By Bryan Tan
This review contains spoilers and covers episodes 1-4 of Sweet Home, which is currently available on Netflix. Read our review of episodes 5-10 here.
The latest hit Korean drama Sweet Home premiered last week to high ratings both on Netflix and at home in South Korea, the latest in a string of successful gory, zombie flicks following the likes of Kingdom (2019) and #Alive (2020).
Cha Hyun Soo (Song Kang) moves into the very dilapidated Green Home apartment complex after his entire family is killed, leaving him orphaned and depressed.
He briefly interacts with the complex’s disgruntled security guard (Shin Mun Sung), who judges him for moving in alone. The guard is picked on by the complex manager and a resident for being lazy, and develops a strangely severe nosebleed.
A strange apartment complex with even stranger residents
Hyun Soo meets Lee Eun Yu (Go Min Si) on the rooftop, a rebellious ballerina dancing to her own tune, who was expelled from school for her behaviour.
Other residents are also introduced. Yoon Ji Su (Park Gyu Young) is a struggling bassist who moved in recently and speaks with Im Myung Sook (Lee Bong Ryun), a single mother who lost her toddler in an accident and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, a.k.a. PTSD auntie.
The residents from Green Home are a real motley bunch, counting a pastor (Kim Nam Hee) and a gangster (Lee Jin Wook). Most of them exhibit strange symptoms of gushing nosebleeds, deep dark bruising on their bodies and pulsating scars.
Like the AMC series Walking Dead, it makes for good entertainment when all the survivors have interesting personalities and creates exciting tension when they have to make life or death decisions.
The apocalypse begins
Hyun Soo is rudely awakened from his suicidal reverie when a female resident rings his doorbell repeatedly, begging to be let in. Before he can allow her in, she begins bleeding furiously from the nose and transforms horrifically before his eyes.
The residents realise that something is wrong when the shutters to the complex remain shut when they should have been opened.
Medical student Lee Eun Hyeok (Lee Do Hyun) and former firefighter Seo Yi Kyung (Lee Si Young) team up to raise the complex’s shutters, only to be confronted by a hideous bestial form which attacks the residents with a long tongue-like appendage.
Despite the fact that Hollywood VFX teams have come together to produce the monsters of Sweet Home, they seem cartoonish and almost comical, like they came from a video game.
Director Lee Eung Bok did admit that it was the first time he and his team were experimenting with VFX on such a large scale, and I have to agree that it did not turn out that great.
Chaos envelops Green Home
Green Home’s residents start to panic and barricade the complex, at the same time trying to find out what is happening in the outside world. They start receiving emergency advisories on their phones, urging that those with excessive nosebleeds, blackouts and aggressive behaviour are to be quarantined.
Eun Hyeok rallies the residents, shepherding them to the day-care centre in the complex which is relatively safe and far from the main entrance. But the nerves of residents are fraying and the director of the day-care centre (Kim Hee Jung) adamantly refuses to allow them in and throws a fit.
Hyun Soo manages to save two young children from a flat below his with the help of a crippled, neighbouring resident, who has managed to fashion a rifle from his crutches. But he runs into a new abomination; a heavily muscled monster heavily resistant to any physical attacks.
People in apocalypses do the darndest things
Yi Kyung a.k.a firefighter girl is captured by an unknown beast while attempting to restore power to the apartment complex and is trapped in what seems to be a cocoon.
Hyun Soo, katana pastor, bassist girl, PTSD auntie and the two rescued children gather at the crippled resident’s place to rest and plan their next moves. Hyun Soo and bassist girl exchange vows and promise to kill each other if either one of them transforms into a monster.
Of course, people will be people and they will do stupid things, especially during an apocalypse. Day care centre director manages to sneak behind Eun Hyeok and raises the shutter of the main entrance, unleashing chaos.
Like with all horror and thriller series, there’s always this one annoying person who thinks his/her needs should be put above the rest. These characters usually don’t end up with a happy ending, or do they?
Is democracy dead?
The residents of Green Home realise that Hyun Soo is infected, and vote to quarantine him along with all those deemed infected or suspicious. But the supermarket uncle (Woo Hyeon) argues that the world is falling to bits and there is no point to having a democracy.
Some sense of normalcy returns to the residents who have holed up on the first floor of Green Home. They reflect on the events that have happened, contemplate their past, and even encourage each other to take a pregnancy test.
In these first four episodes, the action has been great so far, along with phenomenal acting from the cast. Director Lee opted for a very saturated and dim orangey lighting to create a certain atmosphere within the complex, but it felt very contrived and too much. Hopefully the plotline will eventually show itself and provide a greater picture and clearer objectives for viewers to immerse themselves in.
Read our next review of Sweet Home, which covers the remaining six episodes of the 10-part series, here.