The Wailing

Vampire Owl: Another Korean movie? I am very much interested in the same.

Vampire Bat: There are so many more movies, and it doesn’t matter how many we watch, as we won’t be satisfied ever.

Vampire Owl: Are we actually running short of immortality?

Vampire Bat: Yes, whenever one such movie begins, the Wheel of Time spins faster.

Vampire Owl: That is a cruel thing, indeed.

Vampire Bat: It is quite natural because a wheel doesn’t really watch any movie.

Vampire Owl: Do you think that we can trick the Wheel of Time to watch this movie if we name it The Wheeling?

Vampire Bat: I don’t think that you understand. You just can’t play with the Wheel of Time. The consequences can be terrible.

Vampire Owl: You mean worse than the kiss of Lady Death?

Vampire Bat: You kissed her? How dead-romantic out of a cemetery!

[Gets three cups of Wayanad tea with Patanjali Doodh Biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: A police officer Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) is investigating a mysterious disease and the murders that follow in a small town. It all began after a Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) arrived in the secluded village, and there are stories being told about this stranger. A usual rumour is that this particular man from outside the country who stays alone in a cabin in the woods right on the mountains could be nothing less than an evil spirit or a ghost who is haunting the town. The newest one is story of a man having witnessed this stranger eating a deer raw, and that he had red, glowing eyes. Accompanied by a Japanese-speaking pastor who is supposed to translate for him, and another police officer who is to provide him company and support, Jong-goo decides to go for the cabin in the woods, and meet this much talked about personality at home.

So, what happens next? :: There, the man has kept the pictures of those people who are infected and those who were murdered. Among them, is a shoe belonging to Jong-goo’s daughter Hyo-jin (Kim Hwan-hee) which brings him into a state of anger and frustration, and the girl also begins to show the symptoms of the disease, much to the dismay of everyone at the house, as his mother-in-law (Her Jin) and wife (Jang So-yeon) attribute this to an evil spirit requiring an exorcism as the only way to save the girl. It leaves Il-gwang (Hwang Jung-min), a popular shaman with the duty of freeing the girl from the clutches of the evil spirit which is the man in the woods. But can it be done? Is this Japanese man really the one causing all the trouble or is there something more to the tale? Is there the presence of more terrifying truths which are to be unveiled?

The defence of The Wailing :: There will always be something special about the mystery which we pursue in this movie, as it gets deeper and deeper as the flick progresses – the last half an hour or so of this movie becomes the special thing, as we keep wondering who belongs to which side, and where the side of the light is, and who is aligned to darkness and pure evil. As it is with our world, we always tend to put or trust and faith in the wrong person – whether it is on a godman as in Tiyaan, or a priest as depicted long ago in Ekalavyan or Crime File, The Wailing has you in deeper trouble, as there is unspeakable terror from another world waiting to pounce on you and your family. The fear factor rather goes deep, as we feel the horror smoothly and nicely affecting us rather than getting on to scare us quick and sudden. The mystery is always there, and so is the fear of the unknown, and the twists are all ready to unleash themselves, as we can only wait for the best which is to come only by the end.

The claws of flaw :: A ninety nine percent critical appreciation after so many reviews – the expectations have never been this high as you look at it. The movie is just too long to keep us there all the time, and that leaves one with too much of free-time in between. The movie could have actually done without that exorcism sequence by the shaman, and also that infected person going zombie all over the protagonist and friends – these don’t really suit into the overall style of the movie. There is also a chance for the creation of confusion, and that could be avoided only with some good focus in watching this movie in the last thirty to forty minutes – paying attention is a must, which is why we have to spend more than two and half hours with this movie, and nothing else should disturb us as it nears the end. Let all good and evil in our life wait for The Wailing to go for its final hunt. After all, you don’t get to understand a smart movie that easily, you need to keep on.

