There were so many things I didn’t like about Psychopath Diary. In all fairness, I was incredibly sick with the flu the entire time I was watching it but I honestly don’t think my illness had anything to do with how I felt about it.
At work, Yook Dong-Sik is set up to take the fall for something he didn’t do and the unfair treatment is more than he can stand. With the pain of being abandoned by his colleagues welling up inside, he writes a suicide note and goes to the top of a building still under construction in order to end it all. But reality sets in and he decides killing himself is not what he really wants to do after all. As he’s leaving the building, timid Yook Dong-Sik witnesses an attempted murder and unwittingly gets a hold of a small, red notebook – the killer’s diary. While running for his life he is hit by Officer Sim, who is driving a police car, and is then rushed to the hospital where he is given the diagnosis “retrograde memory loss,” meaning he has no personal memories from before the accident. Since he is physically fine the kind officers take him home and give him the little, red booklet they found in the back of their patrol car, figuring it must belong to him. Dong-Sik accepts the notebook, hoping it has information that could shed light on his past. At first it seems like gibberish but then he figures out it has all been written backwards. As Dong-Sik begins to read it, with the aid of a mirror, he is horrified to discover it contains intricate details of several murders, complete with the bloody thumb print of each victim. Everything points to him being a psychopathic serial killer and although the thought of it makes him ill it’s not long before Dong-Sik begins to embrace his less-virtuous side. As he tries to go on with his life and keep his monstrous side on a tight leash, he keeps running into Officer Sim and soon discovers the ruthless serial killer she is after is probably him.
Likable, kind, responsible, loyal, timid – all good words to describe Yook Dong-Sik, but then so are the words pushover, fool, and an easy mark. He is not the type of person to fight back, in fact, he claims he is weak-hearted and says he thinks it is better for him to go through trouble than someone else. He is a thriller freak, with movie posters all over his apartment walls and DVD’s lining his bookshelves, and often calls on scenes from shows to help him out of tight spots (movies like Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Silence of the Lambs, Saw…) Dong-Sik works at a brokerage firm and his family owns a restaurant called Mr. Yook Meat Republic. Dong-Sik’s soft demeanor begins to change as he starts to believe he is a psychopathic serial killer.
Corporal Sim Bo-Kyung, of the Naksan District Police, is following in her detective father’s footsteps. The man was a legend on the force (holding a fifth-degree black belt in Taekwondo, a third in Judo and a fourth in Hapkido) but an accident on the job left him too injured to work anymore. As she goes about her day trying to figure out the clues from crimes, she can see (in her mind) her father during his cop years, and talks to him about her cases. Although she is just a patrol cop now she has hopes of someday being a profiler or a deceive like her dad. She still lives with her parents who now own a coffee shop called A Boring Day which is attached to their home.
Seo In-Woo is the son of Seo Chung-Hyeon, a wealthy conglomerate owner with a heart as cold as ice. All In-Woo has ever wanted was the love and praise of his father. While still a child, he was caught trying to suffocate his baby brother because he wanted to be the sole recipient of his father’s attention. And while hunting with his father as a young boy he willingly drank a bowl full of warm blood from the dear his father had shot to prove to the man how alike they were. In-Woo is a psychopathic killer who detests those who are weak. After drugging his victims and making them incapable of resisting, he kills them, disguising it as a suicide. He records the deaths in a small, red journal which he writes backwards. As a trophy for his killing, he puts the thumb print of each victim in the journal.
Jang Chil-Sung is a middle-aged gangster who becomes a fan of Dong-Sik when he witnesses him go crazy and take on a bunch of thugs. He thinks of Dong-Sik as a mentor and has his back no matter what. He believes Dong-Sik killed someone (in the line of duty, so to speak) but refuses to believe he is a psychopathic serial killer.
You can read about Yoon Si-Yoon, the actor who plays Yook Dong-Sik, by going to my Hit the Top review.
The part of Officer Sim Bo-Kyung is played by 28 year old Jung In-Sun. She attended Sejong University as a Film Arts major and has been in numerous motion pictures and TV projects, beginning her acting career in 1998. Other than Psychopath Diary, the only other thing I’ve seen her in is 2017’s suspense-filled Naked Fireman, which was surprisingly entertaining. She was a special co-host last year on the variety show Baek Jong-Won’s Alley Restaurant and also made an appearance in Gummy’s Alone music video.
Thirty-four year old Park Sung-Hoon, who plays the role of the psychopath Seo In-Woo, has been acting since 2011 when he appeared in the drama Bachelor’s Vegetable Store. So far, he has limited his acting roles to television, but you never know if/when he may branch out. I’ve seen him in Jealousy Incarnate, Black Knight: The Man Who Guards Me (for which he won a Best New Actor award) and Rich Man, Poor Woman.
