Best Horror Movies of the Decade: The Wailing is a long, masterful build-up of dread and agony
All this month, we are counting down the 31 best horror movies of the decade and doing a closer look at why each one earned a spot on our list!
26. The Wailing (dir. Na Hong-jin, 2016)
It felt like The Wailing had been streaming on Netflix for years…up until now of course. As we head into the Halloween season, you will have to find another way to access the South Korean horror film that I recommend to most people whenever I can. Of course, it used to be easier to convince people to check it out when it was streaming on Netflix — the one streaming platform that pretty much everyone in the world uses. Hopefully this brief little write-up will be enough to convince you to seek it out beyond Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet.
In a small village in South Korea, a series of unexplained, horrifically violent murders begin to occur. These murders are coupled with a mysterious disease that overtakes a person with a rash, followed up by a murderous outbreak, limpness, and finally, death. It’s a gruesome sight to say the least.
Town gossip has pegged a mysterious Japanese man who lives deep in the secluded mountain side as the cause of these illnesses. The man is believed to posses evil supernatural powers. When police officer Jong-goo believes that his daughter is infected with this mysterious disease, he has no choice but to further investigate this Japanese man in order to save her life.
In addition to Jong-goo’s investigation of the Japanese man, a shaman is brought in for a type of exorcism to remove the demon from the daughter. This ritual is the centerpiece of this two and a half hour film — and it’s a heart-pounding scene that really sets up the final act nicely.
Jong-goo may be a bit inept at times as a main character, but his to desire to save his daughter shines through as he tries to solve the mystery that plagues his little village. His growing anxiety is on full display — and easy to connect with — as we watch his daughter’s condition continue to worsen.
The ending is executed so well by Director Hong-jin Na. The tension that he has been building up for nearly two hours slowly begins to unravel as bits and pieces of the mystery are revealed. We watch as Jong-goo must make a final decision that will decide the fate of his daughter’s life. As an audience, it’s hard to know which characters this man should trust. We are provided with the same information as him, which certainly allows us to sympathize with him as he makes his decision. And while the story itself does get a little complex toward the ending, we do get the answers to all of our questions in some way or another.
There is plenty of violence and gore mixed in throughout the film. But The Wailing does something that many horror movies have been unable to do. It provides this uneasy feeling of dread in every single scene. Director Hong-jin Na masters this mood in a way that not many others have accomplished. This feeling of dread and agony that awaits these characters goes well beyond the visuals of the gory, violent scenes. And even though you may see the ending coming in some form or another, it doesn’t prepare you for how unsettled you are bound to feel when the credits roll.