Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

K – Horror

Lately I’ve been going down the Korean cinema rabbit hole, and I haven’t seen a bad movie yet. “Oldboy” (2005, written and directed by Chan-wook Park) was one of the first Korean films I saw and I was absolutely transfixed. I am fascinated by seeing stories told through lens of another culture, and Korean culture has a very specific and endearing humanistic element to it. Since ground zero of my film obsession starts with horror, that’s where my focus has been. And I have not been disappointed.

In the last week I watched “The Wailing” (2016, written and directed by Hong-jin Na) and “Train to Busan” (2016, written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon) and both of these films were absolutely stunning. “The Wailing” is really a masterpiece that is pretty much impossible to describe with western film as a reference, but you are drawn in to the story from the first frame. You immediately realize this is the work of a master – don’t try to understand everything that is happening – just submit to the experience. What a glorious and mysterious experience it is, not unlike life itself.

“Train to Busan” seems at first to be an interesting and entertaining Korean take on the zombie genre, but develops into something much, much more. It is a story about the frailty of human nature, weakness and redemption, love and sacrifice – and it features an astonishing performance by a child actress. All of this is beautifully framed against the now familiar backdrop of the apocalypse. But the horror isn’t focused on the zombies, rather it is about how weak and imperfect humans desperately try to cope and survive. In this sense, it traces a strong lineage back to George A. Romero’s vision of how humans behave when confronted by an existential threat. There are scenes in this film where I was moved to tears…

For the last 30 years I always thought it was a missed opportunity for cable not to offer a horror channel. Well, that never happened, but today we have “Shudder” – a streaming service that costs about five bucks a month and offers horror movies from around the world. A treasure trove for the horror fanatic. They’re not all winners, but these two films are a great example of just how good international cinema can be. That is to say, as good as it gets…