The recent hype concerning Sweet Home, coupled with the fact that it stars two people on my favorites lists, made this show impossible for me to pass up. The ten-episode drama, which was released a week before Christmas last year (2020) is based on the Hwang Young-Chan and Kim Kan-Bi webtoon of the same name. Amazingly, the show recorded a whopping 1.2 billion (yes, billion with a “B”) net views!
“Maybe the world is finally coming to an end.” – Lee Eun-Hyuk
When his parents and sister pass away in an accident, Cha Hyun-Soo moves to a tiny, rundown apartment alone, but he doesn’t plan on being there long. After being the victim of cruel and painful abuse at school, the young man has turned into a quiet recluse who sees no hope for a decent future. Recorded in his phone, under the date August 25th, is the simple reminder – suicide. However, when murderous monsters begin a horrifying rampage throughout South Korea, Hyun-Soo decides to fight for his life as he and his neighbors take shelter in their building and establish a little army with only makeshift weapons and the will to survive.
Cha Hyun-Soo had been a happy teenager until a new guy came to the school and pinpointed Hyun-Soo out as a target for his bullying. From then on, he was constantly beaten up and shunned by everyone, even those that had considered him a friend. After he suddenly found himself alone and penniless, he decided to give up on what he could only see as a miserable life ahead of him and commit suicide.
Pyeong Sang-Wook is a silent, menacing individual who keeps to himself. His obviously handsome face is scared with a large burn mark, the outward symbol of inward suffering. Violence comes easily to him and the man knows how to cover up physical pain and move on, brushing it off like nothing ever happened.
Although Seo Yi-Kyeong is a tiny woman, this firefighter can really kick ass. With her wedding date just around the corner, Yi-Kyeong’s dreams were shattered when her soon-to-be groom mysteriously disappeared and was presumed dead. She is fearless, quick-witted in the face of danger, and has an amazing physical prowess.
Jung Jae-Heon tackles life with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other. A recovering alcoholic, he embodies pure Christianity – friendly, helpful, and selfless. Although he puts his trust in God, he fights like he is alone. He has practiced the art of swordsmanship most of his life and is a fearless warrior on behalf of others.
Yoon Ji-Soo is a friendly bass guitarist who quickly becomes friends with Jae-Heon. She isn’t religious but she respects his faith and can see his love of God and mankind. Although she is afraid of the hell rising up around her, she is one of the first to come to someone’s aid. She carries a bat for protection and usually isn’t far from Jae-Heon.
Lee Eun-Hyuk had been studying medicine but put his schooling on hold so he could help his stepsister achieve her dream of being a ballerina. The young man is cool under pressure, level-headed, and a meticulous planner. He thinks rationally, not emotionally, and assumes leadership of the small group of neighbors.
Although Lee Eum-Yoo’s dream was to become a ballerina, in the wake of an ankle injury, her optimism has been fading. She is crass, disrespectful, and speaks her mind without the worry of offending others. This rebellious minor flaunts the fact that she smokes. She wrongly carries guilt for the death of her mother and Eun-Hyuk’s father.
As a paraplegic, Han Du-Sik is confined to a wheelchair. He is a scruffy, middle-aged man who possesses the amazing ability to make just about anything. He designs and builds the makeshift weapons the little band of warriors use to fight the monsters. Although he didn’t know Cha Hyun-Soo until the monsters attacked, he has grown very fond of the teenager.
Ahn Gil-Seob’s doctor told him he didn’t have long to live but the old gentleman is happily proving him wrong. Although he is still terminally ill, and his caregiver begs him to only worry about himself, Gil-Seob doesn’t just want to sit around waiting for death. He much prefers to go out fighting.
Park Yoo-Ri is Ahn Gil-Seob’s caregiver. With the little medical knowledge she has, she is the closest thing the group has to a nurse. She is kind to Pyeon Sang-Wook, caring about him personally, and with sincerity, finally manages to put a small dent in his emotional armor. Yoo-Ri suffers from asthma.