Soul exploration :: The movie effectively makes us feel the presence of the supernatural right through its run. It is rather sad though, as the shaman can’t help them, and the priest of the local church also says that he can’t help him. There might not be another movie in which the protagonist has to be so confused and hopeless against terror – there is no help for him and no hope. It is the case of ultimate grief in life, that you have been so good with your life, and yet nobody wants to help you, or rather nobody can. When the presence of evil is so much here, you wonder how the good men and women can take a stand against it, but soon you are to realize that you just can’t. The movie clearly shows that evil keeps winning, and the good person’s defence against the strong terror is rather too weak, and it has been the reason why evil has thrived for centuries. Even these days, things such as hate and lies drive people.

How it finishes :: Among the movies which comes close to The Wailing, there is surely The Witch which stands closer than any other, with terror waiting to be unleashing from the woods, and there is one particular suspect as the supernatural one – in both tales, it is evil that has the upper hand, and goodness might never really had a chance; even the neutral alignment had no opportunity to create an impact for it has been all stronger with the dark side. You are left with the realization that evil always finds a way – for it is eternally easy to be evil, and rather too difficult to be good. As easy as spreading lies and hate, is the strength of the hands of evil. The smartest thing evil ones can do is to convince someone to trust the wrong person, and use that fake trust to thrive on it with more and more of all things fake and terrible. You see a lot of examples right in front of your eyes; evil and its lies – they are so smart that you trust them.

Release date: 12th May 2016
Running time: 156 minutes
Directed by: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee, Her Jin, Kim Hwan-hee, Jun Kunimura, Jang So-yeon, Kim Do-yoon, Son Kang-gook, Park Seong-yeon, Kil Chang-gyoo, Jeon Bae-soo, Jeong Mi-nam, Choi Gwi-hwa, Baek Seung-cheol, Kwon Hyeok-joon, Park Chae-ik, Kim Gi-cheon, Yoo Soon-woong, Jo Han-cheol, Kim Song-il, Bae Yong-geun, Im Jae-il, Lee In-cheol, Jo Seon-joo, Lee Chang-hoon, Kim Ji-won

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.


23 thoughts on “The Wailing

  1. You got it wrong in the Claws of Flaw Brother! I will tell you why!

    1. Our movie watching culture always spoon feeds us! Giving us all the details in front of us or telling us through dialogues about things which, ideally, should be interpreted by the viewers. Example: I had already pointed out this in Ezra! Ranjan is tied up and he asks why and Rabbi tells us all: “Ezra yude aathmaavu ninnilaanu” so that there is no confusion. This does more bad than good because we are spoonfed!

    This is not the norm in The Wailing or a Na Hong Jin movie!
    He loves to tease us, be cryptic and leave us in confusion and multiple interpretetions. I watched the movie and I loved it despite its length! I understood that he has very cleverly employed many elements especially animals and rituals! But I was left confused by the Japanese guy just like the Hero is confused: I mean his real self: Is he a ghost/evil spirit or is he a living person with a passport! Sometimes his eyes are red and other times he is seen normal and has a passport! But I got really confused in the last half an hour!
    So I watched the movie again, a second time to better understand it! I learned a lot of things especially the fact that who all seemed on the side of good were not so and vice versa…But was still confused….I did some online research to get to the bottom of things! I came across many articles, videos and other helpful interviews about the movie! I am sharing a few of them with you…This may be different from other viewers and their views! The following para will tell you why you got it wrong with the zombie scene and the very well executed exorcism scene! Who is good and who is bad will be revealed too…

    2. This is a plain interpretation I arrived at after going extensively through Internet and what I watched! I will keep it short! The village Goksung has been witnessing horrifying deaths over a period of time! This village is another stopover for the fight between Good and Evil. The evil side is headed by the old jap who is under the command of Satan. First the victim is infected with a disease. The victim becomes weak and frail and gets easier for the evil to posses him/her and stage the massacre! The police has no clue and think its because of wild mushrooms! The old jap lures others into trap. Photographs them before,during and after their deaths to capture their souls permanently. The bumbling policeman has no clue about the events. Now coming to the forces of God/Good! A mysterious woman in white is shown throwing stones at him. She actually is an angel trying to warn him about the dangers ahead of him and about the old jap. But all this policeman has are nightmares and spasms. After they visit the old jap and his ferocious black hound and discover his daughters shoes, it becomes clear that her daughter is the next victim.

