The Wailing was released on May 12, 2016 in South Korea and was directed by Na Hong Jin who you may know from his well-received thrillers The Chaser and The Yellow Sea. This was his first supernatural thriller and I must say it is one of the most fresh takes on horror I have ever seen. It is not your typical horror movie filled with endless jump scares and loud noises but rather it is a slow burn type of horror, the one that leaves you with dread and unease after you’re done watching. The movie also deals with Christianity themes which some viewers may not understand as it is quite implicit but that is the beauty of the movie.
The Wailing or 곡성 (Gokseong) starts off by introducing us to a Japanese man who has just moved into a village in the mountains of South Korea, living in a secluded house by the forest. A string of incidences start occuring where the residents starts developing a rash that causes hysterics where it will be followed by them committing murderous outbreaks followed by a drunk stupor then death.
The next scene then introduces us to police officer Jong-Gu who has been assigned to investigate these string of cases.
He meets a mysterious woman called Mu-Myeong which translates to no name in Korean, who warns him about the Japanese stranger.
The stones that she casts at him references a Bible verse from John (8:7 He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her), this reference may not be clear for us that are not of the Christian faith, but there are plenty of subtle or obvious references in this movie that viewers will have to watch to uncover.
A local hunter tells him about what he saw in the mountains, which was the Japanese man, naked and eating a deer with demonic glowing red eyes. Jong-gu enlists the help of another officer and a Japanese deacon to assist him in investigating the Japanese man’s house while he isn’t around.
While inside the house, the other officer finds a large collection of pictures about the residents that were involved in the incidences and their belongings scattered among the room. They are extremely suspicious of the man and thinks that he may have something to do with the murderous incidences that have been happening around town.
Jong-gu starts getting anxious and paranoid after his daughter starts developing the rashes. He starts suspecting the stranger even more but what he doesn’t know is that he is caught between the battle of good vs evil.
The movie deals with a lot of Christianity themes and it can be hard for the average viewer to understand because the plot mainly focuses on using a a lot of Christian beliefs as the setting and the verses too are integrated into the plot of the movie.
There are a few jump-scares in the movie but it is done in a way that complements the movie instead of just being added into it to get the audience interested in the movie or as a cheap shock factor. The horror element here too is something that is not related to ghosts but it is an ancient kind of evil that has existed since the olden days which is the battle between good and evil. The evil element focuses on the temptation brought by demons and how it is used to sway humans into taking a bad route in life. This element has been taught to us since we were young where we are taught what we should do and should not do.
In this movie, Jong-gu is portrayed in a very human manner, he fumbles through life and he does not always have the answers on what to do and that is something that we rarely see in our protagonists for movies who is always depicted as someone who knows exactly what to do aat any time. That is why the movie gets the audience so engrossed and captivated because we are able to see ourselves in Jong-gu’s shoes and debate with ourselves and what would we have done if we were in Jong-gu’s shoes, facing such an unfamiliar and complicated situation.
The cinematography for the movie too was amazing and Na Hong-Jin is masterful in his usage of color palettes to depict the overall sense of gloominess and dread the incidents have caused to the villagers and to our main character, Jong-gu.
Despite the runtime being the second longest for a horror movie at 2 hours and 36 minutes, I believe it was necessary to flesh out the story, the plot and also the characters to really ensure the audience can understand the plot and are fully immersed with the story and setting.
Overall, this movie is a definite must-watch for any horror or thriller fans. It deals with the age-old element of good vs evil but the plot and the characters are written and fleshed out so well that the runtime does not even feel lengthy at all. This movie does require multiple viewings to truly enjoy and understand the subtle clues that were sprinkled throughout on who were the evil side all along. I will definitely recommend this movie to anyone who wants to dive into Korean horror for they really have masterpieces hidden amongst their many movies.
Overall rating : 9/10