Twelve-year-old Kim Su-Yeong and her six-year-old brother Kim Yeong-Su watched helplessly as their father was killed by a monster, trying to save them. With the help of Cha Hyun-Soo and Han Du-Sik they join the rest of the group. Su-Yeong is very protective of her little brother. To help distract Yeong-Su from the terror around him, Ahn Gil-Seob makes him an honorary special agent.
Kim Suk-Hyun and his wife, Ahn Sun-Young, own the convenience store located inside the apartment complex. He is a selfish, money-hungry man who would rather see people starve to death than freely share what he has. His wife is a quiet, kind woman who genuinely cares for others. She has been physically and verbally abused by her husband their entire marriage.
The part of Cha Hyun-Soo is played by 26-year-old Song Kang. He came on the Kdrama scene in 2017 playing the female lead’s friend and bandmate in The Liar and His Lover and followed that up by playing the leading male character’s stepbrother in Man in the Kitchen. In 2018 he made his big-screen debut with the movie Beautiful Vampire and the next year (after a cameo appearance in Touch Your Heart) he became a major supporting character in When the Devil Calls Your Name. 2019 saw him playing his first leading role in Netflix’s first original South Korean TV series, the not-yet-complete Love Alarm. (Although I’ve seen the first part, I’m anxiously waiting to see the second season before I write my review.) Song Kang is scheduled to be in the drama Navillera later this year.
While majoring in Environmental Engineering at Cheongju University, Lee Jin-Wook decided to drop out in order to give acting a try. In 2003 he became a print model for Panasonic and his acting debut came a year later by way of the short film My New Boyfriend. After that, he was cast in several Kdramas before serving his mandatory military assignment at the Defense Media Agency of the Ministry of National Defense. After his return to civilian life, Jin-Wook played a North Korean agent in Spy Mung-Wol (I really enjoyed that show). He followed that up with the deliciously yummy Kdrama I Need Romance 2012 and then starred in Nine: Nine Times Time Travel (in my opinion, it’s the best time travel show ever made). His performance in that drama led to him be cast in a supporting role in the feature film Miss Granny. He’s appeared in a total of eight movies and 20 TV dramas. Because he has always played darling characters so well, it was difficult for me, at first, to see him play Pyeon Sang-Wook. Although he was excellent as the gritty loner, I missed seeing his cute smile. Personally, I’m very glad this talented man dropped out of school to pressure an acting career. I just love him!
For information about Lee Si-Young, the actress who plays the part of Seo Yi-Kyeong, you can zip on over to my Lookout review. Just a quick update since then – she is now the mother of a two-year-old little boy. (F.Y.I. – there’s a scene that shows Yi-Kyeong trying to get away from a spider-type monster and as she slips to the ground through a vent shaft we see her sparsely covered body and it looks like that woman doesn’t have any more than 5% body fat!)
What would be your gut reaction during a monster apocalypse? Does your philosophy run more along the lines of “survival of the fittest” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” This drama is an excellent study in human behavior. One of the definitions of the word behavior is “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others,” and that is exactly what this story is all about. It shows us several diverse personalities and how they treat total strangers in distressing times. We watch as fear and panic completely consume what may otherwise be a decent person. There are people who automatically think of others, even at the peril of their own life, and some who willingly sacrifice others in order to survive themself. If I were a psychology professor I think I would make this movie a required part of my course on human behavior.
Some critics of the show have mentioned they were disappointed when appearances of the monsters began to wain in the last few episodes, but I strongly disagree. It is near the end of the story that the real monsters make their entrance. The story shows us in unsettling detail that it can be more scary and dangerous to face an evil human than a demonic creature.