    And her daughter too starts showing signs of being possessed like gluttony and other diseases..He goes back to the old japs house, kills the dog and pisses the old jap off. The grandma calls the Good Shaman who could help…The shaman finds out that the soy sauce container with a raven in it too was a ploy of evil. The shaman says to policeman that he needs to perform an out of body ritual. He says this shouldnt be interrupted because it may be fatal. The policeman agrees and actually asks about the old jap and who is he..The shaman says they travel from village to village and since his village was full of dead bodies already he could easily get in..The good shaman has found out the source of evil correctly…

    The day of ritual arrives..The pissed off jap is also prepared to counter the rituals of the good shaman..Its beautifully shot scene..and effectively edited…The Good shaman after an elaborate ritual, successfully hurts the old jap….and makes him weak..Now…when the old jap gets weak Satan leaves his body and enters the body of an already dead Park Hon (who becomes a zombie.) The old jap had already lighted candles near the lorry in which his dead body was for the transfer…The good shaman thus exorcises the evil from old jap who becomes human/un possessed. The ritual is half finished only…Now when he tries to exorcise the girl, may be the satan made her say to stop it, and the policeman interrupts the ritual..The old jap is saved from death thus….but he is human and weak…Since the ritual was interrupted, the girl is left frozen in a twisted shape and the parents rush her to hospital…The old jap comes and checks the lorry out for this dead man and realises that he has indeed become possessed and is like a zombie…Meanwhile, heartbroken policeman finally decide to kill the old jap since his daughter is suffering….He gather his men and material and launch a hunt..

    They reach his place….They cant find him….But they are encountered by the possessed Zombie…The zombie attacks them and they finally overcome…There they see the Old jap who has been searching for the zombie too…They chase the old jap, who is seen puffing and panting because he is normal human being now….He successfully dodges them….The father cries on top of the mountain….The old jap hiding from the men discover this Guardian Angel and starts chasing her…But unfortunately he hits the policemans vehicle….The dying old jap is pushed off the mountain by the group….and the old jap dies…Now the devil has nobody to possess..That zombie dies of some spasm, this old jap is dead….And it is revealed towards the climax that the dead old jap is possessed by the devil again….
    But the stupid father when reaching hospital sees her daughter being normal and thinks that everything is alright….But things were about to get worse for her!

    Meanwhile, the good shaman whose rituals were interrupted rudely by the policeman is afraid….because this ritual was not suppposed to be interrupted….As a result his powers has become weak..He is then threatened by the devil….The devil chases him now even entering his own Buddhist monastery like set up..The following is interesting…Due to the threats of devil, he finally agrees to act for the devil…The now bad shaman reaches the house of the policeman…to work for the devil..But there he encounters the Good Angel and vomits blood..Afraid,the shaman tries to escape from devil driving to seoul but he is stopped by the satan by bird poops….He finally agrees to work for the devil and calls the policeman……

    This is the biggest twist of all….Even we are mislead into it….
    The now bad shaman calls the policeman who is outside his house….The shaman tells the policeman a bunch of lies helping the devil…. that he made a terrible mistake. He says the old jap was like him a shaman and was trying to help the village get rid of the evil spirit….He says the evil spirit is the young lady in white but this is a lie because she is an angel…He also says, under the influence of devl, that policeman needs to be in his house now near his daughter to protect his whole family….(again a lie because if he was together the daughter will kill them all making it easy for the devil to succeed.). The already confused policeman is baffled….He desperately searches for his daughter in his house but he cannot find her….

    The policeman goes in search of his daughter….And in one alley he discovers the lady in white…The policeman driven by the shamans lies already fixes that she is the devil…but she is the angel trying to help the policeman….He asks for his daugheter…She says the truth….The policeman is not convinced….and confused….The policeman receives a call from the shaman….asking him to stop talking to the girl and head home to be with her daughter else she will die…The policeman is confused….because the young lady says to him if he leaves her before three cries of the rooster, his whole family will die….When the policeman asks why after three crows of the rooster she says she has set a trap for the devil not to succeed..and when he asks why things were happening to him she says he has sinned and showed a desire to kill….(the old jap) Already confused, concerned about the daughter and the lies fed to him by the shaman and satan….The policeman leaves the Good angel before three crows of the rooster…..As he walks into the house after two crows of rooster, we can see the tiny flowers getting worn off revealing the plot set by the guardian angel is failing because he fell prey to evil….And predictably…..the daughter has already killed the ladies and the father too will die of wounds at the end…..The shaman reaches the house and clicks pictures thereby capturing the souls of the family and leaves in a hurry….A stack of photos is shown as falling off his box showing he too is without doubt working for the devil now….The angel is shown crestfallen at the end….

