I saw this one a few days ago. I decided to wait a bit before posting my review to give it all a little time to percolate in my mind, so that I might figure out exactly what the hell it was about, so that I might understand it. Well, I waited. And I still don’t understand it. The movie, despite some topnotch acting and stylish direction, simply makes no sense.
Is the stranger in the small town in Korea a vampire? (He is described at one point as a blood-drinking ghost.) Or is he something even worse? Maybe he’s a red herring, and the mysterious woman always seen lurking is the real threat? I couldn’t really tell you. Things are explained at the end of the movie, yes, but the explanations don’t work, based on what we’ve seen up to that point. It almost feels like the writer decided right at the end to change his original idea. The ending of the movie does not fit the rest of the movie.
I’m not even gonna worry about a SPOILER WARNING at this point. The movie reveals that the man is in reality the Devil—and this doesn’t work, given everything we’ve been shown prior to the big reveal. If the exorcist character and the Devil were in on the scheme together, as the ending tells us, why does the one spend almost the entire movie trying to thwart the other, and why does the Devil try to kill the exorcist at one point?
It seems to me that writer/director Na Hong-jin was going for a Shyamalan-esque twist ending. But such twist endings have to be properly set-up or you end up with—well, you end up with a film like THE WAILING. It’s disappointing because I really wanted to like this one, and parts of it are so good.