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The Wailing
Theatrical release poster
Revised RomanizationGokseong
Directed byNa Hong-jin
Produced by
  • Suh Dong-hyun
  • Kim Ho-sung[1]
Written byNa Hong-jin[1]
StarringKwak Do-won
Hwang Jung-min
Chun Woo-hee
Music byJang Young-gyu
CinematographyHong Kyung-pyo[1]
Edited byKim Sun-min[1]
Side Mirror
Fox International Production Korea
Distributed by20th Century Fox Korea
Release date
  • May 12, 2016 (2016-05-12) (South Korea)
Running time
156 minutes[1]
CountrySouth Korea[1]
BudgetUS$8 million
Box officeUS$51.3 million[2]

The Wailing (Korean곡성; Hanja哭聲; RRGokseong) is a 2016 South Korean horror film directed by Na Hong-jin and starring Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee. The film centers on a policeman who investigates a series of mysterious killings and illnesses in a remote Korean village called Gokseong in order to save his daughter. The film was both a commercial and critical success.[3][4][5]


After a Japanese man arrives at Gokseong, a small village in the mountains of South Korea, a mysterious infection breaks out and causes the villagers to become deranged and violently kill their families.

One night at the police station, officers Oh Seong-bok and Jong-goo are discussing the Japanese stranger when a naked woman appears in the rain. They later discover the woman, infected, has murdered her family. At the crime scene, Jong-goo meets a mysterious young woman called Moo-myeong (“no name” in Korean), who tells him the Japanese man is a ghost and the culprit. Jong-goo steps outside to call Oh Seong-bok, and the woman vanishes. A local hunter tells them he saw the stranger with glowing red eyes, eating a raw deer in the forest.

Jong-goo has similar dreams about the stranger and decides to investigate with Oh Seong-bok. They enlist the help of Oh Seong-bok's nephew, a Japanese-speaking deacon named Yang I-sam. They investigate the stranger's house when he's out and find pictures of the murdered villagers and their belongings, as well as a worship room. The stranger's guard dog attacks them and stops when the stranger returns. Jong-goo and his team leave. On the way back, Oh Seong-bok shows his partner a shoe that belongs to Jong-goo's daughter, Hyo-jin. Hyo-jin grows sick, with symptoms similar to those of the other infected. Jong-goo returns to the stranger's house, but finds the evidence has been burned. Infuriated, he smashes up the worship room, kills the guard dog, and orders the stranger to leave the village.

Distraught about Hyo-jin's change in health and behavior, Jong-goo's mother-in-law seeks help from a shaman, Il-gwang. Il-gwang says a wicked spirit has possessed Hyo-jin. His exorcism fails. After learning Jong-goo disturbed the stranger, who he says is a demon, Il-gwang prepares a death-hex ritual and tells Jong-goo he must not be interrupted. At home, the stranger performs a ritual at the same time. Both he and Hyo-jin experience excruciating pain as Il-gwang's ritual progresses. Jong-goo stops the ritual and takes his daughter to the hospital instead. The stranger pulls himself into bed and sees Moo-myeong outside his house.

The following day, Jong-goo gathers his companions to hunt down the stranger. As they search at his house, they are attacked by one of the infected villagers, who injures Yang I-sam and gives the stranger time to flee. They pursue the stranger but lose him at a cliff. The stranger, hiding just out of view, sees Moo-myeong staring at him from afar. As the group drives back down the mountain, the stranger lands on the windshield. They dump his body off the cliff as Moo-myeong watches from above. Jong-goo returns to find Hyo-jin has seemingly improved.

Il-gwang drives to Jong-goo's, where he encounters Moo-myeong and vomits blood. Il-gwang flees town but then turns back and calls Jong-goo to say Moo-myeong is the real demon and the stranger was a shaman trying to stop her. Meanwhile, the wounded Yang I-sam receives news that Oh Seong-bok has killed his family. Hyo-jin disappears. While searching for her, Jong-goo meets Moo-myeong, who claims the stranger is still alive and she has set a trap for him, but it will fail if Jong-goo goes home, and Hyo-jin will kill everyone. Il-gwang calls Jong-goo again and tells him he should go home to protect his family. Moo-myeong says Il-gwang is a mere pawn of the real demon. Confused, Jong-goo asks her if she is a human or a ghost. She gives a cryptic answer. Jong-goo notices she is wearing the personal items of the victims, including his daughter's hair pin. Believing this to be proof she is responsible, he dashes home. The moment he crosses his threshold, the floral trap set by Moo-myeong withers.