    The last half an hour shows the church guy reaching a cave to settle his doubts about the jap….And asking questions about who the jap really is…..This scene alongwith the conversation between angel and policeman was absolutely brilliant and terrifying because at the end he just transforms himself…..into satan……In the wailing unfortunately the evil wins….

    Its about staunch belief which the wailing talks…and the decisions which we make.
    There are many symbolisms but first you read this ….
    I think i have missed out many things….but from the net and from what i interpreted this comes close to what the movie really talks about….

    Liked by 2 people

    • This should be the longest comment which I have ever received :O I have felt that while watching movies like this, I get confused with the names and people too, and so I am unable to take the ambiguities and the complications while watching it for the first time. We are used to spoon-feeding, and it is also so difficult to change it considering the fact that we keep watching our own movies more than any other. Then there are those ideas that we come up with, which should be quite different from what the director intends. Yes, the second time, it is different, but I don’t watch any movie for a second time.

      But your interpretation here is very much enough. It is like a complete story which touches all the possible missing links, including all between good and evil. There should also be other interpretations, right?Do people discuss the movie’s opening to interpretations even now? Do they open new pages for the same? So, there is the need for us to find who was evil earlier, who is evil now, who is really good, who has been good for most of the movie and so on without being provided anything directly πŸ˜€

      How would this be different if adapted for Bollywood? The shaman turned swami would explain the origin of the spirit to the end of it? There is going to be a lecture for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thats why I warned you in the beginning that the movie is not what it really tells us to be. I was curious to know it myself and thus I watched it again. Na Hong Jin is just three films old and yet he is making us think. His other two films Chaser and Yellow Sea too are classics which are worth many watches. Yes there is this language barrier and names but to enjoy them we need to be on a high alert always. In our senses! Isnt this a classic movie? I mean the director worked on the script for five years. Employed symbols, myths, crime, thrills religions and animals and has given us something to ponder about forever..A job well done..
        Yeah Cinephiles know nothing other than doing that. I checked out some websites and official reviews to fully understand the movie…Its a PIECE OF ART…Fantastic..The last scene where he turns into devil…ooo…I was scared to death not because of fear but because whatever I thought/calculated was wrong…It sent a chill down my spine that even I am a mortal and can take wrong decisions..It tests your faith….The father seemed to believe/confused by the old jap that he is devil but he never believes in god himself. Later he believes that the lady is evil too. The crux is this if you believe in Evil you need to believe in Good/God too. But the man is not god fearing..Likewise the Christian priest when he first goes to old japs house gets nearly bitten by the black hound. He too was not staunch and the symbolism is that old japs house is hell and the dog is its keeper. The priest too pays for his ambiguties dearly at the end…And there are many symbolisms. The first scene shows the jap fishing….with two baits…may be for the father and daughter….who knows…There are many more nuances which you will discover when you rewatch classics which make you think..
        Initially when this movie released, the climax had the old jap joining the shaman in his vehicle and they moving out of the village….Its raining and they see the angel standing near a small bridge…After crossing the bridge their vehicle tumbles…..and the end credits roll…..Later the director slashed these scenes and just left it with the shaman leaving after taking photos..The former wouldve been a perfect ending good winning but the ambiguous ending at the end is what makes the movie a piece of art because its open to interpretations….A happy ending means a good movie and ambiguous ending means a great one…lol…
        I too was really confused but when i watched i was able to connect the dots….
        Bollywood remake…..Better leave that movie alone….It will be a cheap imitation…

        Liked by 2 people

      • Just like life then – like those people whom we think are something, but they are not. That devil scene, it had me stuck right there. Yes, classic stuff with so much of idea that it could inspire many more, I guess.

