The Wailing (2016)  
Side Mirror (Fox International) Written by Hong-jin Na. "Gokseong" () in Korea.
Horror, Drama, Supernatural Directed by Hong-jin Na
Budget unknown Starring Do-won Kwak

Police Officer Jong-goo in the South Korean village of Gokseong must solve the mystery of a gruesome sickness and how a Japanese stranger is involved in order to save his own young daughter.

Jong-goo's partner at the police station tells him about the rumors of a Japanese stranger living in the forest outside of the village, and the two of them go to investigate. Jong-goo takes a Japanese speaking Catholic priest with him and confronts the stranger at his cabin in the forest. Jong-goo and the priest find disturbing pictures and personal items in the cabin, including a small shoe that Jong-Goo recognizes as coming from his own daughter. Jong-goo rushes home and finds that his daughter is acting strangely, and after a few days his mother in law calls a shaman.

Jong-goo meets The Mysterious Woman.
Seeing the sickness for the first time.

The film is in Korean with English subtitles, and it is very long and has a slower pace than what a western audience would be used to. There are not any jump scares in this movie, but rather the film is one truly frightening long experience from start to finish. The Wailing is interesting because it does not try to explain the story to the audience any further than what the viewer is able to see based on what the the policeman is going through. There are some long and uncomfortable scenes that go on without any cuts, and the film is essentially a drama set inside a horror movie. There are also some comedic scenes that are genuinely funny.

The Japanese man's cabin in the forst.
The name Gokseong means The Wailing.

Watching The Wailing multiple times is recommended. The experience builds as more details become noticeable with each viewing, but at the same time the plot becomes less defined as the story unfolds differently because of those new details. The ending and meaning of this movie are very open for interpenetration. The cinematography and visuals are excellent, and there are not very many visual effects, which adds greatly to the realism because you are focused on the intense interaction between characters. There are minor problems with the pacing of the film, the most infamous is a zombie scene that is far too long.

Director Hong-jin Na spent a full year editing the film in order to perfect his vision.


The Wailing, like other Korean Horror cinema is full of symbolic imagery and focuses on themes of suffering rather than over the top blood and gore. One of the most unique movies I have seen, and is in my top ten movies for 2016.

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