In a little peaceful village in the mountains of South Korea, arrived a mysterious Japanese stranger. And since he came to the village, a mysterious disease started to spread among the villagers. At first a rash, and then it slowly turned into violent murderous outbreaks followed by the state of unconsciousness and eventually death.
At first, it happened to random strangers and that started the rumor that it was all the doing of the mysterious Japanese stranger. At first, the police seemed nonchalant about the case, but when the daughter of the investigating officer, Jong-Goo (Kwak Do Won), fell under the same spell, Jong-Goo was more sure than ever the one who did this to his daughter was the Japanese stranger that lived in the mountains. He was drawn in and was determined to get to the heart of the mystery and save his daughter.
Jong Goo even called in a shaman, Il Gwang (Hwang Jung-Min), to do some rituals on his daughter Hyo-Jin (Kim Hwan-hee) and cure her. However, in the middle of the ritual, his daughter was screaming and crying so much that Jong-Goo didn’t have the heart to let the ritual continue any longer. The shaman, specifically told him to not disrupt the ritual no matter what, but Jong-Goo did and he would now take the consequences for his actions. What he didn’t know was, that not even his will and determination was enough to face whatever was to come.
This movie started off with Jong-Goo who was a policeman in the village, getting woken up in the middle of the night because the wife of the ginseng farmer died. When he got to the scene, it was actually way worse than what he expected it to be. The house was in a very bad state; furnitures ripped apart, kitchenware scattered all over the place and there was blood smeared all over the walls and the floors as well. From what Jung-Goo thought was one death, turned out to be two deaths. Cho the ginseng farmer and his wife. It turned out that they were stabbed to death by Heung-gook (Jeong Mi-nam), who was just sitting on the porch after the massacre, seemingly half conscious with rashes covering his face and body.
At first, they suspected it to be the consumption of a certain mushroom that caused these kinds of behaviors but Jung-Goo and his other police friend found that hard to believe. However after that incident, not soon after, Jung-Goo’s daughter Hyo-Jin got sick. At first, Jung-Goo thought his daughter was just feeling under the weather and excused her from school for a day or two to let her rest. But as the days went by, Hyo-jin not only didn’t get better, her illness got worse and worse and she even started to have nightmares, that was when Jung-Goo started to worry.
The next morning when he woke up, he saw his daughter – who had a hard time eating yesterday– basically inhaling all the fish that was served for breakfast when he knew for a fact that his daughter hated fish. That was when his mother-in-law suggested that they hire a shaman to do an exorcism on Hyo-Jin as she believed something has gone terribly wrong with her grand-daughter. Jung-Goo wasn’t a big believer on stuff like that and he wasn’t really happy when he heard that suggestion from his mother-in-law. However, the more he thought of it, the more he started to connect the dots and recall the rumors that the villagers have been talking about.
There had been a rumor circulating the village saying that the villagers believed that all these bad things started to happen since the Japanese stranger moved into the village. Jung-Goo, who was getting desperate to cure his daughter, mixed with all the ruckus and incidents that have happened since the Japanese stranger moved in, decided to confront the man.
When, after confronting the Japanese stranger didn’t give him the answer that he seek, he ended up threatening the man and told him to leave within three days. That was when the condition of his daughter worsen. She started getting very angry and very violent. Hyo-jin, who was a very sweet and likable little girl, started to scream and yell profanities at her father when he tried to talk to her. Desperate, Jung-Goo eventually agreed to seek the shaman’s help to figure out what was wrong with his beloved daughter. Little did he know, nothing could have ever been able to prepare him for what he would get himself into next.
After finishing this movie, I was just left stunned staring at my monitor screen. I went in not knowing what to expect and I came out with my brain scattered into bits and struggling to get my thoughts together. The Wailing is definitely different than those scary movies that you see in the cinemas these days. Obviously, there were some jump scares in this movie, however, it also has a lot of subtleties and undertones that were usually missing in more mainstream horror movies.
For the first third of this movie, the buildup was a little bit too slow for my liking. It was as if the director was unsure where to bring the story to next. However, around 30 minutes into the movie, the story started to snow ball and it was as if so much was happening at the same time that if you blinked, you would have missed something important.
The Wailing was loaded with shocking and gruesome incidents and stuffed with mystifying characters. The story was compelling and captivating as you can never expect every twist and turn that this movie took you through. This movie has the total runtime of 2 hours and 36 minutes, which I have to admit was pretty long for a movie. However with the spectacular acting skills of all the actors and actresses – especially the child actress Kim Hwan-hee that played as Hyo-Jin – the movie would definitely captivate you from start to end.
The director, Na Hong-jin mixed a lot of genre within this movie, which I didn’t think I have ever seen happen before in a movie (rather than a parody) and to my total surprise, it worked. The story telling was dynamic and the viewers would be never be able to guess who was the real culprit until the very end of the movie.
I did at first felt that it would have been better if the director would go a little bit more in depth with certain characters and gave some more background story. However, after I let the movie sink it for a little while, I realized that it was actually a good things that Na Hong-jin didn’t. Not all stories needed to have certain explanations to all the things that occured. Just like life, sometimes things didn’t need a reason to happen, it happened just because.
The Wailing was filled with analogy, there are a lot of scenes and symbols in the movie that told more than what actually meets the eye. The Wailing was definitely one of the must-watch-before-you-die movies in my opinion, this movie was the kind of movie that stick to you for a long time. The movie was rich and multilayered in storytelling, and I admire how Na Hong-jin was able to make the ending in such a way that every single viewer’s take away from this movie was different.
“I have no idea what kind of person you are to watch my film. Nevertheless, I tried to make a film for you. Whatever ideas come to you while you watch the film, they are yours. I want this film to be your own. On the other hand, there is one thing I wish everyone who watches this film to feel, regardless of who they are : a condolence for those who disappeared after having fallen as victims of the world, and for those who are left behind. I sincerely wish this film gives you some time for condolences.”