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TV Review- Sweet Home (2020)- A Monster Disappointment

With the releases of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Kingdom, Marianne, The Haunting of Hill House, Ares and The Haunting of Bly Manor, it’s safe to say that Netflix is enjoying a horror television renaissance. Sweet Home, released just last year and based on the popular manhwa written by Kim Carnby and illustrated by Hwang Young-Chan, is one of its lesser known-offerings, that despite some impressive effects, fails to live up to its original source material.

Following the death of his family, teenager Cha Hyun-Soo (Song Kang) retreats inward from the world, seeking refuge in online gaming. However, his lonely existence, along with that of the idiosyncratic residents of the apartment block he resides in, are interrupted by a mysterious and rapidly spreading affliction that mutates ordinary humans into murderous monsters. As he and his neighbours band together for survival, Hyun-Soo discovers the strength inside himself.

Sweet Home is a great show trapped within a mediocre one. It overextends its focus through its considerable cast of characters, instead of focusing on a select and developed few. Cha Hyun-Soo is a flat and particularly unlikable protagonist who is outshone by minor characters such as brutish but misunderstood Pyeon Sang-Wook (Lee Jin-Wook), Lee Eun-Hyuk (Lee Do-Hyun), the bespectacled medical student who assumes leadership over the block, Seo Hi-Kyung, a daring firefighter searching for her missing fiance, Han Du-Sik (Kim Sang-ho), a genius wheelchair-bound weapon smith and Im Myung-Sook (Lee Bong-ryun), a grieving mother. Though viral-themed horror is oversaturated in this current era, what distinguishes Sweet Home is its monster designs, which are on par with those of the Silent Hill or Bloodborne video games. Special mention goes to the grotesquely over-muscled Protein monster and the cyclopean Eyeball monster, who combines the Japanese legend of the Rokurobi with human anxieties surrounding loss of privacy taken to its most horrifying extreme.

For all its faults, the show does offer a powerful and poignant rumination on mental illness, from the main character’s own personal issues, to the nature of the mutagenic illness, which stems not from viral infection but human despair. Indeed, the hideous appearances of the monsters in many ways serve as a metaphor for the physical neglect many humans succumb to in severe cases. Mental illness is a highly contentious yet unspoken matter in many countries, especially in the highly pressurized Korea.

In short, Sweet Home, with some improvements, could easily be one of the best television shows currently streaming. But for now, it’s a flawed but fun show that squanders a brilliant premise.

Rating: 5/10


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