Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
THE WAILING (2016)aka GOKSUNG
Directed by Hong-jin Na
Written by Hong-jin Na
Starring Do Won Kwak, Woo-hee Chun, Jeong-min Hwang, Han-Cheol Jo, So-yeon Jang, & Jun Kunimura as The Stranger!
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
I’ve heard the world a tour de force used in terms of films and I guess that means a myriad of emotions are tugged and jostled leaving the film somewhat uncategorizable in terms of what specific type of genre it rests in. If that’s the case, THE WAILING is such a film as it is equal parts drama, comedy, tragedy, horror, and police procedural. And the sum of these parts makes it one of the most engaging and harrowing films you’re going to see this year.
Do Won Kwak plays Jong-Goo, a loving father, dutiful husband, but a bumbling police officer. When a string of seemingly random acts of violence plague the small village he lives in, it is only Jong-Goo who sees the connections between them and follows the trail to the shack of a mysterious Japanese man living in the hills outside of town. This stranger (Jun Kunimura) has very little to say, but the secret rooms in his shack indicate some kind of black magic going on. This black magic seems to follow Jong-Goo home and possesses his little daughter. Seeking the aid of a shaman (Jeong-min Hwang), Jong-Goo begins a harrowing journey to save the life of his daughter from the clutches of evil spirits that are invading his small village and his own home.
What I absolutely love about this film is the seemingly seamless transition Jong-Goo makes from clumsy policeman to desperate father through the course of this story. THE WAILING is a long one—clocking in at about two and a half hours, but this gives the characters a chance to really evolve and show multiple sides of their characters. The film starts out comical as Jong-Goo stumbles through investigations, screams like a little girl at the creepy shit that is going on, and takes part in almost slapstick scenes where he attempts to take on these evil spirits. Do Won Kwak is the perfect actor to play this because he is somewhat pudgy and not your typical leading man material, but his love for his daughter allows the viewer to really get to know and like him beyond his comical stumblings. So when Jong-Goo’s family is threatened and he ventures into darker and darker territory, you’re with him 100%. When things get dire, this closeness you feel to his character really carries weight.
I also loved the way this film twisted and turned your expectations from beginning to end. Hollywood films dumb down their stories to reflect simply one style or genre. THE WAILING is many all wrapped up into one. There are moments of sheer tension as Jong-Goo unravels this mystery. There are moments of cultural beauty and oddity as we are made witness to a shamanistic exorcism performed to save the life of Jong-Goo’s daughter. There is even thematic heft involving mistrust for those from outside one’s own culture as the South Korean police immediately peg the strange Japanese man in the woods as the culprit. And the humor works as well as I laughed out loud at some of the scenes where Jong-Goo reacts at the sight of a supernatural creature (one specific sequence where a zombie like creature appears out of the woods and a group of villagers comically attempt to battle it with shovels and rakes comes to mind). And there are moments of sheer terror as the stakes are risen to biblical levels by the end of this thing with not only the life of Jong-Goo’s family at stake, but possibly the entire world. All of these elements fit together perfectly without a moment of awkward transition.
I can’t recommend this South Korean masterpiece more as it tugs on heartstrings and then rips them out with fiendish glee. It will make you laugh and shriek. Those who don’t enjoy international cinema are missing out on some amazing horror these days as this is where the real risks are taken. THE WAILING is a rollercoaster of a film. It’s long and complex. It’s equal parts heartwarming and wrenching as the story goes on. It firmly embraces the realm of horror, but does so in a way that doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence. THE WAILING is one urban ghost story that is worth seeking out with fantastic performances, surreally beautiful culture, and absolutely riveting moments of sheer terror.
#13 – THE WAILING
#14 – THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE
#15 – DEATHGASM
#16 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
#17 – DER BUNKER
#18 – HUSH
#19 – HOLIDAYS
#20– CARNAGE PARK
#21 – THE CONJURING 2
#22 – THE MIND’S EYE
#23 – DARLING
#24 – SUN CHOKE
#25 – THE HALLOWS
#26 – OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
A quick plug for my own work. I have a new comic book coming out this December called THE JUNGLE BOOK HOLIDAY SPECIAL: BAGHEERA’S SECRET. It’s a one shot reteaming my original JUNGLE BOOK artist Carlos Granda and myself (the same team who created PIROUETTE) and it is available to order now via Previews order# OCT162113. I’m getting pages of this book by the day and this book looks absolutely amazing so far. Fans of jungle adventure are going to love it! Please support me by telling your local comic book store to order tons of issues of this comic! Much appreciated, folks.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!
Finally, if you’re having problems with the texts going over the image in this article, refresh the screen and that should do the trick!