After his breakthrough The Chaser (Chugyeogja; 추격자; 2008) and The Yellow Sea (Hwang hae; 황해; 2010), Hong-jin Na delivers a horror-drama-fantasy film that will leave you thinking about it for quite some time. It’s shocking, repulsive, captivating, and brilliant.

Hong-jin Na brings to the screen what could be called another modern South Korean horror film, aligning it with classics such as Whispering Corridors (Yeogogoedam; 여고괴담; 1998; dir. Park Ki-hyung),  A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa, Hongryeon; 장화, 홍련; 2002; dir. Kim Jee-woon), and I Saw the Devil (Angmareul boatda; 악마를 보았다; 2010; dir. Kim Jee-woon).  The Wailing’s story is cleverly told and will let you uncertain until the end.  Who should you trust? What is good and what is evil?  These questions form an underlying uncertainty that echoes in the mind of the main character Jong-goo (played by Kwak Do-won) whose daughter is possessed by a powerful evil ghost.

Jong-goo is a policeman in the small village Goksung. He is presented as a fearful and clumsy person. He also believes in the ghost tales that circulate in the village. Jong-goo’s friend tells him that since a Japanese (Jun Kunimura) came to the village strange things are happening. After a horrible homicide case, Jong-goo starts to think that perhaps this Japanese person has something to do with it. Meanwhile, the police states that wild mushrooms are the cause of the murders, but Jong-goo and his partner try to find out what is actually happening, as more murders occur and a strange disease is affecting the village. After his daughter Hyo-jin (Kim Hwan-hee) shows symptoms of the strange disease, Jong-goo is determined to find the Japanese person.

This situation not only rises the past relations of both countries – with Japan as the (evil) enemy and Korea as the victim of Japan – but it also addresses traditional believes such as the shaman practices in Korea versus the catholic ones, as his mother-in-law calls a shaman to cure Hyo-jin. Entangled in which decision to make and who to trust, Jong-goo risks everything to save his daughter.

The Wailing’s editing and music is masterful, as it leaves you breathless every moment. It is a continuous tension that assures you will be immerse in Na’s brilliant symbolism and narrating style. This film is 156 min long, and it is worth watching every minute of it.


Original Title: 곡성 (Goksung)


Image: Screenshot The Wailing – Jong-goo and his police partner devastated and clueless after the incidents.