Hellbound review (2021): A South Korean Series Set Against a Backdrop of Ideological Warfare

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The past year has brought Netflix’s audiences to a level never reached before, each show dethroning the previous one in terms of viewing, figures. Lupin, The Queen’s Gambit, Maid… And recently, the Korean horror series Hellbound broke Netflix records, reaching the top of streaming charts in more than 80 countries within 24 hours of its release.

Here’s everything you need to know about the show.

Hellbound Took The World by Storm

First off, let us watch the final trailer of the show if you have not already done it.

 

 

After the Squid Game tornado, Netflix surfs the South Korean wave again and plunges us with Hellbound, this time in a parallel universe, halfway between thriller and fantasy. But even though Squid Game had set the bar very high, Hellbound seems like a little too obscure TV object to achieve the same level. Is it just thanks to the success of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s survival thriller? Or does Hellbound have a charm of its own? The answer probably falls somewhere in between, but there’s a critically-acclaimed streak, at the center of it all.

If the increasingly boring reactions related to Squid Game first made us think that our appetite for Korean dramas was drying up, the new horror series Hellbound has indeed denied this. The Korean-produced horror series arrived on Netflix with an unprecedented reception in the streaming service’s history. It has reached the top of the streaming charts in over 80 countries and created new success for a country that has suddenly found itself at the center of the global entertainment industry.

Main Characters

Yoo Ah-in

He is a 35-year-old actor. He is also a creative director and is not at his first attempt in a series since he played in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (in 2010), Secret Love Affair (in 2014), and Six Flying Dragons (in 2015). Well-known in South Korea, the young man has also landed roles in the films Veteran (in 2015), Sado (the same year), and Burning (released in 2018). Yoo Ah-in, whose real name is Uhm Hong-sik, can also boast of having received numerous awards for his performances, like that of the best new actor (in 2007, 2008, 2015, and 2016).

Kim Hyun-Joo

Kim Hyun-Joo is a South Korean actress. She started her career as a magazine model when she was in 3rd year of high school. In 1996, she made her debut in entertainment by playing in Kim Hyun Chul’s music video “One Lifetime“. Then in 1997, she continued her acting career in the TV series “The Reason I Live“. The following year, she was the main actress of the drama “If It Snows on Christmas“.

Yang Ik-june

Yang Ik-june was born in Seoul in 1975. After his military service, he did odd jobs and took a theater course, more out of a desire to ape, imitate television stars than out of a taste for art. But his curiosity got the better of him. He has appeared in a large number of short films and in a few independent feature films. He directed his first short film, “Always Behind You” in 2005, then in 2009 “Breathless”, a film which achieved unexpected public success in his country.

Hellbound’s Plot

Here is another violent and disturbing series from Seoul, which this time takes over the power of religions and social media. This fiction, created by the director of ‘Train to Busan’, reveals a tasty mix of genres and has already dethroned the already very politically incorrect ‘Squid Game from the top of the Netflix charts.

Creatures appear out of nowhere, in broad daylight in Seoul, and slaughter a man in the street, before disappearing as mysteriously as they appeared. The scene was extensively filmed, and the police are investigating. According to a millennial sect, The New Truth, the victim was damned and ended up in hell. The guru declared that God decided to issue a warning to humans.

The opening minutes of Netflix’s new series, inspired by a webtoon, foreshadow a series as fantastic as it is bloody. Then, surprisingly, the action turns to a crime thriller, following in the footsteps of one of the inspectors in charge of the case. The show then turned to religion and even bigotry, by introducing us to the guru of The New Truth. Within the movement, we can find the Arrowheads (extremists led by a completely insane leader); the opportunity for the series to also take an interest in the destructive power of social networks.

In a short time, we can realize that the supernatural theme in the beginning only constitutes one of the aspects in the end. No less was expected from series creator Yeon Sang-ho, film director of ‘Train to Busan’ and its sequel, ‘Peninsula’. Two feature films which, under the guise of describing an apocalypse of the living dead, hollow out a South Korea that has become unlivable except for the wealthy, and where people are ready to fight to the death to gain access to a social position or money. Replace these last words with ‘eternal salvation’, and this is also the observation that the author makes in his series, not tender for religion, not more for the ‘believers’ who are manipulated.

Hellbound is a supernatural horror series that questions what would happen if the damnation prophesied by religions around the world really came true. It centers on the actions of a team of demons who hunt down sinners informed by celestial beings of the time and place of their death. These demons are tasked with sending these sinners, as the name of the series suggests, to hell, creating a violent and terrible atmosphere as well as a world that is beset by religious fanaticism and the constant threat of supernatural horror.

