spirit

The Wailing

A strange Japanese man arrives at a small village in South Korea. Soon after, people begin to go mad and kill their families. A local cop is assigned to these strange cases. His own daughter eventually starts to exhibit the same symptoms as the others who went mad. With the help of his friends, a priest and a shaman, the cop does whatever he can to stop the Japanese stranger from harming his daughter, or anyone else in town.

The Wailing is the second great Korean horror film I have seen this year. Similarly to Train to Busan, the focus of this film is the relationship between a father and his young daughter. Once the daughter is thrown into peril we see the father grow as a person and try to rescue her. The father adds a comedic aspect to the beginning of the film up until the point when his daughter gets sick. From there the film takes a more serious turn. It also does an interesting job of blending different types of mythology. There are satanic rituals, shamanism, ghosts and spirits, a zombie-like illness, and possession. The filmmakers expertly weave all of these aspects together into a chilling, and often times humorous, story. The only issue I had with the plot is that the ending felt a bit convoluted. It seems like the filmmakers are trying to insert too many twists and turns to the point where the audience is left with one too many questions.

This film has multiple amazing performances that lure the audience into the story. One standout is Do-wan Kwak (The Berlin File) as the cop and father, Jong-Goo. The fact that his portrayal of Jong-Goo shows him as a rather dopey and fearful cop who finds his strength when his daughter is in danger feels natural and compelling. Do-wan Kwak manages to make me laugh and make me feel compassion for Jong-Goo and his family. I also love Jun Kunimura (Kill Bill: Vo. 1 and 2) as the stranger. He doesn’t have many speaking scenes until later in the film, but it is hard not to feel his presence. With just a stare, Kunimura is able to send chills down my spine and add to the unsettling ambience of the film.

The effects of this film are subtle, which works well with the story. The infected people first get strange rashes. These rashes eventually cover the whole body, and the eyes of the infected turn white before they become violent. The rashes are grotesque and very well done. One scene involves an infected person having a convulsive fit that results in a bone protruding from the skin. It is disgusting, but also beautiful in how they are able to achieve it with the practical effects. There is another scene at the climax of the film that involves a different kind of transformation. This one I can’t get into too much detail for, but it is one of the most unnerving scenes in the entire film.

While The Wailing isn’t my favorite Korean horror film I have seen this year, it is definitely a memorable one. It has a unique and intricate plot that will keep you hooked through to the end, which is impressive considering it is over two and a half hours long. While the climax does get a bit tangled and confused, it still makes for a riveting mystery. This is another film to add to the rather long list of great foreign films that have come out in the past year. It will appeal to a multitude of horror fans and non-horror fans alike.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

Sinister 2

After the horrific murder of the true crime writer, Ellison Oswalt, and Oswalt’s family, Ex-Deputy So & So decides to pick up the investigation. He begins to follow the pattern in which the Bughuul finds its victims. This pattern leads him to a house that he intended to burn to the ground, only to arrive to find a single mother with her twin boys living in the house. The ex-deputy must race against the clock. If he isn’t able to break the pattern then this unsuspecting family will be doomed.

When the first Sinister film came out, I thought it looked pretty lame. Then I saw it and I had to sleep with the light on that night. After seeing the first trailer for Sinister 2, I got excited, mostly because it looked like they were going to add to the mythology of the Bughuul. It is my personal opinion that horror sequels are pointless unless they add to the mythology of the franchise in some way. While this addition to the franchise did add some to the mythology, it was quite a failure in most other aspects.

The best aspect of this story line was was the investigative side. Learning more about how the Bughuul finds its victims was very interesting, although I do wish they had gone a bit more into the Bughuul’s origins as well (it was only briefly touched on in the first film). Sadly, there wasn’t much else that I liked about the story. The murders of the previous families in this film were kind of ridiculous. It felt like the filmmakers were trying to come up with more elaborate deaths to compete with the first film, but they went way over the top. They just didn’t seem as believable. There were also several aspects of the plot that appeared to just be thrown in and were not relevant to the story (such as a random romantic aspect and an abusive ex-husband).

Another major flaw with this film was that it was not even remotely scary. The first film was terrifying. This installment tried so hard to be scary, but it just fell flat. One major reason for the lack of scares was that everything that was supposed to instill fear was to visible. The creepy kids from the previous murders were out and in your face so often that they were no longer really that creepy. As for the Bughuul, it was much of the same issue. In the first film you only caught glimpses of this evil being. In this film, it seemed like everywhere you look the Bughuul was there. It is Horror Films 101 that the big evil should be primarily in the shadows in order to maintain its fearsome appeal. He popped out so often that you never truly feared seeing the Bughuul, so the general reaction become “Oh, there’s that Bughuul guy again.”

As for the acting, I’d say half the cast did a great job and the other half was a bit lackluster. James Ransone (Sinister, Oldboy) did a great job of reprising his role as the deputy who assisted Oswalt in the first film. What I especially enjoyed was that there was a clear evolution in his character from the first film to the second. He was still quite goofy in both films, but the second film showed Ex-Deputy So & So with a weight on his shoulders and clearly more weary with the knowledge he carries. Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale) played the mother who unknowingly moved into a house marked for death. While there was nothing necessarily bad about her acting, she did have a fake Southern accent that was more distracting than it should have been. The twins were played by real-life siblings, Robert Daniel Sloan (Hero of the Day) and Dartanian Sloan (Hick). Robert Daniel played Dylan, the twin who is constantly haunted by the previous victims of the Bughuul. He did a great job of portraying the kinder, seemingly weaker of the twins who really wants nothing to do with the old “home movies.” Dartanian unfortunately was slightly less believable. His character was definitely a bit of a sociopath, which Dartanian portrayed well, but there were many times where it felt like his acting was too exaggerated.

I wouldn’t say this film was horrible. It had the potential to be as good as the first film, but the filmmakers made unfortunate choices that diluted the main story line and overexposed everything that was supposed to be scary. If it wasn’t for Ransone’s part in the film, I probably would tell you this film wasn’t even worth watching, especially since the last 2 minutes of the film left me baffled and very unsatisfied. If you enjoyed his character in the first film, then I would recommend giving Sinister 2 a chance. Just be warned, this film will likely leave you scratching your head and jonesing for the scares that you expected but didn’t get.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10