the wailing remake

You should go watch The Wailing.

Unless subtitles make your eyes bleed and you hate terrifying movies, you have no excuse. Na Hong-jin‘s sprawling horror epic is currently streaming on Netflix, so wait until it gets dark outside, make yourself a snack, carve out 156 minutes, and hit play. Because man, this movie is something else. I’m not even sure how to begin to describe it, but I feel confident that it’s a movie that could only be set in South Korea and made by South Korean filmmakers.

In other news, it’s currently being considered for an American remake. Huh.

Interestingly enough, the folks currently in negotiations with Ridley Scott‘s Scott Free Productions seem to agree that a Western remake may not be the wisest move. Kim Ho-sung, the head of Fox International Production Korea and a producer on the film, revealed Scott Free’s interest to Screen Daily, noting that a remake wouldn’t be easy that they should just go ahead and hire the original director:

They said The Wailing reminded them of films such as The Exorcist, The Ring and Seven. The locality and sensibility of The Wailing is so strong that I don’t think it would be easy to do a Western remake, and it will be important who directs it. So I told him I think the only director who could do the remake is Na Hong-jin. But we are still in early stages of talks. […] We’re being careful. As you know, there are a lot of remakes out there being developed [that haven’t come to fruition].

There are two reasons The Wailing would a tough nut to crack for non-Korean filmmakers. First of all, the rural South Korean setting is vital the film’s plot and atmosphere. In fact, the beliefs and ideals of the small town where the film takes place are so intrinsically tied to the plot of the film that to take it elsewhere would require some dramatic reworking. Kim himself points out how his nation’s religious diversity is vital to the film, noting how “you see not a Korean Buddhist monk, but a Japanese monk type of person, a shaman, Christianity, Catholicism, and diverse pagan and occult beliefs.” When The Wailing does tap into some familiar horror territory, the various, often conflicting beliefs of those involved inject all kinds of new life into the film.

The second reason is that The Wailing is such a South Korean film in structure and tone, adhering to none of the usual rules you see applied to American horror movies. It’s unashamedly long and takes its time, going where it needs to go at its own pace. And what begins as a Fargo-esque police procedural about dim-witted small town cops dealing with a string of brutal murders soon evolves into a supernatural thriller and a demonic possession movie before transforming into a complex puzzle box that goes out of its way to make you question every single thing you’ve seen before. To adapt The Wailing as it exists would involve burning the very structure of a traditional western movie to the ground. It’s why the movie is so great and it’s also why a remake seems so strange.

So, does this mean we’ll be getting a 90-minute, simplified and straightforward version of The Wailing in a few years? Hopefully not. Go watch The Wailing.

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