Recently, “Sweet Home” started production for its second season, so I thought that now was an excellent time to finally start this horror-apocalyptic Netflix Korean drama. Based on the webtoon of the same name, “Sweet Home” follows a group of people living in an apartment complex trying to survive as humans mysteriously start turning into monsters. Now, these monsters aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill zombies or ghouls. They’re all different, some of them being huge, Hulk-like beings that can bash your brains or slithery, slimy shapeshifters that can also rip a hole through your chest. No one knows how this phenomenon exactly started, save for that the symptoms of a human changing into a monster are the same: First they start to have intense nose bleeds, and then, after a few days, they’ll change—and no one knows who will start turning into a monster next.
In the midst of this chaos, the trapped residents of Green Home Mansion Apartment try their best to fend off the monsters. Do not be fooled by the luxurious title of the apartment complex—this place was run down even before the monsters, usually being for those who don’t have anywhere else to go. Among these residents include Cha Hyun Soo (Song Kang), a depressed high school drop-out who is able to control his ability to change between monster and human mode, the medical student-turned-apocalypse-survival-team-leader Lee Eun Hyuk (Lee Do Hyun) and his younger ballerina sister Lee Eun Yoo (Go Min Si). The story mostly follows these characters, although other stand-outs in this assembled group include Christian pastor-slash-excellent swordsman Jung Jae Heon (Kim Nam Hee), the down-to-earth bassist Yoon Ji Soo (Park Gyu Young), the badass firefighter Seo Yi Kyung (Lee Si Young), the mysterious gangster Pyeon Sang Wook (Lee Jin Wook) and last but not least, the handy, kind veterans Han Du Sik (Kim Sang Ho) and Ahn Gil Sub (Kim Kap Soo). As you can imagine, there are a lot of characters here to love—but given the genre of this show, this also means you will be holding your breath during every single episode, wondering which one of your beloved faves might potentially meet a grizzly end.
Because grizzly endings are definitely something that this show doesn’t shy away from. I personally am mostly okay with watching violent things while eating meals, but “Sweet Home” is one of those shows where my appetite dropped. This is because in between the awful nose bleeding and spiny monster parts splitting people through their chests, that drippy pizza suddenly looks kinda gross. Admittedly, some of the monsters are a bit laughable when it comes to the computer generated imagery (CGI). Once I got over the initial shock of the nose bleeds and black eyes, the monster that looks like a literal mop or the monster that’s just one huge eyeball just kind of reminded me of the bad, mildly campy CGI of “Doctor Who” back in 2005. But at least 2005-era “Doctor Who” knew not to take its own CGI seriously—but “Sweet Home” takes itself completely seriously, and sometimes, that seriousness isn’t totally warranted. But there are other monsters—like the monster whose entire jaw comes off to kill humans from miles away—that still made me shiver. (And also very suspiciously stare outside my window whenever some idiot on the Ziv quad starts screaming for no good reason. If someone is screaming like that, there better be a legit bloodthirsty monster out there.) My personal favorite effect is Cha Hyun Soo’s own transformation into his monstrous form. I will not spoil what he looks like, but the effects are genuinely fascinating, and even a week after finishing the show, I’m still thinking about that one epic moment—so I’m willing to forgive the show for having some roughly animated monsters in the beginning.
But outside of the effects and the characters, the real strength of “Sweet Home” lies in the relationship dynamics between the residents of Green Home Mansion. When it comes to grim, gruesome shows about the end of the world brought on by the rise of some kind of monster, humanity becomes the central focus of the plot. There are certainly a few characters in the apartment that represent all the worst people we know in an apocalyptic setting—the stingy money hoarders and the shifty-eyed opportunists. “Sweet Home” is relatively simplistic in addressing this question of humanity, boiling it down to those who were always bad will remain bad—those who are good will remain largely good, even in the face of hardship and, more interestingly, even when turning into a monster themselves. We see this time and time again, like with all the times Cha Hyun Soo put his neck on the line to protect the residents of Green Home. Or the time a mother turned into a monster to protect Ji Soo and two just-orphaned children. Although the monsters are still very much dangerous, unpredictable beings, there is still this underlying message about how the connection and protectiveness we feel for our fellow humans are the things that keep us from turning into mindless, violent creatures. At the end of the day, that is all the residents of Green Home have left—their connection to one another, and, by extension, their will for all of them to survive together. This message is such a common one in all horror/apocalypse stories, but it still hits home every time—no pun intended, of course.
That said, I cannot wait for a second season. So far, actors Song Kang, Lee Si Young, Park Gyu Young and Lee Ji Wook have been reported to reprise their roles, but there is still news of new characters being announced. So far, Kim Shin Rok (“Beyond Evil,” “Hellbound”) and Yook Jun Seo (“Steel Trap”) have been cast for the second season. It is hard to say what kind of characters they will be playing at the moment, but it is clear that “Sweet Home” is gearing up for a killer return. With all the excitement of the first season and the hype that is slowly accruing over its second season, you can bet that I will be steeling myself for another horrifying—but fantastic—watching session.