SK Horror Double Bill

Been a slack couple of weeks on The Fast Picture Show because real work reared its ugly head. But what better way to ease myself back into things than with a South Korean Horror double bill. Starting with ....

The Wailing (Na Hong-Jin, 2016) sees a slightly buffoonish cop (Kwak Do-won) investigating a series of vicious killings in a quiet mountain village, which he thinks might be linked to a mysterious Japanese recluse who has recently arrived in the area. Things take a distinct turn for the worse when his young daughter becomes apparently possessed by an evil spirit, leading to him to reluctantly engage the services of a shaman to get to the bottom of things. Thus it's a mash-up of police procedural and supernatural thriller; Memories of Murder meets The Exorcist. It's a mix that results in a slightly uneven film which gets a little confusing as the events unfurl, although perhaps a full understanding of the movie requires a bit more knowledge of the ancient shamanistic traditions and folklore that Na draws inspiration from. Nevertheless, even though it all goes a bit WTF? on its way to a downbeat ending, Na, who also directed the similarly dense and unsettling The Yellow Sea, certainly fashions some creepy moments and a number of blackly comic moments. If you've ever wanted to see a dead man pull a rake out of his own head, this is the film for you.

However, you'd be better off checking your timetable for a time to catch Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho, 2016), an immensely enjoyable ride which turns out to deliver much more than its 'zombies on a train' premise would suggest. A self-centred investment banker is escorting his daughter by train to meet his ex-wife, but things get quickly derailed when a mysterious infection turns most of the other passengers into blood-thirsty zombies. In the best disaster movie tradition, a small group of survivors team up in an attempt to reach safety, including a tough guy and his pregnant wife, a group of teenagers, a couple of old sisters and a splendidly hissable save-his-own-skin executive. Thus the scene is set for some exciting action and tense set-pieces, which work even better because nice performances and efficient characterisation means we become fully invested in the collective and individual fates of the group. Clearly not everyone is going to make it to the end credits, but who dies - and how - is all part of the fun and perhaps not as guessable as one might first think.  But it's not just about thrills. As with Romero's classic zombie movies, there's a slyly satirical edge here too as the cause and effect of the outbreak is used to make some pointed commentary about the global recession, class differences and anti-immigrant sentiment. And best of all, the whole thing becomes unexpectedly affecting (infecting?) by the end as some well-handled developments left me surprisingly moved by the whole thing. All in all, it's the best zombie movie in years - think of it as RailWay of the Dead.

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