A police sergeant investigates a series of murders that may be related to demonic activity in The Wailing. One morning in the isolated town of Goksung, Sgt. Jeon Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won) is called to the scene of a brutal ritualistic murder. This is the latest of a series of homicides in the city, which seems to be connected to a mysterious Japanese stranger (Jun Kunimura), who recently moved into the area. When Jong-gu’s young daughter Hyo-jin (Kim Hwan-hee) suddenly begins acting strangely, Jong-gu becomes convinced that the Japanese stranger is responsible for his daughter’s apparent possession.
The Wailing gives a South Korean twist to the pretty common horror trope of demonic possession. As he progresses his investigation, Jong-gu becomes increasingly convinced that there is something supernatural going on and that this Japanese stranger is responsible. He recruits the help of a local Shaman (Hwang Jung-min), who in one scene performs a very elaborate exorcism ritual, in an attempt to rid the demons of Hyo-jin. Jong-go also encounters a mysterious woman (Chun Woo-hee), who might have all the answers.
At a length of just over two and half hours, The Wailing is in no rush to get to the completely insane horror that arrives in the third act, which includes a full-on zombie attack. However, the film is still a quite well-executed demonic horror film, which tackles the all familiar theme of the fear of “the other.” It remains ambiguous right until the end whether the Japanese stranger is truly responsible for the demonic activity or merely the victim of prejudice. While the film remains open to interpretation in this regard, The Wailing is still a horror film that will leave you thinking.