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Squid Game – Accessible Korean Horror

Contains Spoilers for Season One!

Whilst this is not a review of the Korean horror series Squid Game there is no denying it has been hugely popular. There have been a string of different series on Netflix which follow this game format, Japanese Alice in Borderland being my particular favourite. Indeed there is a plethora of Korean screen writing to enjoy on Netflix and whilst I am not a horror fan the Asian styles seem to speak to me far more than western films.

The combination of shock & awe and real life issues – i.e. the looming debt of the younger generation hits home internationally – although it does highlight the crushing debt crisis in Korea itself. These poor people willingly participate in a game which whilst it rewards an obscene amount of money requires the players to question their morals, kill their family & friends all with the goal of supposedly clearing their debts.

It has also oddly renewed peoples obsession with honeycomb – the Dalgona candy – people desperately trying to extract their shape. The consequence of it breaking in the actual game was instant death fortunately we can all recreate the game without the violent end. Number 456 successfully manages to lick his umbrella so that it pops out of its shell with seconds to spare whilst others try fatefully with a needle to carefully perforate the lines so they pop out. The look of horror on many of their faces as they are gunned down by the pink soldiers. The rush of memorabilia since its popularity is never ending. Hats, masks, t-shirts are available everywhere for people to mimic their favourite characters.

This dystopic series according to Vanity Fair is unfortunately what we all needed, which in a sense we do whilst we are all stuck in a very similar situation it is unlikely that we would end up in a similar situation – although I question whether these games are a real thing – it seems to me there might be a chance – a horrifying thought for some but when one thinks about the dark web its not unlikely. In fact people recently travelling on the M4 in the UK thought that a road works sign was directing them to the game and had to be reassured by the police that this was not the case, something I find entirely mind blowing. Read more about Squid Game Road Signs here the irony being that the symbols for roadworks in the UK have always been like this.

The games themselves remind us of a more innocent time – pre-technology and the extensive stresses of modern life. The morals of the games are odd – no one left behind, everyone treated equally and many were punished for not adhering to this rule. Indeed Han Mi-nyeo is saved because she isn’t picked for one or the games and basically rejected by all of the other players. She then went on to get her revenge on the one who hurt her the most. Her willingness to do anything to win surprised even Jang Deok-su as she took him to his death in the very next game.

I agree with Vanity Fair this series is certainly an interesting interlude from the usual Hollywood supposed dramas/thrillers and it certainly gives those who haven’t been exposed to Korean screen writing to experience their willingness to highlight issues which would otherwise be swept under the carpet. Western screen writing seems to concentrate more on other taboo issues such as rape and sexuality, where as Asian is more prone to highlighting the state of society and the inequalities between classes.

areal view with city during nighttime
Seoul at Night – Unsplash

The pandemic itself has also highlighted the disparity between classes internationally, not that the problems weren’t there before but they have become much more obvious now. The poor are now poorer than they have ever been and the rich are probably even richer than before, capitalism and communism have profited well from peoples misfortunes. Conversely there are some small business owners who have thrived throughout the pandemic including take away food, cakes and other sweet treats which is most definitely a positive step however arguably that is capitalism taking advantage of a captive market.

Personally I am quite looking forward to series 2 and I would like to think that the writer will not feel pressured to rush the series through (knowing that the 1st took 9 years to write) simply because people expect everything to be available this instant. It will also be interesting to see where they choose as the next location, the end of the series left it open as an international game, and indeed it was mentioned by the ‘Front Man’ that it just happened to be in Korea this year. It is a great concept for a series and although it is not new it still remains engagingly written leaving us wanting more as every good TV series should.

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