The Wailing – South Korea, 2016 – overview and reviews

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The Wailing is 2016 South Korean horror thriller film written and directed by Na Hong-jin about a policeman who teams up with shaman and a mysterious woman to investigate mysterious killings and illnesses. Originally titled: 곡성(Hangul)哭聲 (hanja); Gokseong (RR), it was a commercial success at box office.


A mysterious sickness is spreading among the people of the Goksung village, causing violent murderous outbreaks followed by stupor and eventually death.

Police and doctors first suspect the victims were poisoned by wild mushrooms. Officer Jong-goo, who is investigating the cases, meets a mysterious young woman called Moo-myeong (“no name” in Korean), who tells him about a Japanese stranger and his involvement with the deaths.


However, after Jing-goo confirms that she witnessed the crime, she disappears. Later, a local hunter tells Jong-goo that he saw the stranger eating an animal in the mountains, nearly naked and with his eyes glowing red…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“On the one hand, the film is a gripping whodunnit, exemplified by a scene of classic Hitchcockian suspense, when Jong-gu makes a frightening discovery while snooping around the Japanese man. At the same time it treads into supernatural territory through nightmarish dream sequences that feel unnervingly real, as animals, whether dead or alive, exert an unusually menacing power.” Variety


“It’s a film you watch in a state of slowly gathering dread — not so much because it’s trying to scare you (it succeeds without trying), but because you’re never quite sure, on a deeper level, what it wants from you. At times the movie doesn’t seem too sure, either. It’s a supremely patient freakout.” Los Angeles Times

“Despite its epic length, The Wailing never bores as Na slathers his tale with generous supplies of atmosphere and awfulness.” Entertainment Weekly

” …fuses a detective story with Exorcist-styled chills to create an unsettling occult thriller that takes full advantage of the country’s majestic rain-drenched mountain terrain – but! and here’s the ‘But!’… it’s painfully ponderous, and in desperate need of an editors’ eye and some action.” Kultguy’s Keep

“There’s also plenty of humor, and zombies — did I mention the zombies? Na Hong-jin has a singular directorial voice, at once funny, frightening, and philosophical. Steeped in the guts and chase scenes are questions of faith, trust, and what it means to be a father…” Vulture


“What makes Na’s film such a strange and beautiful trip is his adept blending of various genre tropes to create this peculiar hybrid that starts out as a comedic/scary police procedural, morphs into shades of The Exorcist, and then arrives at a place that is wholly its own through byways into death hex rituals and themes of colonialism, set amid the gorgeous and dangerous landscapes and mountains of the region.” The Austin Chronicle




Cast and characters:

  • Kwak Do-won … Jong-Goo
  • Hwang Jung-min … Il-Gwang
  • Jun Kunimura … Japanese stranger
  • Chun Woo-hee … Moo-Myeong
  • Kim Hwan-hee … Hyo-jin
  • Her Jin as Mother-in-law
  • Jang So-yeon as Wife
  • Kim Do-yoon as Yang I-sam
  • Son Kang-gook as Oh Seong-bok
  • Park Seong-yeon as Kwon Myeong-joo
  • Kil Chang-gyoo as Park Choon-bae
  • Jeon Bae-soo as Deok-gi
  • Jeong Mi-nam as Heung-gook
  • Choi Gwi-hwa as Byeong-gyoo

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