Train to Busan‘s visionary Korean director Yeon Sang-Ho is once again delving into the horror genre (with an intriguing procedural twist) with upcoming Netflix Original Korean series Hellbound. The six-part show is based on the popular Korean webtoon Hell, which is also from Sang-Ho and cartoonist Choi Gyu-seok, with the K-horror/drama debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival. The director continues to explore societal responses to cataclysmic events with emotional, character-driven narratives, resulting in a hugely compelling binge-watch.
In Hellbound, a number of terrifying supernatural phenomenon events are unfolding, leading to an utterly seismic change which ripples across the nation. Individuals receive a prediction of exactly when they’re going to die, and as the countdown comes to an end, supernatural beings appear and send the condemned violently to hell. Amidst the chaos that unfolds, a new religious group known as the New Truth rises up, claiming the new appearance of the unknown is God’s divine will and intention. Meanwhile, police detective Jin Kyung-hoon (Yang Ik-june) is tasked with investigating the mystery behind the disturbing occurrences, while civil unrest quickly erupts due to the horrors witnessed.
Opening with a boldly intense and shocking sequence – which sees three of the demonic entities chasing down and smiting one of the condemned – Sang-Ho wastes no time in rooting audiences in the terrifying new world. The narrative features a fascinating twist on the procedural, with an intriguing mix of crime thriller & dark supernatural elements, exploring a number of the big existential questions humans often grapple with. Are the demonic creatures really a part of God’s divine will? Who really is the mysterious prophetic leader of the New Truth? Is this the end of the World as we know it? The Train to Busan director once again brilliantly depicts societal panic on a grand scale, as we follow detective Jin Kyung-hoon’s murder investigations in a hugely gripping and compelling watch full of twists and turns.
Yang Ik-june and Kim Hyun-joo’s performances really do act as a fantastic viewpoint in this terrifying new world, allowing viewers to be fully immersed. Throughout the episodes Sang-Ho explores both of their backstories in fascinating sub-plots, adding a real emotional depth to the series as you quickly root for the pair on their respective journeys. However it’s Burn’s Yoo Ah-in who’s the real standout as the captivatingly enigmatic New Truth leader. His actions really are key to the stoking the civil unrest, with morally questionable actions resulting in a dangerous and intimidating following, driven by the motivations of repentance through fear.
Series cinematographer Bong-sun Byun does a fantastic job rooting the horror/supernatural elements into the bustling cityscape of South Korea. The violent opening, which sees the terrifying behemoth figures chasing down and ritualistic turning the condemned “sinner” to ash, really does unnerve and unsettle. While the visual effects for these demonic creatures impress, the giant floating faces (referred to as “angels” in the prophetic messages) certainly don’t. The main disappointment is the lack of these supernatural elements, with Sang-Ho instead focuses on the terror and shocking vengeful actions enacted by humans, in the name of justice in result.
Featuring a number of compelling performances and an intriguing twist on the crime procedural, delving into collective anxiety and fear, Hellbound makes for a hugely tense and gripping experience. If you’re a fan of K-drama or detective tales, this will undoubtedly become your next binge watch when it lands on Netflix.