Critics called Hellbound a dark series, far more than Squid Game‘s exaggerated dystopia, but they praised the drama, performances, and action scenes, which, like in Squid Game, are extremely violent and bloody.

This drama halfway between the genre series, using the codes of horror cinema, and the anticipatory tale addresses the existential questions facing the human species, in particular on the border between beliefs and extremist ideology.

Top Reasons Why You Should Watch Hellbound

Thanks to the quality of its original material and the skillful execution of Sang-ho, the series currently has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

With Hellbound, Welcome to The Depths of Humanity!

It all started on a gray November day, in a cafe. A man looks at his phone anxiously. When the clock strikes, three giant creatures appear in his pursuit before beating him to death in front of hundreds of witnesses. It is on this shock sequence that Hellbound opens and exhilarates our curiosity. Quickly, the series is oriented more on the way in which these events are received, in particular by religious groups, than on the events themselves. The series is built on the whole like a slow-burn thriller, with a certain classicism for this genre already very explored in Korean culture, and characters so elusive that it is difficult to get attached to them.

If this first superficial layer is a little damaging to the series, the whole point lies in the tacit message: how the fear of death, mixed with the exposure of borderline personalities on the Internet, can lead a whole population to deny its identity and to switch to a society based on the cult of personality, denunciation and physical lynching in public of those who do not fit into the imposed mold of good morals. It’s hard not to read, between these lines, an ideological critique of dictatorial North Korea, but in a modern version plagued by a toxic use of social networks.

Hellbound: a Demonstration of Korean Know-how in Action

Under horrific appearances, this political thriller allows the director Yeon Sang-ho to assert his status as a master in the matter of the mixing of genres. All of his projects can be considered a reflection of the extravagance, realities of our societies. Among the various actors of the series, we especially note the very disturbing and therefore fatally successful interpretation of Yoo Ah-in, who plays the strange Jin-soo. This new production should confirm, after the success of Squid Game, the growing interest of viewers, especially the younger generation, for Korean culture. Although this fable, very promising on paper, sometimes loses its breath by an excess of slowness, it plunges the viewer into a dark and neat graphic universe, and in a terrifying story.

Questions We Still Ask ourselves (Spoiler Alert!)

Over the course of the episodes, we understand that the strange supernatural phenomenon may ultimately not be the work of God, but what is going on behind it is currently unknown. At the end of the first season of Hellbound, there are many questions left unanswered, here are some.

Where Do The Creatures Come From?

This is one of the biggest questions we ask ourselves after Hellbound: where do the creatures come from? Is it the work of God or rather of Satan? In view of the tragic events that are occurring, it is complicated to think that the Almighty can act in this way. Could it be that it’s humans behind everything that’s going on? One can imagine that the death angel announcing the date and time of death could be a hologram, but difficult to say the same for the monsters that come and go through a time portal.

How Did The Prophecy Start?

If the prophecy seems to have been around for a short time, how and when did it actually come into being? Is it a supernatural event or a natural disaster? Or could a human be hiding behind it all? What is amazing is that one of the first people to receive the prophecy is Jeong Jin-soo, the president of The New Truth. However, nobody knew it and no other case was authenticated 20 years before. Could angels and executioners have shown up in town to get a message across? Or based on the theory that men are behind all this, they might want to depopulate overcrowded places.

Who Are The People Behind The White VIP Masks?

As in Squid Game, mysterious VIPs are always present to attend the events from the front row. They are portrayed as important people, but they are not discussed again until they reappear in episode 5 during another demonstration at the New Truth headquarters. Yet the president of the New Truth was shown with his face uncovered (even though he was one of the most popular/powerful men there). These masked people could be government officials wishing to remain anonymous, people who paid an exorbitant price to attend the event, or they could be part of a New Truth ritual that we are not yet aware of. We hope to know more about this mystery soon!

Why Did a Condemned Person Come Back to Life?

Lastly, the final scene leaves us with even more questions. Although everyone watched Ms. Park’s demonstration – and her charred body was seen locked in a jar – the cliffhanger shows that the deceased miraculously came back to life. Did this woman reincarnate as a demon? It is something to think about because it would be surprising to take somebody’s soul and then allow them to regain their body. Or, maybe once there, Ms. Park passed some kind of test and the leaders realized that she had nothing to do in hell because of her kindness.

So many questions that deserve answers in a potential season 2. We can’t wait to know what Netflix will decide!

Feel free to check out more information about dramas here or the amazing pop-up event for the movie!

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