Horror Movie Review: ‘The Wailing’ Is A Mysterious Korean Masterpiece

‘The Wailing’ Delivers A Convoluted But Beautiful Murder Mystery.

Some of the most intelligent horror films have came from Korean cinema. From ‘Oldboy‘ to ‘I Saw The Devil‘, the list of amazing Korean horror goes on. I’ve been waiting for the next great movie and 2016’s ‘The Wailing‘ might be it.

Describing this film as weird is a disservice. Trying to retell the events of the film is not easy but the feelings toward it is unshakeable. ‘The Wailing‘ is about the arrival of a mysterious stranger who brings drastic change to a small village. There’s illness and murders popping up causing a mass panic. The investigating officer is then personally involved in this case when his daughter gets sick. Without giving much away, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

This movie is so refreshing. Dealing with clumsy American movies, the focused narrative in ‘The Wailing‘ is a welcomed change. Everything attempted in this movie succeeded. Any humorous moment landed and the scares were plentiful. But, it was the obscurity of the whole thing that stands out. Wrapping your head around this piece is challenging but that’s half the fun. You never fully understand but you also enjoy that because ‘The Wailing‘ remains so masterfully crafted even at its strangest.


Something that drew me in is how deeply rooted it is in ancient Asian mythology. Horror films in America usually follow the same mythology or stories just retold in different ways. Diving into different elements from this South Korean horror film allows me to be even more intrigued. But that doesn’t mean ‘The Wailing‘ skips out on any horror tropes; it just subverts them beyond your wildest expectations.

“Not everything that moves, breathes, and talks is alive.”
Il-Gwang (Jung-min Hwang)

This did exactly what a great film has to do it. It answered enough questions posed within the film but stills lets your mind wander after it’s over. Never during the long running time did I find get bored. The mystery is so bizarre and the film is so sharp that it draws you until credits roll. You’re satisfied but you want more. That’s how I knew ‘The Wailing‘ was near perfection.

Other than a few stand out acting performances, the praise falls to the great work behind the camera. Director Na Hong-jin and cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo brought everything they could. Na Hong-jin has been doing great since his debut in 2008 with the year’s third biggest film and impressed Cannes this year with ‘The Wailing‘. The work with the camera and visuals that Hong-Kyung-pyo never had a wasted moment. He made everything count and it shows as the whole movie is beautiful even when it gets disgusting or disturbed.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve seen a lot of horror films from American cinemas this year but none of them come close to what ‘The Wailing‘ did. The perfect blend of surrealism, mystery, and horror is great but when it gets too bizarre like exorcisms AND zombies is when you fall in love. I recommend this to any genre fans.

The streak of amazing South Korean horror movies continues.


The Wailing‘ is available on streaming services like iTunes, Youtube, and Google Play. It stars Kwak Do-wonHwang Jung-min, and Jun Kunimura.


EJ Moreno
EJ Morenohttp://Vimeo.com/EJMoreno
Who is EJ Moreno? Is he a trained physician? No. Is he a former Miss Universe contestant? Possibly. With a bachelors degree in film and a love of pop culture, he brings an alternative view to the world of pop culture journalism. Follow him on Twitter @EJKhryst and check out his film work at Vimeo.com/ejmoreno