it’s about time the genre
became respectable again. Horror films aren’t all exactly the same,
there are even fewer close to what The Wailing has to offer. Director Na Hong-jin
has crafted an epic (156 minutes) yarn that smoothly careens through
several genre tropes with ease. You never know what to expect as a quiet
village is overwhelmed with mysterious deaths and illnesses. Along with
stars Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Jun Kunimara, Woo-hee Chun, and the young Kim Hwan-hee, they deliver one of the year’s best horror films, if not one of the best of the year.
Well Go USA has done a masterful job bringing The Wailing to
Blu-ray. Considering it’s length, the 50GB disc was a wise choice. The
picture at times — captured on Arri digital cameras, at least as far as
the end credits indicate — is gorgeous. Every detail is razor sharp,
with a great amount of shadow delineation. Crush is never an issue, even
if at times the blacks are never as dark as they could be. It’s a good
thing here though, as you can always see what’s going on, no matter how
much you might not want to at times. I did catch a few seconds of
fleeting banding in one of the earlier scenes, but it never rears its
Greens are extra lush while blood reds are dark and shiny, no blooming
or bleeding here. The Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track could have
been a little better. Once you get the volume adjusted, dialogue and
sound effects are never drowned out by the score. It’s just a shame the
mix is as front heavy as it is. Prioritization is always spot on when
needed, and bass gets a good workout when the Shaman performs his
exorcism ceremony. But it also holds the film back from being more
terrifying. I can imagine how much scarier this would be in a theater.
There is no additional audio tracks, but English subtitles are
Considering how good the film is, it’s a shame the special features are so scant. “The Beginning of The Wailing”
(1:51) is a quick EPK with the director and cast discussing how much
they wanted to be involved with the production. It was nice to hear
Hong-jin mention that he wanted to build on different genres’ strengths
to diminish their weaknesses, because that’s exactly what he does.
“Making Of” (4:56) concretes that the director set out to make a very
stylized slow burn and discusses how long it took to shoot the film.
Shooting on-location, they had to literally carry the rain machines with
them through the mountains, along with battling the weather. We also
learn it took days to film some scenes, and a total of 18 months — six
months of production and 12 months of pre-production — to complete the
project. The film’s trailer (1:54) rounds things out. The disc also
comes front-loaded with previews for Train to Busan, Kill Your Friends, and Black Coal, Thin Ice.
Horror fans — especially those of the exemplary foreign market — will find a lot to love with The Wailing.
At first they may not be sure exactly what it is they’re watching as
the tones shift around so quickly. But the film stands as far more than
the sum of its parts. Featuring stellar video, the best advice would be
to make sure you have enough time on your hands and sit back and enjoy
the ride. The Wailing is one you won’t soon forget.