I wanted to find a spooky yet short Kdrama for you to watch Halloween night as you waited for trick-or-treaters to ring your doorbell. Nightmare Teacher (aka Nightmare High) sounded like it would be perfect – 12 episodes each about 15 minutes a piece and the word “nightmare” was right there in the title. However, it didn’t quite reach what I would call spooky. I categorize this 2016 Viki Original webdrama as just plain weird.
Ever since a temporary teacher arrived at Yosan High School students from grade 2 class 3 have been disappearing. Strangely enough, no one even notices those students’ absence at all. It’s almost like they never even existed. When class president Kang Ye-Rim gets the feeling something is just not right with Teacher Han Bong-Gu and his counseling room, she and another student, Seo Sang-Woo, decide to do a little snooping.
This is the part of my review where I usually do a short character analysis but I can’t do that with this webdrama because these people are all just surface characters. We know nothing about Teacher Han except that he’s a temporary teacher. We’re told Kang Ye-Rim is the class president, and we know Seo Sang-Woo likes Ye-Rim and photography. That’s it! The drama highlights six different students, each one being the star of only two episodes (about a half hour total), so there isn’t enough time to give these characters any kind of back story and as a result of the rush we don’t get to know or care about these people. That makes it difficult to emotionally connect with what’s going on in any kind of meaningful way. The whole thing is simply flat.
Uhn Ki-Joon was the perfect choice to play the title role. His chilling grins make Teacher Han Bong-Gu seem nightmarishly unbalanced. He’s great at playing evil, twisted characters. You can read about him in my Defendant review.
For information about Kim So-Hyun, the gal who plays the part of class president Kang Ye-Rim, you can go to my Radio Romance review.
The role of Seo Sang-Woo was played by Lee Min-Hyuk whom you can read about in my review of Unexpected Heroes.
The story puts a spotlight on five different trials plaguing teenagers these days. One girl suffers from being bullied, another is consumed with her looks, a third girl feels the need to make up sensational lies about her life, a boy wants to be king of the school, and another young man is worried about his grades. One by one, Teacher Han gives them an opportunity to erase their problems by signing a contract with him, however, with each student it turns out to be a case of “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.” These teens find out the hard way that “the grass is not always greener on the other side.”
People getting trapped in mirrors, a swinging metronome that somehow stops on its own, sand ominously sliding through an hourglass, creepy grins, contracts signed in blood… those things are added to the show in hopes of making us feel uneasy, frightened, and anxious. For me, they were more hokey than nerve wracking.
The music is just instrumental background stuff but excellently adds eerie flavor to the storyline.
Every scene takes place at the school, either inside or on the grounds outside. Teacher Han’s counseling room is set up to look like a psychiatrist’s office complete with a lounge chair so the student can lie back while being counseled. But the main focus is a gigantic full-length mirror situated right at the bottom of the staircase.
Unfortunately, I can’t categorize Nightmare Teacher as a horror/scary drama. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I finally saw it after having it on my list for years. It just didn’t have the Halloween feel I was looking for.
Not a huge time commitment
Uhn Ki-Joon’s creepy acting
Not enough character background
Not really “spooky”