Yang I-sam returns to the stranger's house with a sickle and a cross. He finds a secret cave nearby and the stranger alive inside. He asks the stranger about his true form and says he thinks the stranger is the devil, but if he's wrong he'll leave him in peace. The stranger laughs maniacally and says he is the one who won't let him leave. He photographs Yang I-sam while asking why he still doubts the stranger's identity. As Yang I-sam stands frozen, the stranger changes into a demon.

Back home, Jong-goo finds Hyo-jin has brutally murdered their family. He tearfully calls out to her, but she doesn't respond. Il-gwang arrives and takes photographs of Jong-goo's dead family. Returning to his car, he unintentionally drops a box filled with photos of the murdered villagers that the stranger claimed to have burned. As Jong-goo sits devastated by his daughter's death, he remembers happier times with his daughter and begins to smile, assuring her that he will protect her.

Deleted ending

In a deleted scene happening right after the conclusion of the story, the Japanese man is seen sitting on a bench by the roadside. He spots a family on the other side of the road and invites a child to him by offering her candies, but the mom picks up the kid before she manages to reach the stranger. A car driven by Il-gwang arrives and picks up the Japanese man before leaving. In the center of the road, Moo-myeong witnesses the car fading away in the horizon.


Release and reception

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The Wailing was released in South Korea on May 12, 2016.[6] The film was shown in the Out of Competition section at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 18, and was released in the United States on May 27.[6] Although, IMDb states that the movie initially had a limited release in the USA on May 20, 2016, and then had a full release on June 3.[7] The film was then released on Netflix at a later date, though it has since been taken off the streaming service. The Wailing was released on other streaming services like Fandango Now, VUDU, Hulu, and Apple TV.[8]

Critical response

The Wailing received widespread critical acclaim. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% and an average rating of 8/10, based on 82 critical reviews. The site's critics consensus reads, "The Wailing delivers an atmospheric, cleverly constructed mystery whose supernatural thrills more than justify its imposing length."[9] Additionally, the film has an audience rating of 82%, the average score from over 5,000 reviews. On review aggregator website Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[10] The film has an user score on the site of 7.9 based on 155 ratings, giving it "generally favorable reviews". On review aggregator website IMDb, the film has a score of 7.5/10, which is based on 54,678 reviews on the website.

Jada Yuan of described the film as "operating on a level that makes most American cinema seem clunky and unimaginative".[11] Anton Bitel of Little White Lies commented "By turns funny and despairing, this village noir brings the horror of uncertainty."[12] Leah Pickett of Chicago Reader stated "the film justifies its epic length, meshing ancient east Asian mythology and rituals (village gods, exorcisms by shamans) with more recognizable horror tropes (demonic possession, zombification, the devil represented by a black dog and rams' heads) in a way that feels novel and unpredictable. The actors are uniformly strong..."[13] Phil Hoad of The Guardian wrote "The layers of dissembling and self-dissembling pile up so thickly that not only does Na evidently touch on something integral about the nature of evil, but actually seems to be in the process of summoning it before your eyes."[14] Financial Times's Nigel Andrews wrote "Very crazy, very Korean, very long: 156 minutes of murder, diabolism, exorcism and things that go bump by day and night".[15] Clark Collins of Entertainment Weekly gave the film B+ grade, stating "Despite its epic length, The Wailing never bores as Na slathers his tale with generous supplies of atmosphere and awfulness".[16] Jason Bechervaise of Screen Daily noted "The Wailing is initially set up as a thriller and the supernatural setting also helps deliver moments akin to a horror feature, particularly when a strange woman (Chun Woo-hee) first appears. But the film’s gradual progression into something more sinister puts a different spin on Na’s masterful use of pacing".[17] Jacob Hall of /Film commented "The Wailing as it exists would involve burning the very structure of a traditional western movie to the ground. It’s why the movie is so great and it’s also why a remake seems so strange".[18]

