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‘Sweet Home’ explores humanity and monstrosity

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, December 21, 2020  /  05:10 pm

Imagine that the earth was on the brink of a mysterious monster apocalypse. Would you rather die as a human or live as a monster?

Following the death of his family, life-loathing teenager Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang) moves to a tattered apartment complex called Green Home. He is determined to commit suicide in the building until he witnesses one of his neighbors devour her own pet and turn into a monster.

As it turns out, his neighbor isn’t the only one. Numerous people have transformed into monsters of various forms depending on their desires. They experience severe nosebleeds and hallucinations before the transformation. Hyun-soo and the other residents of Green Home are trapped inside the building, trying to survive surrounded by dangerous monsters that prey upon them.

Amid the confusion, Hyun-soo experiences a severe nosebleed and realizes that he, too, will become a monster.

Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang), a life-loathing teenager who finds himself saving other people's lives.Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang), a life-loathing teenager who finds himself saving other people's lives. (Netflix/File)

Sweet Home is based on a popular webtoon of the same name by Kim Carnby and Hwang Young-chan. Available on Netflix, it was helmed by Lee Eung-bok, who directed Korean drama Descendants of the Sun (2016), Guardian: The Lonely and Great God or Goblin (2016) and Mr. Sunshine (2018).

During a press conference on Wednesday, Eung-bok said that he found everything in the webtoon intriguing, including the part where humans became monsters based on their desires and the main character, Hyun-soo, who wants to end his own life but later finds himself on a different path.

“When I first saw Hyun-soo, I thought of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands (1990). He has a pure heart but a cold-blooded image,” Eung-bok said.

The 10-episode series may not be for the faint-hearted as Eung-bok never hesitates to show flowing and splattering blood, but Sweet Home is much more than that. Its cinematography, plot twists, suspense and character development pull audiences into every episode.

Sweet Home features characters with their own agendas, including a mysterious man named Pyun Sang-wook (Jee Jin-wook), who is often mistaken for a gangster; Seo I-kyung (Lee Si-young), a firefighter and a character from the original series; medical student Lee Eun-hyuk (Lee Do-hyun); Korean language teacher and a devout Christian Jung Jae-hun (Kim Nam-hee); Eun-hyuk’s sister Lee Eun-yoo (Go Min-ai); bass player Yoon Ji-soo (Park Gyu-young); and caregiver Park Yoo-ri (Go Yoon-jung).

Most characters carry emotional baggage, and as they gradually adapt to the situation, they change into people who you either cheer for or dislike.

Lee Si-young plays the original character Seo I-kyung.Lee Si-young plays the original character Seo I-kyung. (Netflix/File)

At the press conference, Lee Si-young said she did not struggle to play her character because Eung-bok gave her thorough direction and her character had a specific backstory.

“I want to convey a message that anyone can power through a disastrous situation, that they have strength and power. For women, they have the power to protect the ones they love. For children, they bring up their inner strength to protect their younger siblings,” Si-young said.

Prior to its release, Sweet Home stirred up a wave of excitement by releasing a trailer that showed a glimpse of its monsters. Eung-bok said they tried to be as loyal as possible to the webtoon. They teamed up with American special effects studio Legacy Effects, global special effects company Spectral Motion, Korean visual effects company Westworld, Korean choreographer Kim Seol-jin and actor-contortionist Troy James to make the monsters appear lifelike.  

Each monster is unique and terrifying in its own way, including what the webtoon’s fans call the “lotus root monster”, as the top part of its head is cut off, and the “muscle monster”, which will send chill down viewers’ spines. The computer graphics for certain monsters, however, are slightly less smooth than for others.

“There are a lot of monsters in the story, but what I really wanted to focus on was humans,” said Eung-bok. “What are monsters? That’s the question I wanted to pose, and if you watch our series, Hyun-soo says some monsters don’t harm humans. I don’t think desires are all bad, and something that looks like a monster isn’t entirely bad.” (wng)

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