The webtoon Sweet Home made a splash for its eerie illustrations and unorthodox storytelling back in 2017, easily garnering a dedicated fanbase for creators Carnby Kim and Youngchan Hwang. Excitement hit a fever pitch when Netflix announced that a live action adaptation was in the works. However, adapting the thriller webtoon in all its gritty glory is easier said than done.
From director Lee Eung-bok, who helmed the biggest Korean drama hits of the decade, including Descendants of the Sun, The Lonely and Great God—Goblin, and Mr. Sunshine, comes the dark retelling starring Song Kang, Lee Jin-wook, Lee Si-young, and Lee Do-hyun. As unforeseen disasters unfold and monsters emerge from the shadows, the live action Sweet Home contrasts the humanity of monsters with the savagery of humans against a background of complex relationships and twisted desires.
Offering a fresh yet action-packed narrative, Sweet Home deviates from the norm with its layered everyday horrors. Fortunately, the show retained not only the heart-stopping storyline of the webtoon but also the interesting ensemble of characters. At the center of it all is Cha Hyun-su, a compelling—albeit pessimistic—protagonist fighting inner demons and external monsters. Song Kang’s portrayal of the recluse’s battle against the darkness and the worst mankind has to offer gives justice to the complexity of his character arc in the source material. Though the webtoon delved deeper into his internal struggles, the series fleshed out how his relationship with other tenants ultimately defines how he grapples with his own humanity.
The other supporting characters deliciously personify the many facets of fear in times of crisis. Lee Do-hyun mesmerizes as the cold and heartless Lee Eun-hyuk while Kim Nam-hee stands in contrast as the religious and heroic tenant, Jung Jae-heon. Seo Yi-kyeong (Lee Si-young) adds tension to the plot as we follow her unfold the mystery behind her lover’s disappearance.
From the children to the disabled veterans, to the mothers and the government officials, the different perspectives Sweet Home weaves throughout the episodes introduced a realistic approach to the terror that is all too familiar in our current times. However, the show does miss a few beats; not only failing to convincingly explain the strange phenomenon of people turning into their most-feared monsters, it also falls short in exploring the internal conflicts it set up.
If not infected, affected
The show’s eye-catching visuals enhance the overwrought tension of the storyline. Cinematographer Kim Woo-seok’s contrasting use of color and filter creates a spine-chilling atmosphere that never lets up. The rousing soundtrack and eerie sound effects further accent the unimaginable thrill that stimulates suspense before it explodes to its climax.
But most integral to the legitimacy of the adaptation is the artistry involved in rendering the computer-generated imagery that brought the webtoon’s horrors to life. Notable monsters, like the Protein Monster and the Blind Monster, were given proper justice as their appearances parallel the art of the webtoon. The bigger puzzle is formed by the creative director Kim Seol-jin as each room, corridor, and staircase bind micro-stories and characters in close proximity, making every frame rife with agitation.
‘Home’ is such a strange word
As the characters grow more and more sympathetic with one another, learning to embrace their agonizing pasts and face their fears, their developments inevitably make the viewers attached and engrossed in their haunted experience.
Sweet Home satisfies its audience’s yearning for thrill while deftly exploring the monstrous desires of humanity. Although the TV show had big shoes to fill, the fervent exploitation of misery delivers a much-needed narrative of hope in dark times. As the character Choi Ji-su once whispered as she strummed a woeful melody on her electric guitar, “Even the blackest darkness disappears in the faintest light.”
One reply on “Rant and Rave: Not so home ‘Sweet Home’”
You perfectly pointed out the best and worst parts of the live adaption. Protein monster got no lines on this series tho:(