        Don’t you feel that not many people here have watched this movie? Well, a lot of people surely have watched Train to Busan, and Old Boy is something that almost no movie lover had missed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Check out these movies too….They all are too good….Warning they are mature and some are violent….
        The Chaser directed by Na Hong Jin. Link:
        The Yellow Sea directed by Na Hong Jin. Link:
        The New World directed by Park Hoon Jung. Link:
        The Handmaiden: by Park Chan Wook.
        The Housemaid

        Liked by 2 people

      • I really dont know too many but…..I do check out some indie movies….
        I do check out the works of Paul Verhoven (elle) and Ashghar Farhadi (Salesman)….Watched a dutch movie recently….Schneider vs Bax…..I wont reveal anything but try watching it in the same website….Its only 1 hr 40 mins i guess….Good movie!!
        Each movie is a window to the culture of a country…..You just need to keep your mind open…..Thats the qualificaiton to watch foreign movies…

        Liked by 1 person

    • Good comment. Btw good review Tenny. I loved Wailing when I watched it and it was a great experience to watch it on Big Screen with good sound effects. The Shaman’s procedure was one of the most haunting scenes with its raw sound.

      Aneesh, the interpretation needs to be derived as it is not very obvious from the movie and you have got it right. However, there are a couple of points where my interpretations different and few additional observations as well.

      The Shaman is bad from the start and works for evil. He just pretends to be good. The reason for this is, he has the box full of the photos of people whose soul had been captured which indicates he has worked for the evil all along. When the policeman is investigating earlier in the movie on the burnt house, the angel explains him the scene where a shaman was brought in and after that, the murders happened. The editing of both the Shaman and the Japanese guy performing the black magic was brilliantly edited to make you believe that one was doing good. But in reality, both were performing evil. The Angel has the power to destroy the evil from the Japanese as the policeman hasn’t done any evil. But once he kills the Japanese guy she is helpless now (she appears sad standing on the mountain as she overlooks them throwing the Japanese down the valley).

      The first scene of fish bait is very important. You when you put the bait in and wait you don’t target a particular fish but pick the one that gets caught (at random) that’s how the Japanese guy picks his victims. All the previous ones have been easy for him to possess and kill as they had committed sins. But it is difficult in the policeman’s case as he hasn’t committed sin.

      The lady is established to be good in the stone throwing scene. This is a biblical reference of one is who is pure and hasn’t committed a sin can throw the stone. There are many such brilliant references in the movie for the audience to figure out.

      I was surprised by the fact that it was a box office hit in Korea, given the complexity of the plot.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hello Rajasaravanan!
        Thank you for the reply!
        Whose side the shaman was on is really open to interpretations…Those photos which falls from his box at the end could be his own, or could even be from the Old Jap. because the Policeman never recovers them from his house…What had me wondering was if the Shaman was on the side of evil, then what was the need to scare him by the devil again? I am referring to two scenes….That of the shaman pleading to buddha in his own place when the candle goes off and that bird poop which finally prompts him to dial the policeman and mislead him…I would like to believe, the Shaman lost his holy powers, became vulnerable when his ritual was interrupted! And I am damn sure that the conversation between Angel and the Policeman had no references to the shaman! I have watched the movie thrice so I am sure about it ! Anyways the fact that we are discussing it is a success for the director…Because he wanted Ambiguity!!

        That fish bait scene is described later in the movie by the Shaman himself when the Policeman and the Shaman have the conversation and the former asks what the Old Jap really is and why her daughter was chosen! And like you said she just caught the bait!
        And yes the stone throwing reference can be traced to the bible…And even the wild mushroom too has religious connection according to what I read in a website!!
        Was not really surprised that the movie was a hit because Koreans have come up with many such plots with twisted endings and varied interpretations from time to time! So they are, in many ways, trained to watch complex/layered narrations! We come from a different viewing culture since our directors provide everything to us….There are few exceptions though…..Hopefully that day is not far away when the exceptions become reality!
        Thank you for reading the review and reading my lengthy comment! We thought we will never receive any comments on this page! Good to know atleast one of them commented!!

        Liked by 2 people

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