The Wailing (Blu-ray release 2016-10-4) is a Korean horror thriller. Several people in a village die in horrific ways. The daughter of the protagonist also begins to act abnormally. The protagonist suspects it’s all related to a suspicious Japanese man, and the family finds a shaman to help.
In spite of the subject matter, this movie is mostly not scary, except for a strange scene that involves a zombie (which unfortunately is not quite coherent with the rest of the drama). While there are many good qualities to be found in the movie, it rises above the average horror movies because it presents a rare case of suspicion / confusion that is never explained but still intriguing. People have come up with a lot of different interpretations. I read quite a number of them, and the following is what makes the most sense to me.
SPOILER – The Wailing explained
The Japanese guy is a demon, and the shaman is his partner – observe that they both wear the same type of Japanese underwear, the shaman is finally revealed to own the photos previously kept by the Japanese guy, and they both use a camera to capture the soul of the victims.
As reflected in the little girl’s diary, she was raped by the Japanese guy and got the disease. This disease can be sexually transmitted, thereby creating new victims.
The shaman’s ritual aims to harm the little girl instead of killing the demon. Therefore she is in pain. The editing makes it look like the ritual is hurting the Japanese guy as well, but actually he is hurt by the presence of the woman in white.
The woman in white is the guardian spirit of the village, so the shaman vomits when he faces her. She is a representation of good because the Bible says “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. The shaman tries to run away but is stopped by the powers demonstrated by the demon.
The protagonist throws the Japanese guy off the mountain in order to kill him. The shaman refers to this as a stupid fish (the protagonist) taking the bait (the Japanese guy). Murder is a sin, so the guardian spirit can no longer protect the family of the sinned protagonist.
The guardian spirit asks the protagonist to trust her (to have faith) and wait for the rooster’s crows three times – this is a reference to Jesus saying that Peter would deny knowing him three times in the Bible. The protagonist loses faith, goes back home, causing the flower – the trap for the bad guys – at the door to wither. This allows the shaman to go in and capture the spirits of the family using a camera.