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter added "As dark and pessimistic as the rest of South Korean thrill-master Na Hong Jin’s work, The Wailing (Goksung, a.k.a. The Strangers in France) is long and involving, permeated by a tense, sickening sense of foreboding, yet finally registers on a slightly lower key than the director’s acclaimed genre films The Chaser (2008) and The Yellow Sea (2010), both of which also got their start in Cannes."[19] Maggie Lee of Variety noted "There’s nothing scarier than not knowing what you should be scared of. “The Wailing” erupts with a string of gruesome deaths in an insular village, but the investigation unleashes a greater terror — that of the paranoid imagination."[20] David Ehrlich of IndieWire stated "“The Wailing” boasts all the tenets and tropes of a traditional horror movie, but it doesn’t bend them to the same, stifling ends that define Hollywood’s recent contributions to the genre. The film doesn’t use sound to telegraph its frights a mile away (there are no jump scares, here... well, maybe one), nor does it build its scenes around a single cheap thrill. On the contrary, this is horror filmmaking that’s designed to work on you like a virus, slowly incapacitating your defenses so it can build up and do some real damage. There’s a looseness here that’s missing from mainstream American horror, a sense that absolutely anything can happen next (and always does)."[21] Aja Romano of Vox gave the film four points out of five, stating "The Wailing is the most unsettling Korean horror film in years, but it offers more chills than answers."[22]

Lincoln Michel of GQ wrote "At just over two-and-a-half-hours long, The Wailing definitely takes its time, yet you could never describe it as a slow burn. This is a horror film that jumbles up ghosts, zombies, body horror, Eastern exorcism, Christian mythology, demonic curses, creepy children, and a lot more into one sustained narrative. This description may make it sound like the movie is a messy mash-up, but director Na Hong-jin ties it all together seamlessly. Instead of being a mess, the combination of tropes makes each individual one feel both fresh and terrifying."[23] James Hadfield of The Japan Times gave the movie four stars out of five, writing "“The Wailing” veers from police drama to ghost story to zombie horror and back again, while tossing a generous helping of shamanism and Christian symbolism into the mix. At times, it resembles “The Exorcist” transplanted to the South Korean countryside; at others, it’s closer in tone to “Memories of Murder,” Bong Joon-ho’s masterful, slow-burning serial-killer drama".[24]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2016 25th Buil Film Awards Best Film The Wailing Nominated
Best Director Na Hong-jin Nominated
Best Actor Kwak Do-won Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Hwang Jung-min Nominated
Jun Kunimura Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Chun Woo-hee Nominated
Best New Actress Kim Hwan-hee Nominated
Best Cinematography Hong Kyong-pyo Nominated
Best Art Direction Lee Hoo-kyeong Nominated
Best Music Jang Young-gyu & Dalpalan Nominated
37th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Film The Wailing Nominated
Best Director Na Hong-jin Won
Best Actor Kwak Do-won Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jun Kunimura Won
Best Supporting Actress Chun Woo-hee Nominated
Best New Actress Kim Hwan-hee Nominated
Popularity Award Jun Kunimura Won
Best Screenplay Na Hong-jin Nominated
Best Cinematography Hong Kyong-pyo Nominated
Best Editing Kim Sun-min Won
Best Art Direction Lee Hoo-kyeong Nominated
Best Lighting Kim Chang-ho Nominated
Best Music Jang Yeong-gyoo and Dalpalan Won
Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival Audience Award The Wailing Won
Best of Bucheon Award Na Hong-jin Won
Fantasia International Film Festival Prix AQCC Won
Audience Award for Best Asian Feature 3rd place
53rd Grand Bell Awards Best Film The Wailing Nominated
Best Director Na Hong-jin Nominated
Best Actor Kwak Do-won Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Hwang Jung-min Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Chun Woo-hee Nominated
Best New Actress Kim Hwan-hee Won
Best Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Won
Best Recording Kim Shin-yong Won
Best Lightning Kim Chang-ho Won
Best Editing Kim Sun-min Won
36th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Top Films of the Year The Wailing Won
Korean Film Actor's Association Awards Top Director Award Na Hong-jin Won
Top Star Award Kwak Do-won Won
Korean Film Producers Association Awards Best Director Na Hong-jin Won
Best Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Won
Best Lighting Kim Chang-ho Won
Phoenix Critics Circle Best International Film The Wailing Nominated
Sitges Film Festival Focus Asia Award Na Hong-jin Won
Best Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Won
BloodGuts UK Horror Awards Best International Film The Wailing Nominated
Best Director Na Hong-jin Nominated
Best Actor in an International Film Kwak Do-won Won
Hwang Jung-min Nominated
Best Actress in an International Film Chun Woo-hee Nominated
Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival Special Mention Hong Kyung-pyo Won
Best Film The Wailing Nominated
Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival Honourable Mention Won
CPH:PIX Politiken's Audience Award Nominated
2017 11th Asian Film Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Na Hong-jin Won
Best Supporting Actor Jun Kunimura Nominated
Best Sound Kim Dong-han Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film The Wailing Nominated
KOFRA Film Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Na Hong-jin Won
Seattle Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Language Film The Wailing Nominated
Korea Cable TV Awards Cable VOD Grand Prize (Film) Won
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Best Foreign-Language Film Nominated
53rd Baeksang Arts Awards[25][26] Best Film Won
Best Director Na Hong-jin Nominated
Best Actor Kwak Do-won Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Chun Woo-hee Nominated
Best New Actress Kim Hwan-hee Nominated
Best Screenplay Na Hong-jin Nominated
22nd Chunsa Film Awards[27] Best Director Won
Best Actor Kwak Do-won Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Hwang Jung-min Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Chun Woo-hee Nominated
Best Screenplay Na Hong-jin Nominated
Technical Award Jang Yeong-gyoo and Dalpalan Nominated
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films Best DVD/Blu-Ray Release The Wailing Nominated
iHorror Awards Best Foreign Horror Nominated


