It appears to be a particularly successful year for South Korea in the TV series business. After Squid Game, which we reviewed here and we talked about here, another South Korean series literally broke the visions: Hellbound. This is a series pigeonholed into the Horror genre but, mind you, nothing to do with the usual splatter or infested that we often find at the cinema. Hellbound presents a much less imaginative picture than it seems and, indeed, is a perfect representation of the present day.
Yeon Sang-ho is the material creator of all Hellbound: he was responsible for the writing of the Webtoon and the subsequent direction of the television series, with the help of the writer Choi Kyu-sok and the music of Kim Dong-wook. The plot, broken into two time frames, sees as protagonists Yoo Ah.in, Kim hyun-joo, Park Jeong-min, Won Jin-ah e Yang Ik-june.
The review contains spoilers
Throw the first sin who is a weird meat-pounding thing
The daily life of a couple of high school students is turned upside down by the appearance of three frightening creatures: these three brutal, smoky and indecipherable gray masses chase a man until they reach him, beat him to death, incinerate him on the spot and disappear into thin air. What are? Why did they reveal themselves, and who was the man in question? Will there be more violent beatings? Above all, why does that young man on television seem to know where they come from and indeed, does he say that these are messengers of God? So is God punishing us for our crimes?
These are literally the events of the first five minutes of the TV series; more I do not tell, also by virtue of the fact that the series is quite limited (6 episodes lasting about an hour) and has two time frames; the plot unfolds quickly, with different but well-framed protagonists and easily traceable to their roles.
But not many protagonists of the series are memorable; they are, to all intents and purposes, very normal people. It therefore becomes easy to identify with any person, since many of the people in this series could be us, if only we lived in South Korea. Even the plot, on the other hand, develops in one place like any other indeed, perhaps it is precisely being Italian that gave me the basis to better understand the message of the series.
Why is God punishing us?
Hellbound, from its first minutes, appears to affirm that a divinity exists: more specifically, there is its punishment, represented by the three shapeless creatures who have incinerated the unknown one. Who is being punished and why? With what criterion do these creatures act and, above all, is there a way to save themselves? That of Hellbound is a series that begins by covering a brutal murder, true, but then develops in parallel with the presence of the three creatures and ends up talking about something else. Fanaticism, ignorance, faith, hope, humanity, love: all things you will feel the presence of, all things that can be easily assimilated in our context and easily framed in our daily life.
Hellbound talks about how a belief is born, be it a religion or a sect (since the difference is the number of faithful); whether this is right or wrong, whether this is motivated by real or abstract facts. Personally, in Hellbound I saw an enormous anthropological analysis of man, between his frailties and the need to have something to follow, be it a system or a set of Divinities. It is not a critique of the capitalist system like Squid Game: it is a more intimate analysis of how man deals with things he does not understand.
Religion, in fact, can easily be replaced by anything else: we think of the three creatures, for example, as three terminal diseases, the reactions can be the same. Some may wonder why they affect certain individuals, others may wonder why it happened to them, and so on. Some people may even look for culprits and, failing to find them, escalate into a violent spiral. Obviously, Hellbound's vision begins to shine when we understand how much the discourse of guilt, of burden, is present and treated.
Basically, a series about humanity for humanity
Wanting to stop pontificating on six episodes, Hellbound could find itself simply a critique of religion; the second season, already suggested by the finale of the first, could lead to a plot far from the similar Lindelof and Perrotta's The Leftovers. But we'll see. For now it remains the double, triple layer of analysis of the series, which saves it from all the other series present today.
Beyond the plot and the things told, the quality of the direction and the music are absolutely average; on the other hand, the CGI is a bit poor, which often leaves something to be desired when dealing with gray creatures. On the other hand, costumes and make-up are well done, as are the dialogues and writing in general.