I was disappointed with both the acting and writing in this show.
Let’s start with the acting…
Although Seo In-Woo is a great evil character, Park Sung-Hoon just isn’t a great evil actor. You want a convincing psychopath? Check out Heo Joon-Ho in Come and Hug Me, Namgung Min in Remember and Sensory Couple, or Shin Sung-Rok in Liar Game and Return. Now those men know how to play psychotic killers. I never once had an unsettling feeling watching Park Sung-Hoon throughout the entire 16 episodes of the drama.
Yoon Si-Yoon is an excellent actor. He was handpicked to play the title character in King of Baking, Kim Tak-Goo which was one of the most watched shows in 2010 with a final viewership rating of 50.8%. The man can play comedy and drama equally well, but this role had him playing both almost at the same time and it just didn’t work well. All the constant bouncing back and forth didn’t give him enough to sink his teeth into.
Now let’s move on to the writing. There are three people credited as being writers of this drama and that might have been where the problem started. I don’t see how three different people can take one character in the same direction. How can they agree on where to move the story? It makes me think of the old saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” The second problem is that Psychopath Diary is labeled a “comedy thriller.” It’s difficult to write a coherent comedy thriller, in fact, I’d say it’s down-right close to impossible. Man to Man and Two Cops pull off a successful crime comedy, but a thriller comedy is different. They just aren’t a good mix.
I can overlook one or two “oops” but there are way too many in this show. Strangely enough, several of them are the fault of the writers… Officer Sim is shot in the forearm with a shotgun from about 10 feet away and we only see a tiny hole in her jacket, the kind a .22 caliber revolver would have made. Folks, I know a bit about guns and a shotgun blast would have pretty much taken her skinny, little arm right off from that close range! Another writing “oops” is that the first violent act we see is of Seo In-Woo beating a man with a toilet tank lid in a public bathroom. Then In-Woo transports him to the building that is under construction in order to kill him. But that doesn’t fit with every other murder he’s committed thus far. You see, he always drugs the victim first so they can’t resist and then makes it look like the person committed suicide. When the marked victim refuses to drink the drugged liquid offered to him by In-Woo he is attacked and we hear about five different whacks as we see blood splatter all over the glass door. Violence first? That’s just not the correct order in the killer’s brain. There’s also multiple things wrong with the last episode (having to do with the escape room) but so I won’t ruin the ending for you I’ll stop here and let you see if you can find the glowing errors yourself. One of the director’s “oops” is when Dong-Sik pulls down his mask with one hand but one second later it shows it in his other hand. Then, at the risk of giving too much away I’ll just tell you to watch closely on episode four when Dong-Sik is going to “kill his first victim.” The “game” goes like this – four legs on the stool, one leg gets sawed off each time the “victim” answers incorrectly. On the third wrong answer, as Dong-Sik begins to saw, three legs are already off. Now, math isn’t my strong point but even I can see that doesn’t match up.
Now, for a tiny bit of praise. The best, most entertaining part of Psychopath Diary is Heo Sung-Tae’s performance as the lovable and hilarious reformed-gangster Jang Chil-Sung. His darling personality, thankfully, saves the show from being a complete fail.
Because the killer always disguised the murders as suicides the show tells us that in South Korea every year 13,000 people commit suicide. In the United States there were 47,173 recorded suicides in 2017. Those statistics are heartbreaking.
Wanna Be Bad is an upbeat song performed by The Rose. The words match up with what’s going on in Dong-Sik’s head as he’s beginning to believe he has only been pretending to be timid and weak all his life – “I’ll be different now. I’ll be born again. I’ll be cool.” Cha Yeoul softly sings the gentle ballad Stay the Same, accompanied by a solo piano. It’s simple and lovely. The title of the song fits well with what Bo-Kyung must have been wishing as she slowly begins to suspect her friend could possibly be a murderous psychopath. Perfect. The drama’s opening song sounds more like it could be the theme of a 1970’s weekly American Western TV show than a Kdrama. I didn’t like it at all.
Arguably, the most noted background/scenery in the show is In-Woo’s secret room behind his bookshelf. Just like his evil personality it is carefully hidden away from the world. Another stand-out background is Dong-Sik’s apartment which is methodically arranged to make him appear to be a depraved individual.
Psychopath Diary is not a Kdrama I would recommend to anyone. I thought about turning it off after the first episode but was so sick I figured my entertainment sense didn’t need to be any better off than my physical body so I just reluctantly kept it going. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to skip this one, folks.
Heo Sung-Tae as Jang Chil-Sung
A couple songs
Parts of the ending
Too many significant “oops”
Not Yoon Si-Yoon’s best role
Yoo Si-Yoon’s hair
Park Sung-Hoon isn’t a convincing psychopath
Thriller and comedy doesn’t mix well