The words ‘epic’ and ‘horror movie’ feel wrong together somehow. Scary movies are supposed to provide short, sharp shocks, not slow-burn drama that unfolds over two-and-a-half hours. But that’s not only the horror film rule this Korean demon-ghost-possession-cop-folklore-zombie comedy-thriller breaks. In the hands of director Na Hong-jin ‘The Wailing’ is a true one-off, at once sweet and mournful, goofy and gruesome, compellingly strange and comfortingly familiar.
Jong-Goo (Kwak Do-won) is a chubby, gutless small-town cop. He dotes on his wife and daughter, and the job comes a distant third. But when a rash of brutal murders forces him to do some actual policing, Jong-Goo realises that dark forces are at work – and that his beloved family could be in real danger.
With so much to cram in, it’s no surprise that not everything in ‘The Wailing’ quite works. A pair of late twists are clumsily handled, and there are one too many nods to classic horror movies like ‘The Exorcist’. But overall this is a stupendously entertaining movie, crammed with delights. The landscape photography is breathtaking, the performances are magnificent and a handful of scenes – like a thunderous traditional exorcism conducted by a hipster shaman with a scimitar – are completely unforgettable.