Netflix adds to its diverse collection of South Korean dramas with ‘Hellbound’

Pamela Faller, Design Editor

Known for directing the award-winning horror film “Train to Busan,” Yeon Sang-ho adapts his own webtoon ‘Hellbound’ for a six-part Netflix original series that captures the fear of South Koreans living in a world full of sin and death. Director Yeon tells a horrific, yet captivating story in his interpretation of religion and judgement in modern society. 

In the series, “sinners” receive decrees from an eerie face that tells them they’re bound for hell and will die on a certain day at a certain time. When this day arrives, three supernatural creatures find the sinner and incinerate their body, bringing them to hell. As these deathly visits grow in number, a wave of paranoia washes over the city of Seoul. Who will receive the decree and be condemned next? 

Split in two parts, the show initially focuses on police detective Jin Kyung-hun (Yang Ik-joon) who investigates the supernatural incidents determined to find an answer behind all the chaos. Kyung-hun faces the New Truth Society and the radical Arrowhead—two powerful groups that believe the condemned deaths are demonstrations of God’s will. Both groups gain followers over time and eventually overpower the police force and anyone who disagrees with their teachings.

While ‘Hellbound’ includes the appearance of horrific monsters, most of the terror comes from the response of the society. As death approaches, civilians begin to lose their ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Blindly believing in the teachings of the New Truth and the Arrowhead, innocent people themselves become monsters in their own ways by judging and shaming the condemned sinners. This unsettlingly relevant message sheds light on issues in society and media influence today.

With a total of only six episodes, the short series still offers a plot full of suspense, but this is also accompanied by an ill-defined time jump that makes the story a bit confusing for its audience. 

In the second half of the show, Yeon introduces a set of new characters and a subplot. This made it hard to develop an attachment to the characters, which is one feature of K-dramas that makes them especially entertaining and addicting to watch. Even though learning more about the detective and his backstory allows viewers to understand him and resonate with his struggles, this is pointless when his character basically disappears from the plot after the third episode. 

Despite the show’s weaker points, it’s definitely a unique perspective that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. The unanswered questions that come to mind after every episode adds to the experience of watching the story unravel. Like the characters, viewers also encounter feelings of confusion mixed with fear as they step further into this new world of darkness both on and off the screen.

With all its gruesome twists and turns, this Netflix series is a great option for anyone interested in dark fantasy and suspense. Ending with a frightening cliffhanger, the last episode of ‘Hellbound’ leaves the audience wanting more.