That amazingly talented screenwriting duo, the Hong sisters, has done it again! Unless you’ve been waiting months to watch Hotel Del Luna, counting the days until it was out in its entirety, I suggest holding off a bit longer and watching it closer to Halloween. Why? Because it’s a wonderfully entertaining, romantic ghost story!
Most people, when their time on earth comes to an end, cross a bridge over the river of death. Hotel Del Luna (which was known as The Inn of the Moon and The Hotel of the Full Moon in different eras) is a luxurious place where ghosts go before they leave for Heaven. Some only stay for a short visit while others reside there longer as they rest and deal with issues they could not resolve while they were alive. Healing is not just for humans, ghosts must heal in order to pass on. The hotel is kind of like Limbo – a place between Heaven and Earth. Although Hotel Del Luna exists in the real world it only appears to those who are not dead every so often on rainy days, or to those who have a special sense. Because of a deal Goo Chan-Sung’s late father made with the owner of the hotel, Chan-Sung has taken over as the General Manager. Although it was not what he had desired to do, and the idea of seeing ghosts bothers him, he gives the job his all, treating his ghostly customers just like he would if they were living humans. It doesn’t take long before Manager Goo becomes part of the hotel staff family and falls in love with its owner, the beautiful, yet bitter, 1,300 year old Jang Man-Wol.
For slightly over a millennium Jang Man-Wol has been the CEO of the hotel for ghosts, tied to it through her connection to the spirit tree which stopped the flow of life and death for her. It is that tree’s power that creates Hotel Del Luna. During the late Goguryeo era she was the leader of a group of rebel thieves. However, due to grief and revenge, she killed many people and, as punishment, ended up being forced to run the ghost hotel. Man-Wol may be beautiful but her heart is vindictive and cold. She has been called arrogant and foolish and it is not uncommon for her to get explosively angry in just an instant. She loves spending money and always wants the best of the best.
Harvard MBA graduate Goo Chan-Sung is offered a job from three of the top hotels in Forbes financial magazine when Jang Man-Wol approaches him with the offer of being the general manager at her hotel. The idea of him accepting a position at Hotel Del Luna, a place no one knows, is simply out of the question, especially when he finds out the hotel’s customers are ghosts. In order to get him to reconsider, Man-Wol gifts/curses him with the ability to see dead people and he quickly realizes that, given the circumstances, Hotel Del Luna is probably the best place for him. He ends up accepting Man-Wol’s job offer and dedicates himself to being the best general manager Hotel Del Luna has ever had. Manager Goo isn’t just handsome and intelligent, he is also thrifty and has a sympathetic nature which means he often clashes with Man-Wol.
The hotel’s Sky Bar bartender is Kim Seon-Bi, a Joseon dynasty scholar who came to the hotel 500 years ago. He enjoys inventing new drinks and giving them meaningful names, such as Tears.
Choi Seo-Hee has been the hotel’s head housekeeper for 200 years. She, too, lived during the Joseon dynasty and was the wife of a nobleman’s son. She is friendly and very conscientious, always making sure her job is done precisely right.
The first person to greet the guests is Ji Hyun-Joon, the young man who has been the hotel’s receptionist for 70 years. He is cheerful, congenial, and has a warm smile. He came from a well-to-do family and was a student at the time he was killed during the Korean War.
You can read about Yeo Jin-Goo, whose character is Goo Chan-Sung, the manager of Hotel Del Luna, in my Circle: Two Worlds Connected review.
There are lots of stars that made a guest appearance on Hotel Del Luna. A few of my favorites are – Oh Ji-Ho as Chan-Sung’s dad, Lee Joon-Gi as a priest, Park Jin-Joo as an imaginary friend, Lee Seung-Joon as an acupuncturist, Kang Hong-Suk as the Grim Reaper, and last but certainly not least Kim Soo-Hyun! This happens to be his first drama appearance since returning home from his mandatory military assignment two months ago! I’m not going to tell you what part he plays because I want you to be pleasantly surprised but the only way you’ll be able to see him is if you watch the entire ending, which goes beyond the credits!
