The Wailing: Review, Plot & Ending Explained
The Wailing is a bone chilling Korean Horror/Thriller movie with a twist ending.
There are many good movies that we haven’t heard of. ‘The Wailing’ (2016) is one such example. This movie is a fine piece of cinema and has an intriguing storyline that will make you wonder about your film knowledge.
Nowadays, the International cinema is producing so much high-quality content that people are getting attracted to it more often. Some are also saying that Korean cinema is better than Hollywood with respect to their storytelling but this debate is for some other time.
Most of the people have watched the Oscar-winning movie ‘Parasite’. The movie got so much attention because of its different story and direction. Because of Parasite, people started searching for more good content from the Korean Industry. So we have got you all the details about another great South Korean movie.
- Director and Writer: Na Hong-jin.
- Date of Release: May 12, 2016
- Genre: Horror/Thriller
- Box Office: $51 million Worldwide.
- Cast Members: Jun Kunimura, Chun Woo-Hee, Hwang Jung-min, Kwak Do-won, Kim Hwan-hee, So-yeon Jang
‘The Wailing’ Movie Review & Analysis:
The film is a mix of horror and thriller and is set in a South Korean village Gokseong. We will review the movie without giving any spoiler so you can read without getting spoiled.
Overview of the Story (No Spoilers):
The movie is based on a village where people are dying continuously and no one can know the exact reason for their death. They are alright one day and the next day, they show some symptoms and then they are dead. After so many deaths, the villagers are doubting the new Japanese guy who lives in a shack in the jungle. He is a mysterious man and some people claim that they have seen him eating raw meat and some claim that he is a ghost who preys wild animals and kills them with his mouth and hands.
A police officer named Jong-goo who is not that intelligent takes the case and starts finding the clues. He, with his colleague, starts asking questions about the Japanese stranger from the villagers but everyone is afraid of the stranger. Then Jong-goo investigates further and everything is linked to that Japanese guy. The deaths continue to happen but Jong-goo didn’t realize that he is also linked to these deaths because his daughter is acting weird and showing the symptoms.
Who is the mysterious young girl who keeps giving information to Jong-goo about the victims and the Japanese man? Does she have any link with the deaths? What was really killing the villagers? Was that the Japanese man or some disease they didn’t know about? Or was some serial killer on a spree to kill people who didn’t catch people’s attention? For all the answers, you have to watch this horror masterpiece and I promise that you will not regret it.
Pace of the Movie:
The movie was a little bit slow at the beginning and the viewer has to struggle to sit in one place and bear the slow progress of the movie. But after the interval, the movie starts to take you into its grip and you cannot move after that. The buildup of the movie is also good, there are some unnecessary scenes that make the progress a bit slow but overall, the movie gets intense after the main characters are getting affected by the situation.
There is too much extra information in the movie that we clearly don’t need and that does not add anything useful to the movie. Some characters are just there and don’t add anything to the story. Clearly, the director wanted his audience to dive deep into the movie but this clearly doesn’t mean that you add irrelevant details to the story. The audience gets bored and it also increases the run-time. That’s why the movie has longer than average run time of 2 Hrs 36 Mins. In my opinion, the movie could have easily been cut down to 2 hours if not for that extra and irrelevant information.
Genre of the Movie:
The Wailing was clearly meant to be a horror movie but it often bounces from horror to thriller and then back to horror between the intervals. The writer wanted his story to be complicated so he gave it a flavor of both the genres. In a sense, this is good because of the complicated genre-changing, the audience cannot to their own opinions of the movie and it helps the writer to give his audience an unspoiled ending. And the audience also keeps guessing what is going to happen and sometimes also change their opinion about a character or the situation. Sometimes, the viewers think this might be possible, but an event happens and they have to change their theory altogether.
The writer and director of the movie are the same. Na Hong-jin has kept the story so unpredictable that nobody can exactly guess what is going to happen next. You can sense that the situation is under control but then something happens and you get the feeling that everything is lost now. But then again something happens and you get a little motivation that this is not the end for the good guys.
Is ‘The Wailing’ a Horror or a Mystery?
Clearly, the writer does not want to give away any hint about the ending of the story. That’s why he keeps rotating the movie to different perspectives. At some point, the movie becomes a horror film like Dracula theme and sometimes it feels like a crime thriller where a serial killer is at a killing spree and no one can catch him. But what is the real genre of the movie?
