A policeman, Jong-Goo (Kwak Do-won) is awakened from his slumber in the pre-dawn hours in a small Korean village. Someone had died, possibly murdered. But first Jong-Goo has his breakfast. The murder was brutal. The man was stabbed multiple times. His wife was chopped up and put into a bag. The likely suspect sits outside the scene, covered in blood and mud. He’s visibly shaken and does not speak.
The next night Jong-Goo and his partner are chatting about the case at the police station. In the midst of a powerful thunderstorm, just as the electricity goes out, a naked woman appears at the window covered in blood and dirt. She disappears before they can talk to her. The following day another murder was committed. That woman is at the scene screaming and yes, wailing. She’ll hang herself before the sun sets again.
As the eating his breakfast before attending to his murder scene attests, Jong-Goo is not a great policeman. In fact, he’s fairly useless. But he’s the only one that thinks there is more to these two cases than meets the eye. The official response from the higher-ups is that there has been a bad batch of mushrooms afflicting the village causing some psychotic breaks. He thinks, perhaps, there is a serial killer on the loose, or maybe something more sinister.
Local gossip points their fingers at a Japanese man who recently showed up in the village. Others think it might be an evil spirit. When Jon-Goo’s daughter stars acting strangely he pays the Japanese man a visit.
To go further into the plot would be to spoil The Wailing’s many surprises. Director Na Hong-jin’s film is busting at the seams with ideas and influences. It is a film full of mythology, folk tales, and religion. Jong-Goo will call upon both a shame and a Catholic priest for help. It feels like about four horror films in one. It is violent and goofy, thrilling and terrifying.
It is perhaps just a tad too much. With a run time of around 2 and a half hours, it feels a little longer than it needs to be. There are a lot of twists and turns, and red herrings galore. I’m not quite sure it will stand up under scrutiny, but I really enjoyed myself while in the midst of it. I’m too tired at the moment to write much more, but it is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of horror and are looking for something a little different.