The Wailing (2016) [Korea]


Written & Directed by: Hong-jin Na
Starring: Jun Kunimura, Do-won Kwak, Hwan-hee Kim

We are living in the Kumbaya era of horror, people. If you are Caucasian, your favorite horror movie of the year (and perhaps of all time) is 2017’s Get Out. If you live outside Asia, your favorite zombie movie of 2016 (and perhaps of all time) is Train to Busan.

The Wailing embraces all this surplus love going around – it has Buddhists and Christians coming together to fight the Devil in a remote Korean village.

Goksung is a small, everyone-knows-everyone type of rural community. An unknown illness is slowly taking the population, causing the skin to blacken and break out in horrendous boils. Worse, infected people are brutally murdering their own families and then being found catatonic at the crime scenes.

Chubby and rather inept police officer, Sergeant Jong-gu (Do-won Kwak) lives with his wife, young daughter (Hwan-hee Kim) and foul-mouthed mother-in-law. Investigating the cases, he discovers that a strange old man (Jun Kunimura) moved into the nearby jungle just before the illness started.

Jong-gu laughs off anecdotal claims of the man having red eyes, roaming the forests in the nude and devouring deer like a lion. When his own daughter develops symptoms, though, he is forced to leave his skepticism behind and confront what may be evil personified.


The Wailing tries very hard, and ticks almost every check box. Not only is it a good horror movie but it is also a fantastic suspense thriller. Each element is injected in the right doses to deliver real scares and make you actively rack your brain for solutions for the protagonists.

There is enough gore for those who crave meat with their potatoes, and enough horrifying mystery to satisfy those who don’t.


If I were asked to pick my favorite vomiting scene ever (yes, we ask the tough questions at Nightmare), the one towards the end of The Wailing would be it. There is no pea soup nonsense like in The Exorcist. How the scene starts, how it progresses, the acting, the few words spoken and the aftermath make for what I think is the best sequence in this film, and one of my favorite scenes in horror.

There is a wee bit of campy, hammy action which we could have done without. I also learned three new things about Korea:

  1. You could be screaming and writhing grotesquely with the worst nightmare and your family will just watch from afar with disdain.
  2. A police officer can be bitten by a crazed madwoman… and twenty other police officers will just watch from afar with disdain.
  3. American actor DJ Qualls has a Korean twin. You will know as soon as he appears.

The shocking series of twists and reveals at the end leave you wondering if you were ever rooting for the good guys. A small problem is that the new information does not quite gel with the actions of particular characters earlier in the movie. Maybe I missed something – tell me in the comments.


The Wailing does seem a tad long at 153 minutes. Watch it all. It just might become your favorite possession movie of 2016…and perhaps of all time!

Bloody Star
4.5 out of 5 Stars


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