Julien Neaves, Editor
Procrastination really is the thief of time. I have been sitting on this review for so long I’m surprised it hasn’t hatched already. Well, since I am writing it now I guess it has hatched, figuratively speaking.
Netflix Korean horror drama series Sweet Home (an ironic name, for sure) tells the tale of residents of an apartment building who become trapped when the people outside (and a few inside) begin transforming into horrific monsters of various types. It was based on the webtoon of the same name by Kim Kan-bi and Hwang Young-chan and released December last year (I told you I’ve been sitting on it for a while). Without further ado let’s get to my review (hey, I rhymed) which contains a few mild spoilers.
The protagonist of this macabre tale is Cha Hyun-su (Song Kang), a suicidal young man who becomes infected and uses his abilities to become a hero. And thank goodness for his extraordinary abilities, because they distract from the fact that Hyun-su is lacking a personality. He is either depressed, intense or just blank. Sure he commits acts of bravery but he often has to be cajoled into it. This dude has to be one of the most unlikable lead characters I have ever seen and it is one of the series’s biggest flaws.
Thankfully the show features many more characters (almost too many at certain points) and among them there are a few worth rooting for and getting invested in. Some of my favourites are a mysterious, scarred criminal, a resilient former firefighter, a smart-mouthed ballerina, a sword-wielding Christian teacher, and a crafty, wheelchair-bound former military man. There are a couple of annoying and stupid characters as well, but at least these seem intentionally so.
Now on to the show’s best feature—those monsters. Sure the CGI looks like a PlayStation 1 game (and an early one at that) but what it lacks in polished special effects it makes up for in creativity. There are enough monsters here to complete a small bestiary. There are big strong monsters, tentacled monsters, spider-like monsters, super fast monsters, and even monsters missing a part of their head. A great deal of creativity is on display here and I enjoyed discovering new creatures episode by episode.
As a horror series Sweet Home does deliver some genuine scares and buckets of gore. There is also a persistent atmosphere of tension both from the monsters attempting to break in and paranoia about those infected within the midst of the survivors.
Now I had an odd experience while watching this show. I was hooked by the first couple of episodes which seemed set for a slow-burn monster apocalypse. But then everything was drastically turned up to 100 and it was full-on survival mode. A similar thing happened with The Walking Dead spin-off Fear the Walking Dead, and it disappointed me there as well. And the middle episodes were so chaotic and had so many characters and subplots that it was just overload.
Thankfully the latter half of episodes were more streamlined and focused (partly because multiple characters had died by that point) and the series picks up in quality. And while an extremely dark show that tackles heavy themes like guilt, depression, trauma, suicide, domestic abuse, and existential dread, there is thankfully a thread of hope that runs through it. The first season ends with a bang (quite literally) and sets up well for another season. And there is enough good in here to deserve one.
Editor Jules’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.