Summary: Rotten Tomatoes 

Suspicion leads to hysteria when rural villagers link a series of brutal murders to the arrival of a mysterious stranger. 



Soon after a stranger arrives in a little village, a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman, drawn into the incident, is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.

Nerd Corner:

What is the movie NOT about

  • Xenophobia (per interviews with Na Hong-Jin
  • Tensions between religions in Korea

What IS the movie about

  • “During the break after I finished “The Yellow Sea,” several deaths of my close acquaintances followed one another. Attending a funeral had become rather a common ordeal for me, but it felt much worse back then. The deceased were my close friends, and in no way felt like a ‘common’ experience. Unfortunately, their deaths were not of natural causes, leaving those who are left behind all the more sorrowful. Funerals usually last three days in Korea, and all throughout those days I pondered about their deaths. The questions raised during those days coincided with the things I have always been wondering while making my previous films. The question was, “Why did THEY have to be victims OF ALL PEOPLE”? I already had the answers for the ‘How’. What I had to find out was the ‘Why’. So I began to meet and talk to the clergy of various religions, which was the starting point of this film” (as quoted in The Playlist).
  • Some drunk person killed a passerby. If we were to see what’s on the surface and the facts, that’s all we know. But don’t you think it’s so inhumane that one person can vanish so quickly even when they didn’t intend to? This is why I started “The Wailing.” (as quoted in JoongAng Daily)

ambiguous loss: a loss that “occurs without closure or clear understanding” and “leaves a person searching for answers, and thus complicates and delays the process of grieving, and often results in unresolved grief.” (Wikipedia)

  • Physical loss and psychological lost

Who is this film for?

  • “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’re 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.” (As quoted in The  Playlist, 2016)

Kate’s TL;DR: I thought this movie was going to be a commentary on a societal issue but instead it was an exploration of personal grief. And I’m still turning through multiple interpretations, trying to see what would bring the most satisfaction. But what would that mean, would that be closure? Justification? What would a resolution bring me? And what role does ambiguity play? What does this movie do, like how does it operate in society when there are no clear answers? What does it ask us to do or think or consider? That’s what this movie makes me think about.

Kate Notes:

How Kate Was Quite Wrong:

On the inclusion of Shamanism:

I didn’t want to deal with this specific occult genre because I felt it couldn’t really appeal to Korean audiences as none of those films have had any history of success in Korea. I was a little worried but thought that if I could add some Asian or Korean elements to the film, the story would completely change and there could be a twist. I added shamanism simply because I am a Korean and this is a Korean film. (as quoted in Screen Anarchy)


After the 1970s, occult movies that talk about good and bad based on Catholicism have disappeared because all the best occult movies came out during the ’70s. So I included diverse faiths because with only Catholicism, I cannot surpass previous movies. I thought Korean shamanism along with Catholicism would deliver a fresh experience to the audience. (as quoted in JoongAng Daily)


It’s really interesting to start with a passage from the bible considering the colonialism of Christianity in Korea and Japan


Oh man. A scene of chaos in the rain and mud. Is it meant to set it up as animalistic and uncontrollable? OH did that body just move. SURE DID. 


Sergeant gotta smoke away the trauma


What are those flowers, gotta link to mythology/folklore. They look like wailing faces. OH wailing hey


Oh a nest. Looks cozy. I’d like a nest. Maybe not a murder nest tho


Ah, a dead deer. End of innocence or just showing a way of life? Living off the land. Waste not want not. Oh love. Too heavy for you. Oh god he really falls doesn’t he. Hits head on rock after tumbling a good long way. 

Ah…a naked person eating the deer carcass? Hate that. I wonder if they have a nest. Oh, just nearly naked. We good. 


Blame it on the shrooms, that’s fine. 


If everyone’s talking about him there’s likely a good reason. YEAH SAY THE RACISTS.

OH MY GOD I thought he was punking him. Two  grown officers are hiding behind furniture and ordering the other one to go out and check. 


She angrily washes clothes outside. Is she angry? Or is this flirting? AH. flirting. 


Cause yelling is going to solve that lol


He won’t look at her. Is it shame? Who farted? Why are you calling your daughter a scatterbrain?? Is it because you’re embarrassed you farted? 


Just throwing rocks at cops from a distance, I LOVE HER. she is my hero. If she’s been doing it all morning you think she’d have better aim at this point.


Oh she’s getting closer. Not getting much better at it tho. It’s really half assed rock throwing. She must be tired after  being at it all day. Is she gonna attack with that rock. I like her jacket. 


I love how she’s just like, fuck you I’m entering this crime scene and you can’t stop me. It’s truly fascinating to see this up against the violence inflicted by US cops- it looks like they’re hesitant to put hands on anyone, as they should be


Technology interrupts the folktale moment 


Of course she won’t stay there, she’s scared shitless and mysterious. That is not the combo you want in your only eyewitness 


Ducks on the ceiling? Are ducks global? 


Turning their police caps backwards means they’re about to crime 


Did they stop the ritual before it killed the Japanese man? YES thank goodness. That’s right, snuggle up baby


What is the role of rain in this movie


The shaman feels satisfied that the “rat fell into the trap” but…what if the shaman is the bad one. 

There’s still like a half hour left. There’s gotta be a twist. AHHHHH the shaman has a nose bleed. Something is rotten in the state of denmark. Really just gushing blood. And it’s the lady in white. HA. You thought it was an evil old Japanese man but you were WRONG.


Daughter eating everything in sight, again. Love a girl with a healthy appetite 


If you’re already convinced he is the devil it doesn’t matter what he says. You came here to confirm your suspicions about me.


Troubling Unchildlike Behavior

Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book



Works Cited:

Sun-Rang, Jan. (2016, June 9). ‘The Wailing’ asks the big questions. Korean JoongAng Daily.


Conran, Pierce. (2016, June 9). Interview: The Wailing’s Na Hong-jin, Questions For A Mastermind Of Evil. Screen Anarchy.


Grozdanovic, Nikola. (2016, June 27). Interview: ‘The Wailing’ Director Na Hong-jin On Death, Genre, Religion & Comedy. The Playlist.