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lee, Maggie (May 19, 2016). "Cannes Film Review: 'The Wailing'". Variety. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  2. ^ "Goksung (2016)". The Numbers. October 21, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  3. ^ Hughes, David (21 November 2016). "The Wailing". Empire. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  4. ^ Abrams, Simon. "The Wailing movie review & film summary (2016) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  5. ^ "The Wailing (2016)". Letterboxed. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  6. ^ a b McNary, Dave. "The Wailing". Variety. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  7. ^ The Wailing (2016) - IMDb, retrieved 2021-05-11
  8. ^ The Wailing (2016), retrieved 2021-05-11
  9. ^ "The Wailing (Goksung) (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  10. ^ "The Wailing Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  11. ^ Jada Yuan (2016-05-26). "No Chicken Is Safe in the Insane Korean Occult Murder Mystery The Wailing". Vulture. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  12. ^ Bitel, Anton. "The Wailing - review". Little White Lies. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  13. ^ Pickett, Leah. "The Wailing". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  14. ^ Hoad, Phil (24 November 2016). "The Wailing review – Korean horror flick takes fear to the brink of an abyss". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  15. ^ Andrews, Nigel. "Film review: Creepy/The Wailing — 'Something nasty'". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  16. ^ Collins, Clark (3 June 2016). "'The Wailing': EW review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  17. ^ Bechervaise, Jason (13 May 2016). "'The Wailing': Cannes Review". Screen Daily. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  18. ^ Hall, Jacob (20 January 2017). "The Wailing Remake Possibly on the Way". /Film. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  19. ^ Young, Debora (18 May 2016). "'The Wailing' ('Goksung'): Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  20. ^ Lee, Maggie (19 May 2016). "Cannes Film Review: 'The Wailing'". Variety. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  21. ^ Ehrlich, David (23 May 2016). "Cannes Review: 'The Wailing' Is An Epic Korean Horror Movie Too Crazy For Its Own Good". IndieWire. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  22. ^ Romano, Aja (11 June 2016). "The Wailing is a deeply unsettling horror film, but it offers more chills than answers". Vox. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  23. ^ Michel, Lincoln (October 6, 2018). "This Is the Spookiest Movie on Netflix". GQ. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  24. ^ Hadfield, James (8 March 2017). "'The Wailing': Spine-chilling in every possible way". The Japan Times. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  25. ^ "공유·박보검·남궁민·한석규…백상예술대상 男TV연기상 4파전". 7 April 2017.
  26. ^ "'Guardian,' 'The Handmaiden' win big at Baeksang Awards". Korea Herald. 4 May 2017.
  27. ^ "'2017 춘사영화상' 나홍진, 최우수감독상…하정우·손예진 남녀주연상". SE Daily. 25 May 2017.