High production value? Tick. A captivating cast? Tick. Suspenseful script writing? Big tick. It appears that brand-new Korean horror thriller Squid Game has it all…unless you’re squeamish. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Nowadays, it seems that all it takes for a show to be a Netflix hit is an eye-watering money prize for its characters and some ill-fitting red boiler suits – it worked for Money Heist, so why wouldn’t it work for Squid Game? The premise is simple, and horrible. Cash-strapped players take part in a series of games which are innocent in theory and bloodthirsty in reality – I don’t remember Grandma’s Footsteps involving a massacre, but maybe things are done differently in Korea.
It is this simple premise, paired with the things which make Korean filmmaking a success, described by the LA Times writer Robert Lloyd as “suspense, an increasingly unsympathetic lead [and] a time-tested plot structure, with more than a little heart to offset [its] sadistic premise” which makes Squid Game so popular, and so bingeable.
Shows which attract such a huge level of hype in such a small space of time are prone to burning out after the first couple of episode, but this one talks the talk and walks the walk; a modern classic which is sure to push foreign language TV even further into the mainstream.
Even the moments where the legitimacy of the plot seems to slip, such (spoiler alert) when the contestants get the very real choice to leave the game but end up returning are sanctified by the show’s cultural context. This is described by The Guardian’s Henry Wong as “South Korea’s present-day, very real wealth inequality”. Writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk proposes that the real world is nothing more than a reflection of the horror which exists within the parameters of the game, and the players seem to agree.
Hugo Rifkind, writer for The Times thinks that it’s “gloriously twisted”, with a “slightly terrifying level of Tiger King momentum” but warns that parts of it are “glacially slow” and is “not yet convinced [that] Squid Game is quite as good as everybody keeps telling me it is.” But that is in the squiddy eye of the beholder. We think it’s an absolute Must and will be spending the rest of our afternoon glued to our blood-spattered screens.
First shown September 2021.