Webtoons are finally getting their shine with a slew of anime and live-action adaptations. The latest of these is the Netflix Original ‘Sweet Home’, a 143-chapter comic that has 1.2 billion views on Webtoon.
By carrying out the horror-thriller genre, Netflix’s latest original Korean drama 'Sweet Home' presents a storyline full of suspense. Despite its name, the series is far from sweet. In fact, Sweet Home may be K-drama’s answer to the horror fantasy genre. With an enormous ensemble cast, ambitious computer graphics, and action-packed sequences, Sweet Home cements itself as a refreshing breath of fresh air once it comes to Korean dramas. Throughout the episode, the audience will be excited by action scenes performed by human characters and monsters. The series is produced by Studio Dragon, who is also behind the blockbuster masterminds of some other popular K-Dramas such as ‘Arthdal Chronicles’ and ‘Crash Landing on You’ so, you can count on it.
Sweet Home follows the story of Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang), a 19-year-old lonely high school student who moves to a rundown apartment complex called ‘Green Home’ after the death of his family. The socially withdrawn Hyun-soo desires nothing more than to commit suicide. But in the apartment, he then experiences various strange events. There is also the very fact that those attacked by monsters, in turn, get infected and then transform monsters themselves. Because the story setting takes place in an apartment, 'Sweet Home' features various characters who are residents of the Green Home itself. Starting from housewives, students, part-time workers, firefighters, and soldiers. Each character has a very striking difference in appearance and character. This often creates problems and differences of opinion between them.
Some of the tenants step up, others step to the side, and a few decide to make things harder for the rest of them. As a series, Sweet Home is a horrific creature feature that uses body horror, creature design, and most importantly, interpersonal relationships to fuel a suspenseful narrative that uses horror tropes to the extreme in the best ways.
This drama depicts how they struggle together to face monster attacks with their differences.With 10 episodes in the season, a strong pilot sets the scene and is followed by brutal horror. 10 episodes each have a runtime around the 50-minute mark make up Season 1. In other words, there is plenty of entertainment waiting for you, which is perfect since we’re all being urged to stay at home due to our own virus. Obviously, we’re all trying to staying home for very different reasons than the characters in this Netflix series. That’s exactly why it’s the perfect escape.
Allow yourself to keep both yourself and everyone else safe but staying at home and escaping to this different world, where the dangers are quite easy to spot. While one can expect a lot of fear, gore and violence, the underlying plot explores the personal stories of the residents as well. Naturally, there are some characters who must step up as leaders and heroes, and yet others who turn out to be versions of troublemakers despite the situation they find themselves in.
To somehow cramp 140 chapters of the original webtoon into a 10-episode series is a practically impossible feat, which is why we believe there will be a continuation to this drama. In fact, the way the series is able to make each episode, which run less than an hour, feel like a full feature film reflects the power of the story, the actors, and ultimately the ability to execute on pacing. In truth, when it comes to adapting webtoons, it’s not easy. The show runners behind Sweet Home drastically changed some elements of the source material. While these changes may not be liked by fans, they do work to create a cohesive narrative that stays on-pace. At the same time, the changes with this adaptation also open up the door for a possible season two, even with the webtoon completed. When all is said and done, Sweet Home is not just another successful Netflix-backed Korean production, but also another jewel in the crown of 2020 webtoons adaptations.
The CGI used in Sweet Home is clearly inspired by video games, which means it is over-the-top in most ways. Both when looking at the surroundings and when it comes to the monsters. Speaking of the monsters, they are extremely diverse. 'Sweet Home' received a lot of praise from the audience because the effects and animation of the monsters in the story are very similar to the webtoon version. This Korean drama reportedly costs 2.4 million USD per episode. Such a large budget is needed to create heavy graphics and animation from a fantasy story perspective. Because some characters are presented in the form of monsters which of course require a lot of effort and funds for CGI.
Sweet Home promises and delivers Hollywood-level visuals. The monsters depicted on-screen are the series’ strongest point. Sweet Home‘s FX team previously worked on Hollywood blockbusters and superhero movies, and their prowess shows in the unique and surprising designs of each monster. Beyond the visual effects, the attention to detail for the set design are also impressive, with each apartment in the complex looking distinct from one another.The first is that it brings to life graphic and unique monsters through a blend of practical and computer-generated effects work. Additionally, the amazing amount of practical effects are executed well, from noses that gush blood, missing limbs, and interactions between the humans and the monsters.