Let’s talk about that now. As we can see this movie is not like any other horror movie because it does not have an excess amount of ghosts or jump scares in it. But still, it is a horror movie because it gives you scares even without all the horror factors. Whether it’s the little girl who gives you creepy feeling of a devil or different villagers who act strange. The mysterious Japanese guy acts as he has done nothing but everything indicates that he might be the one behind all of this. Then, there is that mysterious emotionless girl present on every crime scene who helps the police and especially Jong-goo.
All these factors combine to give you a mix of both horror and thriller. But still, the mystery is there that who actually is the one behind all this? Is this the work of a ghost or a man. All the answers are revealed at the end of the movie, the most intriguing part where everything is cleared to the viewers and believe me when I say this. You didn’t see that coming.
Who is the Antagonist?
The movie is clearly asking its viewers only one question. Who is behind all of this? We can assume it is the Japanese stranger but we are not clear about his motive. This is the thing that keeps the movie going with all the suspense. The villagers believe the Japanese guy is the devil who wants to kill people because he wants power.
But then there is this mysterious girl who does not even have a name in the movie. She keeps coming and going in between the scenes that make the viewers suspicious about her. She can be the one who is doing all this but clearly she does not have any motive of doing so. So the viewers rule her out too.
Then a shaman comes into the story who claims he can eradicate all the evil forces. Jong-goo asks him to save his little daughter from the evil force that has taken over many villagers. The shaman points his doubts directly at the Japanese stranger. But we can also assume that the shaman might be behind all of this. But still, the motive is unclear.
All the answers unveil themselves in the last 15 minutes of the movie. And the viewers would not believe what is happening in the movie.
What Worked and What Didn’t Work for the Audience?
The writer/director of the movie ‘The Wailing tries his best to entertain his audience by providing them one of the best movies in this genre. We will see what the audience really liked and what they didn’t.
The story of the movie is interesting and the writer has added all the entertaining aspects in the movie that will not get you bored for a single time. The story has the element of surprise and shock too. You can never guess what is coming to hit the characters. The director Na Hong-jin has made sure that your minds get baffled by his masterpiece. All the characters directly related to the story are mysterious enough to keep you guessing what exactly is happening. So the story gets 4 out of 5 stars. 1 star will be cut because there were some parts of the story that simply were dragged and added nothing new to the story.
All the actors performed very well in the movie. Kwak Do-won played the role of a simple cop Jong-goo who was not a genius and he nailed the role. The audience did not have to rely on him totally because he was just like an ordinary man like us. This is the thing I liked about the movie that they did not make the characters superhuman. Kim Hwan-hee played the role of Jong-goo’s daughter brilliantly. She gave us chills with her acting and proved that good acting cannot be determined by age or maturity. Other cast members also played their respective roles with pure brilliance. All of them brought the horror factor to the movie with respect to their characters.
Direction & Cinematography:
Na Hong-jin crafted this movie with so much detail and perfection that anybody can be amazed. The sequences are shot professionally and they have proven that Korean cinema is also in the top contenders. All the locations are perfect with respect to the subject of the movie and the atmosphere is being kept mysterious to fulfill the need of the genre. The camera effects are really good and every shot tells you the story of all the hard work that has been put into the film by all the crew members.
Ending (Kind of a Spoiler):
The ending is the one that the audience was waiting for. Due to the buildup from the start, the audience was dying to know what really was happening in the movie So, when the director unveiled the story, many of them didn’t understand the story, and some were confused because that was not the thing they were expecting. But many of us had seen that coming at some point. We will discuss more about the ending in our next chapter below.
‘The Wailing’ Ending Explained: Plot Summary and Details about the Ending:
The story starts with the mysterious deaths of the villagers of a rural village named Gokseong. When the police start to investigate the cause of death, the villagers point out towards a Japanese man who has just arrived at Gokseong, living in a small shack in the forest.
Police officer Jong-goo, who is investigating these murders in the village, meets a mysterious young girl called Moo-myeong which means “no-name”, who tells him different things about his case and the Japanese stranger. When Jong-goo asks a local hunter to give him details about the Japanese, the hunter tells him that he saw the stranger eating a deer, with full red eyes. Jong-goo gets scared after hearing this, as he also had dreams about the same kind of man as the hunter is talking about. He then takes the help of one of his colleagues and a Japanese-speaking priest to be the interpreter, and they go to the stranger’s house to find some clue about the deaths while he is away. His colleague finds a small room full of pictures of the murdered villagers and some of their personal belongings. But then the stranger’s guard dog, a large black beast, breaks the chain and attacks them. Then the stranger arrives and controls the dog, and Jong-goo gets a little scared and then he leaves with his men.
Then his colleague tells him of what he saw in the stranger’s room and hands him a shoe that belongs to Jong-goo’s daughter, Hyo-jin. Hyo-jin is also sick and displays the same symptoms as other villagers who died. Jong-goo returns to the stranger’s house but the evidence has been burned by the Japanese. Jong-goo gets frustrated and hee burns the stranger’s worship room and when the stranger’s dog attacks him he also kills the dog and then orders the stranger to leave the village immediately. Worried about his daughter’s condition, Jong-goo’s mother-in-law seeks help from a man who claims he can capture bad spirits, named Il-gwang. As Il-gwang performs a ritual on Jong-goo’s daughter to kill the demon, the Japanese stranger also performs a ritual in his house at the same time. Jong-goo’s daughter starts screaming in pain and Jong-goo tells the shaman to stop the ritual as it is nothing but a bluff and take her to the hospital.
The next day, Jong-goo gathers some of his friends to confront the stranger, believing that the man is responsible for the deaths of the villagers. They chase the stranger and accidentally hit him with their vehicle. They dispose of his body as Moo-myeong (the mysterious young girl) watches all of this from the hills. When Jong-goo returns home, he finds that his daughter’s condition has improved. And he is more determined on the fact that now there is nothing to worry about. But the shaman tries to convince people that they killed the wrong person because the Japanese was not the one responsible for all the deaths, the mysterious lady was. He then goes to Jong-goo’s house to tell him that but sees Moo-myeong standing at the door of his house and then the shaman starts vomiting blood. He then goes back to his car and calls Jon-goo to tell him that Moo-myeong is the real demon.
Then Jong-goo meets Moo-myeong and she tells Jong-goo that she has set a trap for the demon, but it will not work if he returns home. Il-gwang again calls Jong-goo and tells him not to believe her; she, in turn, tells him Il-gwang is actually the companion of the Japanese stranger. Jong-goo gets confused and then leaves to save his family. Moo-myeong then grabs his arm and he notices that she is wearing the personal belongings of all victims. He then runs away to save his family.
The priest who helped Jong-goo talk to the Japanese goes to a cave and there he encounters the stranger who is alive and well. After being photographed by the stranger, the priest sees the stranger turning into a demon with same red eyes as everybody explained. And back home, Jong-goo finds that his daughter has murdered their family. He starts crying and calls out Hyo-jin’s name but she is in a trance and doesn’t respond back. Then Il-gwang the shaman arrives at their place and takes photographs of Jong-goo’s dead family. While returning back to his car, he drops a wooden box filled with photos of the other dead villagers showing that he was with the stranger all along.
As Jong-goo sits shocked in his home, he recalls the memories of good times with his daughter and begins to smile, assuring that he will protect his daughter.
‘The Wailing’ Ending Explained:
The ending is complicated for many viewers so we will try to break down what really happened in the end.
We are sure that the Japanese Stranger and the shaman were working together and all the deaths were caused by them. And Moo-myeong was a good spirit who was trying to save all the villagers from the two men.
Moo-myeong helped the good people by placing a floral trap on the entrance of the house so that evil demons do not get inside the house. She also helped Jong-goo’s daughter but then Jong-goo’s mother-in-law called the shaman and he put his spell on Hyo-jin again with the help of his ritual.
And when Jong-goo killed the stranger and dispose of his body, Moo-myeong was not able to help him because he committed a bad deed and he was not good anymore. But still, she put up a floral trap on his main entrance.
When the shaman came to Jong-goo’s house, she was the one who protected Hyo-jin by sending the shaman away. She had also set a trap for the demon but for that, Jong-goo had to be with her until everybody was safe.
But Jong-goo is framed by the shaman and runs back home. The trap of Moo-myeong breaks and his whole family is killed by his daughter. If Jong-goo believed the lady, his family would have been alive.
And then the movie ends while Jong-goo is recalling good memories of him with his daughter.
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