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Review: The Wailing

Watched The Wailing on Netflix. For most of its two-and-a-half-hour running time, it’s a gorgeously photographed, atmospheric thriller. Unfortunately, it packs one shocking revelation too many into its last ten minutes.

This wouldn’t be too glaring a flaw on its own, but it’s difficult to reconcile the climactic twist with a few of the earlier scenes. Even if you manage to rationalize every apparent discrepancy and inconsistency, it doesn’t change the fact that the movie flat out lies to the viewer at several points. And unlike the playful audience misdirection in The Handmaiden (which has the benefit of being narratively justified and building up to a deeply cathartic payoff), The Wailing’s deception feels plain mean-spirited, culminating in a gut-punch of an ending that, quite frankly, comes off as shallow. 

Which is a shame: the film actually asks some genuinely compelling moral questions (particularly regarding the practice of blaming societal ills on outsiders). I just wish that the filmmakers had provided equally satisfying answers.

[Originally written August 19, 2017.]

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