Unlike shambling zombies that merely react to their environments, the monsters in Sweet Home are products of the desires of their human hosts, making them unique and infinitely more dangerous. Some monsters will look like a classic vampire of sorts while others will have a gentler big-eyed look. However, they are all dangerous. Actually, they all speak of hunger and needing “protein”, which is people. They need to devour human beings to feed themselves.The monsters themselves are terrifying, not just because of the danger they bring but because of the uncanny valley they live in and the absurdity that somehow translates well into live-action.
From an eyeball monster to a muscle monster the size of the Hulk, the designs on Hwang’s illustrations should be commended. Especially when it comes to one of the earliest monsters in the series, the Blind Monster. Missing half of its head and resembling a goblin in some ways, this monster is a blend of practical and CGI work that is genuinely stunning.Humans who get infected turn out to be monsters of various kinds, often depicting their deepest desires. Therein lies a ray of hope – because not all monsters are horrific blood-thirsty creatures. Those who have good intentions seem to be able to overcome the beast in them and even gain superhuman strength when they most require it.
The success of this Korean drama is also inseparable from the ability of the actresses and actors who play a role. They are able to integrate with the characters they play so that they are able to channel the emotions of their characters to the audience. Besides that, the action scenes that were acted on also looked so intense and cool that they made 'Sweet Home' even more stunning. But the strongest part of Sweet Home is its expansive cast. While larger ensemble stories often fall prey to an overextended narrative, this one actively works to build depth behind every character while somehow managing to keep a singular narrative at the forefront. They all have fascinating backstories that come across as the season progresses. Also, there are elements of humor, which is another thing South Korean genre productions have always been excellent at incorporating.
Throughout Sweet Home, the characters constantly highlight the differences between humans and monsters by reinforcing their humanity. The series also grapples with some difficult moral questions. In one scene, the residents hold a vote whether to kill off one of the characters on the verge of turning into a monster. But as one resident reminds them, killing off someone that’s still human is murder turning them into monsters in their own right.
While Hyun-soo is our lead character and offers up an exploration of humanity, trauma, and the way that monsters play into it, each and every member of the extended cast also has a place in the story. Next to Hyun-soo, we also have the visually imposing Sang-wook (Lee Jin-wook), a mysterious man who punishes evil with evil and whom everyone misunderstands for a gangster. With Sang-wook, we get the chance to see a narrative that showcases that appearances and assumptions don’t define a person. Then there is Eun-hyuk (Lee Do-hyun), a medical school dropout and older brother who rolls into being the group’s leader through his logical thinking which those around him dismiss as cold. The weight of their survival rests on Eun-hyuk’s shoulders and through it all, we also get to see his sibling relationship.
Each character has a role to play in the narrative, tropes they fit into and exceed, and ultimately work well as a whole instead of just on their own. But while this large male cast would get the center of the narrative in other horror survival stories, Sweet Home also offers up brilliant female characters that showcase the diversity of both feminine power and struggle. The female characters in this drama also have a very important role in the fight against monsters. They don't just sit quietly and take cover behind the male characters. They created a means of protection, dared to fight at the forefront, and set strategies. And in some scenes, it looks more dominating than the male characters. In just one 10-episode season Sweet Home quickly built emotional attachments between the characters and the audience that pays off in tears upon the deaths of multiple characters.
‘Sweet Home’ is already performing well across the globe on Netflix and has already made it into 32 different top to lists and is already a hit on Netflix in South Korea, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Mainly because one does not need to be a lover of the horror genre to enjoy this series, thanks to the many underlying plots of the various characters.
The live-action remake is definitely worth a watch as it will have you on the edge of your seat, episode after episode. For die-hard Korean dramas fans, it’ll be not only an entertaining watch, but also a much-needed break from typical tropes of dramas. So, get your popcorn ready as this series will bring you on an emotional roller coaster ride.
Rumaiysa M Rahman is a 10th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka