The Wailing (2016): A horror masterpiece!

Na Hong-Jin’s terrifying tale about failure in distinguishing good and evil.

Great films will keep you guessing. They will keep you thinking.

As with life, I believe that we have to keep ourselves on our toes. 

We have to do things or consume materials that will rock our being… make us question who we are… or what we believe. After all, this fiery friction will fuel our growth.

The Wailing is one of the rare films to have given me that friction. 

In this short review, I’ll share my commentaries and my favorite message from The Wailing. 

The Wailing (2016) is a South Korean horror film directed by Na Hong-Jin. It’s about a small-town police officer, Jong-Goo, and his plight to save his daughter who’s being possessed by an evil spirit. 

Hands down, The Wailing is one of the best horror films I have ever watched in a long time. Ever. This movie has rendered me speechless and shook me to my core.

The dread that I felt when I watched The Exorcist (1973) was amplified in The Wailing. Yes, it’s that terrifying. I’m comparing it to THE Exorcist.

You know that feeling of commuting to an unfamiliar place, and you just have a nagging feeling that something awful is waiting for you there?

Imagine feeling that for two hours. 

From start to finish, a sense of dread never left. There was a knot in my stomach that was getting tighter as the minutes passed by.

But apart from being a great horror movie, The Wailing has a great message about the ambiguity of good and evil. I will be discussing this below. 

***Spoilers after this line***

the wailing - A concerned Jong-Goo holds Hyo-Jin in his arms

According to my research about Na Hong-Jin’s intentions, he apparently gave a lot of murky clues on purpose. This made the twists even more sinister. 

In the movie, I was led to believe that the shaman from the city, Il-Gwang, was helping Jong-Goo fight the Japanese man. 

Later in the movie, Il-Gwang also told Jong-Goo that this woman in white, Moo-Myung, was behind all the possessions.

However, it turns out that Il-Gwang and the Japanese man were working together. They were teaming up in possessing the townspeople in Jong-Goo’s village.

Moo-Myung was just trying to save them. 

These unapologetic twists about the real bad guys constantly left me in a state of confusion and guilt.

As the events increasingly became messier, I also became more confused about who to trust. 

I found myself racking my brain, grappling for answers: 

Who is the real evil spirit?

At the same time, I felt guilty after failing to realize who’s truly doing the bad stuff.

How could I have been so naive? Like Jong-Goo, I felt responsible for having a good judgment of character, so I can protect his daughter. 

As a viewer who was as clueless as Jong-Goo, I also dealt with his catastrophic defeats. 

With that said, I loved how I was kept guessing by the movie the entire time.

I also learned this crucial lesson from the movie:

The truth is that good and evil can look so similar. And it can also be very hard for us to distinguish the two. 

In the movie, Jong-Goo failed in knowing who to trust. But most of us are no better than Jong-Goo. 

Case in point: we can be so reactive and rabid on social media. We share viral posts about people and give harsh judgments without knowing the whole story. 

We are unequipped in determining true evil and yet we’re so bullheaded in casting stones against the alleged sinners. 

Like Jong-Goo, oftentimes we’re driven by our own self-interest and desire to confirm our beliefs. So, this prevents us from seeing the truth. 

Be that as it may, I believe that the first step to avoiding Jong-Goo’s demise is being open-minded. 

Let’s try to see beyond the things that confirm our suspicions. Hopefully, we can have a glance at the elusive truth. 

This post is also available on my Letterboxd account. Follow me there for more film reviews!

By Tricia Hingpit

conversion copywriter & UX writer from Davao City, Philippines.

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