Tuesday, 6 December 2016

East Asia Triple Bill

In the small Korean village of Goksung there’s a strange infection spreading through the village that creates horrible boils on the body and sends people into horrific convulsions. Meanwhile there are some brutal killings taking place in the same village, and it’s suspected that a Japanese visitor is responsible for the strange going ons. Is the Japanese visitor the cause for these strange happens or is there something, more sinister, pulling the strings?

The Wailing is a possession based mystery horror film about an illness spreading through a small Korean town, initially magic mushrooms are suspected to be the cause but many are suspicious of the mystery Japanese man living just outside the town, perhaps a comment on foreigners in Korea or even Korea’s suffering at the hands of Japan's colonial past (the Korean villagers label him the ‘Jap’, a slightly derogatory term for Japanese people).

Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing is a long film, especially when many films with similar subject matter go from start to finish within 100 minutes, so much so that it becomes more of a police procedural film rather than a straight up possession based thriller as Jong-Goo (Kwak Do-won) slowly uncovers more and more about the crimes by uncovering evidence, questioning witnesses and interrogating suspects.

There’s often a sense of mystery and tension hanging in the air as the strange happenings get steadily more and more frequent, however some this tension in punctuated by jarring scenes in which lighthearted moments are thrown in among the film’s more intense sequences, it didn’t really gel well with the overall feel of the film. Where the humour does work well is when the cops bicker and banter with each other, it’s good that the cops are given a little bit of personality.

The film takes the possession sub-genre and does enough to makes its own, even if the jagged body movements are similar to 100s of other Exorcism movies such as The Exorcist (Hyo-jin’s aggressive behavior while possessed is similar to Regan's violent fits). As the film moves more into the supernatural aspect of the story things begin to be dailed up to 11 as there are bizarre but intense (due to the head crashing volume of the soundtrack) rituals intending to exorcise the invading evil spirit from the body and a superb plot point where the central character is forced to an incredible tough decision deciding who to trust with a disastrous end result in the wings if the wrong decision is made.

It’s narratively messy and doesn’t make too much logical sense but Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing is a notable addition to the huge body of work in the possession sub genre.


Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) is a bored, highschool girl living in a town in rural Japan where not much happens. One night, she wishes that she was a handsome boy in Tokyo, and the next day she wakes up as Taki (Ryunosuke_Kamiki), a handsome teenager living in Tokyo. Meanwhile Taki inhabits Mitsuha’s body and lives Mitsuha’s life in the rural Japan. To avoid messing up each other’s lives, the pair agree to leave messages on their phones to keep them up to date on what happened during the course of day. However, they suddenly stop swapping bodies and Taki must find out why.

Director Makoto Shinkai has been labelled the new Hayao Miyazaki, it’s quite a reputation to live up to considering that that Miyazaki is the most influential director in an entire genre of cinema. His films such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are highly acclaimed classics so to match a career featuring such greats films means that the pressure is on, however, if Shinkai’s films are as beautifully written and moving as Your Name then Shinkai is well on the way to becoming a fillmmaker as highly revered as Miyazaki.

Featuring some spectacular animation of comets raining down on Earth, a busy and bustling Toyko, and the stunning surroundings of Itomori, Shinkai Makoto’s highly moving film is a profoundly emotional story of young love and the experiences of teenagers growing up in very different environments. In a style similar to Freaky Friday both Mitsuha and Taki switch places, each living each other’s lives. This leads to a lot of the film’s finest comedic moments as the pair explore one another's bodies. The film's funniest running gag is Taki, as Mitsuha, often being found by Mitusuha’s sister fondling Mitsuha breasts making it appear that Mitsuha is fondling herself.

However, there’s so much more to the film that its comedic moments, instead the film’s emotionally charged story enwraps the viewer in the story of the two teenagers who find themselves deeply in love having lived each other’s lives. It’s a powerful story and whilst I would have finished the story in a different place, it probably says more about me than the quality of the film and the power of the story.


Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s first horror film of note since Pulse is an effective chiller about a retired detective (now university teacher) investigating a case, for his own interest, where an entire family (except for a young girl) vanishes. 

Following his retirement, Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishikima) and his wife, Yasuko (Yoko Takeuchi) move to a new area where the neighbours aren’t quite so friendly, and one is one is just plain weird. However, it becomes plain that this weird neighbour is more than just weird, he is potentially dangerous. 
Creepy turns out to be a suitable name for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest chiller that bares strong similarities to the American film The Gift, a film where a married couple are terrorised by a seemingly polite but manipulative man. In Creepy, Teruyuki Kagawa’s Nishino may give off a timid, awkward almost pitiful vibe but there’s certainly something off with him, and when one strange meeting, interaction or event follows another the tension increases further.

Japanese society is considered to be one of the loneliest in the world, and the lack of interaction between neighbours and apathy displayed towards the newest arrivals is rather telling. It's immediately apparent that the newest arrivals are alone in their battle with Nishino as their neighbours are apathetic to anything happening in their own neighbourhood.

Creepy is a little on the long side (it’s over 130 minutes long), and does take a while to get going following the film’s opening where the botched hostage negotiation leads to Takakura’s retirement from the force, but the tension is masterfully maintained from the point Takakura begins to seriously suspect his neighbour of very heinous crimes. The performances are uniformly excellent with Japanese character actor, Teruyuki Kagawa, delivering a highly effective performance where his character's timidness hide a dark underbelly.



  1. That middle one is Your Name, right? I've read some really good reviews about it. I hope I get the chance to see it.

    1. It is indeed. Perhaps I should title each review.

  2. I've never seen any of them... but you made them sound very interesting.

  3. I have never seen any of them however after reading your post, I am planning to see them all within this week. dissertation writing services