31 Days, 31 Horror Movies Catch-up: ‘The Wailing’ and ‘Short Night of Glass Dolls’

It seems like every time I’ve done 31 Days in the past I’ve ended up having to do a couple of shorter reviews, just to get caught up. This year is no exception and I feel bad for the two films catching the short end of the stick this time around, as they’re both really good films, worthy of a little more in-depth writing.

The Wailing
I’ve avoided watching The Wailing in the past, despite having it recommended to me several times, purely because of the running time. At just over 2 1/2 hours it’s one of the longer horror movies available on Netflix at the moment, and lately I’ve found myself with two hours or less for movie viewing at the end of the day. (Unless I want to get LESS sleep, which is already an issue I struggle with.) So while I’ve even gone so far as to start the movie a couple of times, I’ve never actually seen more than 10 minutes of it.

I’d been thinking that I hadn’t watched an J or K horror this year, though, and with a bit more time than expected I decided to go ahead and jump in.

The Medium
Streaming, but on Netflix this time.

The Movie
Jong-goo is a cop in rural South Korea. He’s called to a murder, the first of what is essentially an outbreak of murder virus. People get sick, develop sores, then get more extreme symptoms, like murdering their whole family and stuffing them down a well.

Rumors fly that it has something to do with that older Japanese fella that just moved into the outskirts of town. He’s weird, and there are funny stories about him eating animals in the woods, and did I mention he’s Japanese? Certainly that weird young lady throwing rocks near the most recent crime scene has mentioned him.

“Did I mention the Japanese guy?” “Yes, yes you did.”

 

So Jong-goo and his partner and his partner’s nephew (who is a Deacon at the local church and who speaks Japanese) head on up into the woods to speak with the stranger, who isn’t very forthcoming.

Soon afterward Hyo-jin becomes ill with the same disease that has driven others in the village to murder. Jong-goo is a rational man, but his daughter’s illness forces him to resort to less and less rational acts. There’s a hospital, an exorcism and eventually a brutal attack on the man he’s come to believe is the source of the disease.

So, man, this is a bit of a ride. It’s a long and slow ride, but there’s lots to see on the way from ‘strange murders’ to ‘full on Death Curse ceremony’ and ‘demonic possession.’ I’m still not sure if the film needed to be as long as it is, but I’ll admit that it made Jong-goo’s increasing fear and desperation more believable. I also very much liked how things ended up. I’m not going to spoil much, but these kind of movies often turn on the ‘who or what is really responsible for events’ question, and I honestly didn’t see the answer to that question.

That is some serious dry-eye you got going, buddy.

 

The Bottom Line
Part murder mystery, part Exorcist-inspired family horror, part South Korean folk-fable, The Wailing has more atmosphere than scares, but it’s a ride worth taking.

 

Short Night of Glass Dolls
I’m still exploring the giallo genre. I’ve seen a handful – mostly Bava, Argento and Fulci films. I keep meaning to watch more. Last year I watched Cattet and Forzani’s The Strange Color of your Body’s Tears, a 2013 film that was a little like taking a concentrated dose of pure giallo. (I liked it, even though it ended up feeling like too much of a good thing – like sucking on a bouillon cube of giallo.) It burnt me out a bit and I only recently turned back to looking for new films to watch.

The Medium
Shudder has a few giallos – including Black Belly of the Tarantula and Blood and Black Lace. And this one, which I had never heard of before. I basically chose it because of the title – which, as far as I can tell, has almost nothing to do with the movie. As it should be for a giallo.

The Movie
The Short Night of Glass Dolls starts with a body, found in a park. So far so good – it’s usually either a body or a murder that seems to set things off in your traditional giallos. For a change the corpse is that of a man – Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel) – instead of a woman. The body is brought to the local morgue where he’s identified and then swiftly set aside as a probably heart attack.

Except that Gregory is not dead. Or is he? Even he is not certain of his state, but what IS for certain is that he cannot move or feel, nor can he remember how he got this way.

“I can still smell the onions on your breath from lunch, though.”

 

At this point I’m sold. It takes some ingenuity to make a dead guy your main character (no, Weekend at Bernie’s does not count). I figured any director willing to go with that concept probably had more interesting things up their sleeve, and Aldo Lado does not disappoint.

Set in Cold War Prague, Glass Dolls inspires paranoia in both the characters and us. Gregory is a journalist – a foreign press journalist – and so supposedly free from interference from authorities. When his girlfriend goes missing, however, Gregory finds out just how limited his freedom really is. Everything seems connected and there are echoes of cold war spy thrillers in twists and double crosses.

Why yes, that is Barbara Bach as Mysterious Girlfriend.

 

And in between each flashback, just when we get a little clearer about what’s really going on, Gregory’s body gets closer and closer to that date with the scalpel.

I can safely say that I really did not see the end coming and the journey was weird and convoluted enough that I immediately felt like I needed to see it again.

The Bottom Line
Short Night of Glass Dolls is a great, weird little film! Bring on more giallos!