It's probably raining buckets outside and Halloween is coming up fast, so let's start off by staying home with the download of the week, one of the best horror movies of the year. The Wailing (a.k.a. Goksung) is a Korean flick that premiered at Cannes, and while it's been a huge success in Asia this summer, I didn't see it hit screens here at all. Thankfully, it's available now on iTunes.
Goksung is a tiny, rain-soaked Korean village in the mountains with one reluctant police officer suddenly thrust into dealing with murder, darkness and doubt as citizens begin acting crazy and turning on their families, including his own daughter. And it all started up around the same time that stranger rolled into town...
The Wailing clocks in at 159 minutes but writer-director Na Hong-Jin makes every minute count. What starts off looking like a (kinda stupid) bumbling-cop procedural comedy suddenly shifts gears to include elements of zombie splatterfest, demonic possessions, a mystery thriller, psychological and philosophical horror, and family melodrama (there truly is some of the longest and greatest wailing ever committed to film in this one).
And it all works. Asian horror movies often chart a different course than the jump-scare gore fests we normally get here in the West and The Wailing is another example of why being different is great. Nothing is spelled out for the audience and the characters, plot points and themes are ambiguous at best. It's like Rashomon meets The Exorcist and the pacing shouldn't work for North American sensibilities, but man, does it ever. The Wailing is the real stuff — a twisting, terrifying, white-knuckle journey to the depths of hell... in the rain.
Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon also premiered at Cannes. It's another thriller about a young model who arrives in, and soon dominates, the L.A. fashion scene. It's highly stylized and promotes mood and theme over story. It's more of a visual poem than a "movie," and that will piss off certain audiences. I greatly preferred The Wailing because stuff actually happens in it, but The Neon Demon is one of the most visually stunning flicks to come along in a while. Toss in Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, a mountain lion and a "beauty is our highest form of currency" theme that resonates throughout our culture but is rarely addressed and, well, I guess it's not that bad for an art film. Also available on iTunes.
At the illustrious Village 8 cinemas, The Accountant opens this week. There were no press screenings but from what I can gather it's Ben Affleck starring as some sort of autistic-savant genius accountant who counts beans and crunches numbers for some of the world's most notorious criminals. But as the government closes in (so maybe not so genius after all, eh Ben?) he winds up with a mysterious new client, a perky sidekick (Anna Kendrick) and more trouble than any accountant ever wants to deal with, even one who can shoot guns and kick people in the throat.
Or something. It sounds like a Jason Statham movie (he does star in The Mechanic so why not?) or a knockoff, slightly more pretentious Jason Bourne (Is Affleck aping his best bud Matt Damon now?), but the cast, Kendrick along with John Lithgow, J.K. Simmons and Jeffrey Tambor, suggests a higher level of artistry. Plus, The Accountant is directed by Gavin O'Connor, the dude who made Warrior. If he can make me empathize with and totally dig an ultimate fighting movie, why can't he do the same for accountants?
In other news, earlier this week the BBC dropped a trailer for Season 2 of their bar-setting nature show Planet Earth, and announced that the six-episode series will start later this month. Who knows when they will hit us on this side of the pond, but get stoked. David Attenborough returns as the narrator which means there will soon be six perfect new ways to fall asleep on the couch when you're hungover (and you learn stuff while you doze!).