Move over, “Squid Game,” the latest Korean sensation is here.
It’s called “Hellbound, and for writer/director Yeon Sang-ho, his hit Netflix show was over 20 years in the making.
“I’m very pleasantly surprised that so many people are liking this show,” Sang-ho, 43, told The Post via a translator. “it started from a short animation that I created back in college. So I was only 20 and this was my first [creation] ever. If I knew at the time that it would be globally popular in twenty-eight year’s time, I would be even more surprised.”
Now streaming, “Hellbound” topped streaming ratings in over 80 countries within 24 hours of its debut on Nov 19th. This comes right after gruesome Korean drama “Squid Game” also topped the charts, with a staggering 1.65 billion views its first month out. Even so, Sang-ho (who also directed the acclaimed action horror 2016 film “Train To Busan”) does not see a particular correlation between the his show and “Squid Game,” he said.
“I think ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Hellbound’ have their differences and the reason why people like them is somewhat different. Both of them were popular because they had something that people could relate to and resonate with. I think everyone has a certain level of fear and darkness inside them, and I think that’s universal. So when I was making ‘Hellbound,’ I wanted to find out what kind of hope it can draw from the fear that’s in all of us.”
Where ‘Squid Game’ is mostly a critique about life for those at the bottom of the ladder in the system of capitalism, “Hellbound” is more about religion. “Hellbound” is a dark fantasy about demons who start visiting the world and telling people when they will die, causing mass hysteria in society. The fallout includes police officers scrambling to investigate what’s happening and a cult-like religious groups called The New Truth and The Arrowhead forming in response — gaining power by playing on people’s fears and spreading their messages in bombastic videos. The ensemble of characters includes Min Hye-Jin (Kim Hyun-joo), an attorney who’s skeptical about The New Truth, Jin Kyun-hung, a detective who’s tasked with investigating the supernatural events, and Jung Jin-su (Yoo Ah-in), the leader of the New Truth.
“The idea behind the show was that the world — which is reasonable and rational — turns into a primal kind of world. I thought about what kind of world that would be, and I thought about the concept of theocracy, where God and politics combined, and that’s why I came up with The New Truth,” he said. “I thought about propaganda speakers, and I thought nowadays, what would be a fitting way to depict it would be YouTube. And so, I wanted to visualize that.”
Sang-ho also had another theory for why dark Korean TV is all the rage right now.
“It’s actually not been quite long since Korean drama delved into these dark and apocalyptic themes. With Korean movies, it’s been quite long — but TV was mostly romance and rom coms. It was only 3-4 years ago that Korean dramas got into these darker genres. I think there has been some environmental shifts in the industry, and a lot of creators in the film field came over to the [TV] drama industry, and that’s why they brought with them the darker drama.
“I don’t think [a show] has to be dark in order to be globally popular. It’s just that ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Hellbound’ were two dark series in a row. ‘Crash Landing on You’ and ‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’ were also some Korean shows that are very happy and are globally popular. So, I think Korea has a lot of different genres to offer. I think creators are focusing on genres that they couldn’t pursue before. Before, the mainstream was romance and rom coms, and for a change because the dynamic is shifting, that’s why we have more dark series.”
As for whether a “Hellbound” Season 2 will come, he said, “I haven’t talked with Netflix about it, nothing is set in stone. But if things go well, I think it could be a possibility.”