The drama has one main plot with many individual ghost stories weaved throughout the whole thing – a spirit haunts a book in a library, a serial killer is on the loose and we meet his ghostly victims, a ghost needs to choose a groom so she won’t have to go to Heaven single, a blind ghost wants to find a certain alive someone but has never seen his face, a teenage girl is killed by a classmate and then takes possession of her killer’s body, an evil spirit escapes the hotel to hunt down the people that made her life on earth miserable… and so many others. It isn’t until close to the end that we discover what happened to keep Jang Man-Wol tied to the tree and hotel, and why Bartender Kim Seon-Bi, Housekeeper Choi Seo-Hee, and Receptionist Ji Hyun-Joong have stayed at the hotel for so long, refusing to go on to the after life.
Through this drama we are cautioned to not second guess people/situations and to not hold grudges. The anger and resentment the main characters have bottled up in their hearts prevents them from progressing past the state of Limbo. They keep themselves in that hotel for hundreds of years because they won’t let go of their resentments. Maybe being unwilling to forgive is what being “damned to hell” is really all about.
I had a problem with the last few minutes of the show. Sorry, but all I can tell you is I thought it was too ambiguous. Let me know what crosses your mind after you see it.
I wish I could have found out what it cost to make this drama because they had to have spent a fortune on IU’s costumes and make-up alone. If I had to guess I’d say Jang Man-Wol changes clothes about eight times per episode. Her hair changes length (below her butt, half-way down her back, to her shoulders…) and styles multiple times, her fingernails are every color of the rainbow, and her lipstick goes from light to dark and every shade in between. I loved when they had her looking like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! IU is a gorgeous young woman and the role she plays in this show makes great use of her beauty.
The special effects are very good. We see people fade away, instantly vanish, and some even turn to ash. Blue flowers bloom on a huge tree, eyes glow, fog covers a tremendously long bridge… The make-up is fairly decent and, yes, there are some spooky-looking ghosts.
What were Hotel Del Luna‘s ratings like? Well, the show recorded the highest ratings in its timeslot throughout its run and is the eighth highest rated Korean drama in cable television history! Quite an accomplishment.
This show is a well written, well directed, well acted Korean drama that is worth every second you’ll spend on it. Because it is just 16 episodes you may think it is only a 16 hour time commitment but you’d be wrong. As the drama proceeds the episodes gradually get longer and longer until an hour and a half episode becomes standard. But the show doesn’t drag. Everything moves along at a good pace, never giving the audience a chance to get bored.
Hotel Del Luna boasts an excellent soundtrack with artists such as Taeyeon, Heize, Yang Da-Il, Gummy, and Paul Kim, (to name just a few) performing lovely ballads. My favorite one sung by a male is So Long, and Can You Hear Me is my favorite song sung by a female. Red Velvet sings More Than Any Star, the only upbeat song on the soundtrack. Done For Me is a really good slow rap wonderfully performed by Punch. Another Day seemed to be the song played most often during the drama. One song I’m sure you’re already familiar with is Ludwig von Beethoven’s Sonata No. 14 (more commonly known as Moonlight Sonata) which can be heard now and then throughout the show. You’ll recognize it the second you hear it, which happens to be just one minute into the drama.
The hotel is unbelievable! It looks like a regular old fashioned hotel on the outside but its interior is spectacular (kind of like Dr. Who’s TARDIS). It boasts an “outdoor pool” which happens to be the ocean and it also has an indoor amusement park. Close your eyes and imagine the coolest hotel you can think of and Hotel Del Luna has that beat by a mile. Because Jang Man-Wol is over 1,000 years old, when we are shown flashbacks of her life as a mortal we are watching things that happened during the Goguryeo era. The costumes and settings during the ancient history scenes are superb and for a second I forgot I wasn’t watching a historical drama.
A sequel? Oh, yes, please! The last couple seconds of Hotel Del Luna hints that we may be watching Hotel Blue Moon in the not too distant future. At least that’s the impression I got. I hope it wasn’t just wishful thinking on my part.
IU and Yeo Jin-Goo’s chemistry
Moral to the story
Nice ancient scenery
Jang Man-Wol’s clothes and hair styles
Lots of guest star appearances
Slightly ambiguous ending