Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Wailing (2016)

 Hong-Jin Na

 Hong-Jin Na


Do-Won Kwak
Woo-Hee Chun
Jung-Min Hwang
Hwan-Hee Kim
Jun Kunimura
So-Yeon Jang
Han-Cheol Jo


Jong-Goo is a police detective who is awoken one morning by a phone call. There has been a brutal murder that's happened in the small village of Goksung in South Korea. As Jong-Goo delves deeper into the investigation, he starts to believe that the cause may be a mysterious disease. As more bodies start piling up, Jong-Goo starts thinking that a mysterious Japanese stranger who lives in the woods that surrounds the small village may be responsible for the growing death toll.

Coming out of The Wailing after my first viewing. I think this is a film that will require multiple viewings just to take it all in and fully absorb and grasp all of the themes we are presented with here in the story. I'm not going to pretend that I understood every single element that happens in the film but The Wailing had me asking the questions, guessing what was coming next and trying to make sense of everything that I'd just witnessed as a whole. I can always count on Asian cinema to make me question all that I've seen. I always get originality from them.

The Wailing has a few different themes coursing through its veins. This is a story that has four interwoven sub-genres that all come crashing together in the third act. What begins as this homespun type murder mystery starts to unravel into something more sinister. We go from murder mystery into mysterious disease that adds a whole new layer to the story. Just when you think you've started to take everything in, the story throws in another element that brings into play possession and the supernatural. It's a mixed bag, but I was completely taken by it.

When all of the elements come crashing into each other in the final act, it's revealed that there may be much darker forces than mere man at play here. I was completely blown away by how every puzzle piece was fit into place. I think the great thing about The Wailing is that everyone will have a different opinion of what this movie means. I have my theories, and they could be completely wrong with what the director/writer was going for, but I was still highly impressed with all of them. I think this is a movie that will be talked about for a long time.

I'm not a very religious person. In fact, I downright despise religion. For me, it's the cause of so much hatred in the world. The ending brings into question a very religious element that completely knocked me for a six. This is the element of the story that I think can be interpreted in so many different ways. I think if people dislike the film, it will all be solely based on the ambiguous ending of the film. I have my own theory of what it all meant but would love to hear your thoughts.

From the very first moments that The Wailing started, I was completely on edge. This is a film that maintains a sense of foreboding dread for the entire two and a half hour running time. It's a movie that kept me on edge the whole time. The movie is eerie, creepy and at times has a few solidly successful jump scares. One scene, in particular, involves our police officer seeing the old stranger coming towards him, who ends up chasing him through a burnt out house that sent chills up and down my spine. I was thoroughly unnerved more often than not.

When it comes to the violence and bloodshed, The Wailing doesn't disappoint. There are some incredibly violent moments in the film that won't disappoint. These scenes will probably seem a little bit tame by most gorehounds standards, though. The scene involving the dead man from the truck coming back to life and attacking our detective character and a group of people was bloody, vicious and glorious. It took me back to George A. Romero's Dawn and Day Of The Dead. I was lapping up every single little 'zombie' feel of it.

The acting in this film is fantastic. I thought the entire cast did terrific work in all of their respective roles. Do-Won Kwak as our almost bumbling police officer is brilliant in his part. As the movie progressively gets crazier, his performance became more unhinged. His daughter who is played by Hwan-Hee Kim is just fantastic as well. The child actress delivers one of the best performances I have seen since the young girl from Under The Shadow. Jun Kunimura as the Japanese stranger is also fantastic. I thought he was genuinely creepy and that final reveal had me seriously unnerved.

Visually, this movie looks gorgeous. The cinematography is some of the best that I've seen all year in a horror movie. I mentioned last year that Neon Demon is the most gorgeous looking film of the year, well the Wailing comes pretty close. Any time that this movie had a chance to give us shots of the stunning village and its surroundings, I was completely in awe of these scenes. All I kept thinking was how much I wanted to visit this place on where the film is set.



- A blood-soaked crime scene.
- An old man is seen eating a deer.
- A guy is struck by lightning.
- A dog is repeatedly hit with a pickaxe.
- Two people survive a house fire but are burnt.
- An infected man breaks his own collarbone and coughs up blood.
- A man is shown dead and rotting in his truck.
- A goat's neck is sliced.
- Chicken's are killed and used in a ritual.
- Two women are found dead in a well.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed with scissors.
- A guy continuously bleeds out of his nose and mouth.
- A blood-soaked kitchen.
- Two women are brutally stabbed to death.
- Someone is hit by a truck.
- A goat is gutted and hung up on someone's front gate.
- A woman hangs herself but is revealed to have been stabbed.
- A woman is seen laying in a pool of blood and has been stabbed twenty times.
- A man who looks infected with a disease is seen in handcuffs.
- Someone's cheek is ripped out.
- Someone is bitten on the skull.
- Someone gets a metal rake to the head.

This story is a thoroughly scary and intense mix of genres and elements. The movie is incredibly well made, it is easily one of the most visually gorgeous and haunting films of the year. The acting is fantastic from the entire cast, and I think the mystery is one of the most brilliantly constructed premises of the year. It may take a few watches to fully absorb the insanity, but it's well worth the watch. Easily one of the best films of 2016. If not already, people will one day class this as a masterpiece of Asian Horror.


  1. I really liked The Wailing. Admittedly I had to watch it in two sittings. I fell asleep upon the first viewing right at the halfway point (it was late and reading subtitles makes me sleepy - not that the film was boring).

    I also loved that it included a lot of belief and myths central to the country the film is set in. It's not a 'standard' haunting that we're used to, it's all these different elements under the one roof, so to speak. I found that fascinating.

    I didn't find it creepy or anything like that but I was still immersed and interested.
    One part that made me laugh was when the cops are at their station the first night and then the power goes out.
    I wish I had seen it last year too, it definitely would have made my Top 2016 list. However the few Asian Horror films I have watched this year so far have been brilliant. Really impressed with the plots, production and range.

    1. South Korean Horror has been top-notch over the last decade or so. They just keep delivering every single time. Train To Busan and The Wailing, what a year for SK horror in 2016.

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