The Wailing (2016)

the wailing poster 2016 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting : 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Interesting concept and different story

Too long

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Wailing

Studio: Side Mirror

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  May 12, 2016 (South Korea)/May 20, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

the wailing hwan hee kim daughter

Murder kids always are a plus

Something is happening in the small South Korean town of Gokseong.  People are going crazy and murders are happening.  Local police officer Oh Seong-bok (Kwak Do-won) finds himself drawn into the death and destruction when his daughter Hyo-jin (Kim Hwan-hee) begins demonstrating signs of the illness.  While his mother-in-law (Her Jin) hires a shaman named Il-gwang (Hwang Jung-min), Oh Seong-bok looks into reports of a mysterious Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) living in the mountains who appeared when the murders first started.  Oh Seong-bok is desperate to save his child…and the sickness is spreading.

Written and directed by Na Hong-jin, The Wailing (곡성 or  哭聲 aka Gokseong) is a South Korean supernatural horror film.  The movie was released to positive reviews and a strong box office.

The Wailing has been on my list a long time but with a runtime of over two and a half hours, it was a rather daunting undertaking.  With aspects that are many be a little culturally unattainable and a strange winding story, The Wailing is a different type of horror film.  A ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

the wailing zombie man rake

Get this damn rake, out of my head!!!

The story is a tale of trust, truth, lies, and a strange xenophobia that might be unique to the story.  The officer is largely an inept cop caught in a major murder spree.  He tries to get to the bottom of the murders and it leads him to a Japanese stranger who seems likely behind the events.  The Japanese-Korean relationship isn’t always great due to their past conflicts, and I feel there is a little of this in the story that I can’t quite comprehend.  I don’t know if being Japanese by itself has put the stranger under suspect and the mystery of if it is true is supposed to be blurred do to this.  A woman in white played by Chun Woo-hee also could be a suspect…but she also implicates the shaman played by Hwang Jung-min as part of the plan.  In the end it does end up being the Japanese man, and I feel like it might have been a red herring on two fronts which Korean audiences might have gotten better.  I don’t know if the movie would have the same feel if an American, Indian, or some other nationality might have been in the role.

The cast is good.  Kwak Do-won goes from a goofy cop to someone who is willing to kill…but the inept aspect of his investigation ends up being his downfall.  Jun Kunimura also is rather imposing as the Japanese stranger (especially when he is monstrous).  I think it is because he’s so normal looking and just a random old man.  I also think Kim Hwan-hee gives a rather strong performance as the possessed daughter.

the wailing demon ending jun kunimar

You don’t hate foreign demons do you?

The movie is largely built on atmosphere rather than jumps, but I do think scenes like the man in the woods eating the deer and some of the use of light and dark are rather terrifying.  The whole movie feels like Kwak Do-won is misreading the signs and is blinded by his belief that the Japanese man is the one causing the pain…but it is odd that he isn’t wrong about it.

The Wailing is a strange movie, and movies where everything goes wrong that can go wrong are always intriguing…only the bad guys win.  I do think it is too long though I also understand that the length is important to establish the mood and length…I could have enjoyed it more without some of the beginning sequences before the daughter became involved (the plot seems to gain more cohesion).  I admire The Wailing more than I liked The Wailing.  It is a movie that I feel you should see more than once, but facing the movie again is something I’m not interested in doing right now…perhaps I’ll “Wail” again someday.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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