From what I read, the director decided to deviate from the webtoon’s original ending and, since I’m unfamiliar with the webtoon, I’m unable to tell you how the two differ. What I can say is that the second I finished the show I went to my roommate and said, “This is the first Korean drama I’ve seen that I wasn’t able to figure out the ending. I even understood the ending of Nine: Nine Times Time Travel, but I didn’t get this one. I don’t know what I missed.” So, unbeknownst to me, while I was getting ready for bed my roommate went online, looked up the ending, and began to read the article to me. Once it was all explained I said, “Oh, that makes sense!” It wasn’t that I had allowed something to slip by me, I just hadn’t put two and two together. So, if you can’t figure out the last ten seconds of the show, don’t feel bad – just go online and you’ll soon be saying, “Ohhhhhhhh, I get it!” And then you’ll realize there has to be a Sweet Home 2.
Here are a few things about Sweet Home I found interesting…
1. Each episode cost $2.7 million dollars to shoot.
2. The monsters’ movements were recorded through motion capture.
3. Director Lee Eung-Bok said that during his audition, Song Kang reminded him of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands – “… an image of someone who has a pure and innocent soul but is holding a spear in his hand.”
4. The character Seo Yi-Kyeong is not in the original webtoon. She was added because the director “… wanted to add a female character who can pull off really cool action scenes.” It’s not surprising Lee Si-Young was chosen to fill that role. Even though she is an award-winning amateur boxer, she trained for six months prior to filming this series.
5. Recruited for this drama were designers from Legacy Effects, VFX Studio Westworld, and Spectral Motion (who worked on films such as Avengers and Avatar as well as the television series Game of Thrones and Stranger Things).
6. It is the first South Korean series to be in Netflix’s top 10 in the United States. It was actually among the top three.
7. Three days after its release, the series ranked number one in eight different regions and was within the top ten in 42 regions.
If blood makes you a bit squeamish, please bear in mind, this drama has gallons of it. Because I was very active in drama while in school, I’m keenly aware of the fact that the blood we see in movies and on TV isn’t real so it doesn’t usually bother me. However, Sweet Home shows it gushing from people’s noses and into their mouths on a regular basis and I found that extremely gross (although the former stage manager in me couldn’t help but wonder how they pulled that off).
Three quick pet peeves –
*It didn’t make sense that when drinking water was scarce people were still taking turns bathing. The last thing I’d worry about during an apocalypse is how stinky my armpits were.
*Pyeon Sang-Wook and Han Du-Sik were the only two guys sporting scruffy beards. With the convenience store located right there, the men probably had access to disposable razors but would they really stop to shave when the world was coming to an end?
*All hell broke loose and on August 17th martial law was declared. The whole thing took place in just a matter of weeks but it was snowing at the end of the show. Does it really snow by the first week in September around Seoul?
Just in case you were wondering, this drama has nothing to do with the 1989 Japanese movie entitled Sweet Home.
Although many people criticized the drama’s soundtrack, which they believed did not fit with the story, my roommate commented on the show’s “great music” every time they came within earshot of what I was watching. I thought the songs greatly complimented the gritty action in the drama. What were folks expecting – a soundtrack full of heartwarming ballads or lovely classical music?
The entire show takes place in and directly around the Green Home apartment complex. The place is extremely large and even has a nursery and a convenience store inside. The rooms are small and the whole building looks like the owner didn’t care about keeping the place in good repair. It’s obvious people with very little money to spend on housing lived there. More than 90% of the series was filmed on the 11,500 meters (a little over seven miles) set.
So, here’s Sara’s advice…
Those of you who enjoy horror/monster movies – make sure you don’t pass on this one.
If you’re the type that doesn’t handle violence/blood well – you might want to skip it.
People who love to keep up with the Kdramas folks are talking about – this show is a must.
And if you’re the type that scares easily – after you watch this drama you might not want to venture outside your Sweet Home for quite some time.
Fantastic study on human behavior
Lee Si-Young’s kick-ass action sequences
A+ special effects
Possibility of a sequel
Lots and lots and lots of blood
The ending was fuzzy for me
The violence might be too graphic for some people