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Korean horror film “The Wailing” raises potential remake discussions!

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Since Gore Verbinski helmed an American remake of RINGU in 2002, Western audiences have become more affectionate toward Asia as an outlet for their fix of genre cinema. Look no further than the good will bestowed upon director Joon Ho Bong – who helmed THE HOST, MOTHER, and I SAW THE DEVIL – by horror hounds as proof. But not since the early 2000’s J-Horror boom, has a year been so important to the Eastern market as 2016, with the arrival of both TRAIN TO BUSAN and THE WAILING blowing Western critics and audiences away.

Earlier this year, whilst all eyes were on TRAIN TO BUSAN as American movie studios circled, engaging in a bidding war for the movie rights in order to produce an English-language remake. Ridley Scott swooped in and nabbed the license to Na Hong-jin’s, THE WAILING seemingly, without contest. Understandably, astute world-cinema fans bemoaned the news, but is it possible an American remake might just work?

Both penned and directed by South Korean genre cognoscente Na Hong-jin (THE CHASER, THE YELLOW SEA), THE WAILING is a testing multi-layered 156-minute horror medley. Focusing on a small town named Gok-seong, the movie tells the story of specters battling over the towns soul in increasingly operatic scenarios, culminating in a mesmerizing final crescendo.

Like many Eastern genre movies, THE WAILING brightly spotlights spiritual themes and ancient shamanistic cultures as it evolves toward it’s celestial and primal strokes. At the same time there is also a heavy undercurrent focusing on terrorism at home, interjected with hues of civil war, neocolonialism and the accompanying social anxieties, not dissimilar from the past-ghosts of the West. Inaugurating as a captivating murder mystery, THE WAILING uses many of the same suspense beats as the celebrated Alfred Hitchcock. An exorcism centerpiece proves to be the movie’s microcosm, in that it’s a premise Western audience are all too familiar within horror-cinema, yet it boasts a fresh Eastern inkling.

The choral climax throws our protagonist into an whirlwind of distrust as the apparitional-trifecta each claim to be a liberator from the others demonic shackles. Their Christian-inspired claim is that if you believe them “you will be saved”. Again, a connotation influenced by a creed predominately practiced in the West. Despite being immersed in ancient Asian superstitions, THE WAILING shows a community at sea and at odds with itself, a theme that can resonate with not just the United States but much of Europe right now.

On a surface level, the movies straight forward scares have the potential to terrify Western audiences due to their alien nature (no fake jump scares here). But it’s the films weightier themes that are truly terrifying and all too familiar to modern day Western civilization, making it possible that the film could ingrain itself within West’s psyche. After all, a strong theme of the movie is the trinity of faith, doubt and confusion – ultimately stating that when people are misguided they cannot decode truth from destructive lies.

A lot works against THE WAILING as a big studio American horror movie, it is of course much more than a typical ghost story. But if handled right, it could be another masterpiece that acts as a gateway for a broader audience. Undoubtedly, it’s a project that demands a strong director to command the film, one whom could competently grasp both its small nuances and huge set pieces throughout it’s mammoth three hour run-time. But if the studio found that elusive director, it might just work.

About the author
Jay Hunter
Jay Hunter is a 26 year old award nominated writer from England and experienced defender of horror.
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