Sweet Home is a South Korean apocalyptic horror streaming television series starring Song Kang, Lee Jin-wook, Lee Si-young and Lee Do-hyun. Based on the Naver webtoon of the same name by Kim Carnby and Hwang Young-chan, which recorded over 2.1 billion net views, the series was released on Netflix on December 18, 2020.
After an unexpected family tragedy, Cha Hyun-soo leaves his home and moves into an apartment. Soon after, monsters begin trying to wipe out humanity. People inside the apartment are trapped inside the building, realizing that monsters are lurking everywhere outside. Hyun-su and other residents shield themselves inside the building in the hope of surviving as long as they can.
Review : by KiwiTheKitty (link)
Spoilers ahead but they are marked
Trigger Warnings for the drama for those who would like them: violent bullying, self harm, suicide, violence/gore including gun violence, child abuse, a backroom surgery, and attempted rape (not graphic, but the intention is clear)
I just finished Sweet Home in less than 24 hours and I’d like to get my thoughts out about it! Short version: it was a great drama. Very close to perfect with only a couple downsides imo. Also note this is my perspective as someone who read a few chapters of the webtoon before dropping it, although I am considering trying it again now that I’ve seen and loved the show… But I’m also someone who believes that one-to-one adaptations rarely ever work and that an adaptation can and should be able to stand on its own without being constantly compared to the source material.
First I want to talk about those few minor complaints I have.Negatives
1- Some of the monsters didn’t look great. I think they were mostly practical effects and not cgi (based on the behind the scenes pictures I saw,) which is commendable because it’s a lot of work, and it was definitely because they wanted to go with the original style of the webtoon, but I don’t think it worked as well in a live action format. I’ll add that some did look great though, like Hyun Soo’s very sharp arm and the security guard as a rotting fish monster. Also I watched this for the out of my comfort zone challenge because even though I like horror, I specifically don’t like body horror and monsters and… well, they still grossed me out and gave me that pit of my stomach “eugh” feeling, so at the end of the day I think they were still pretty effective.
2- Some of the residents were fully useless and annoying the entire time. I was expecting some level of character development and for them to become at least a little more capable and likeable, but the residents were almost cleanly divided into stupid, selfish people and borderline OP badasses. Also the fact there were a few random extras like… I get that the building was full of people, but they were kind of superfluous.
3- I also think they could’ve done a bit better job with Hyun Soo’s character development and self hatred vs self love. I was confused about where he stood with himself at the end, especially since he apparently had amnesia which seemed a little unnecessary. I was a little disappointed also that his inner demon didn’t really show up as much in the second half because I thought those scenes were cool and provided a unique opportunity to look at him wrestling with, you know… a literal inner demon.
There were a couple other tiny things, like a couple scenes struck me as a little cheesy even though they were supposed to be badass (not a huge problem though) and the ending wasn’t just a little open with room for a season 2, it was like completely open with very few questions answered (although it did come at a logical turning point which I liked). But I’m tired of talking about bad things because the good things matter so much more to me!Positives
The Acting: Ok it goes without saying that Song Kang, Lee Do Hyun, Lee Jin Wook, and Lee Si Young are amazing in this. Particularly Song Kang, whose character goes through some significant changes, which let him show some nice range. I need to see him in more dark dramas! I loved the performances of all the cast members though! Even the actors who played characters I didn’t like deserve praise because they all were great. The range of emotions they portrayed was really amazing, and they needed to be because of the pretty intense nature of the show (and all the close ups of people’s faces).
1- The Characters: I was legitimately very attached to pretty much all of the prominent characters in the drama. I really appreciated that, despite it being a dark, apocalyptic horror drama, the characters’ humanity and relationships with one another were still really the main theme of the drama. It showed the will of humanity to survive through working together, but also how twisted humans can become whether they literally become monsters or not. I think a lot of shows and movies try to go for those themes and still end up falling short of how well it was done in this drama.
2- Despite the fact that I think they could’ve done a slightly better job with Hyun Soo’s character development, what was there was already pretty strong. I also felt that even though he was the main character, his story was still well balanced with how much attention the rest of the important characters got too, which is another impressive thing because of how many of them there were! I love dramas with multiple leads and it did not disappoint in that regard.
3. The Cinematography: I don’t just mean that the drama looked beautiful, although it definitely did, I mean that there was a lot of thought put into deliberate and beautiful symbolism. For example, near the very beginning, there was a shot of Hyun Soo sitting in his new apartment. From how the walls were framed around him, it looked like he was sitting helpless in a cage. You better believe that was on purpose! And don’t even get me started on the amazing shots using mirrors, one of my favorite symbols in film. Some of the things I think mirrors in the drama symbolize are distortion, delusion, contrast, breakdowns, and probably most prominently for Hyun Soo, battling with another, darker side of oneself.
Another thing that I loved was the genius use of color and lighting, which are a staple in near future apocalyptic/dystopian dramas and movies. And you know I’m always down for some artistically gratuitous violence! A few scenes such as the scene where Sang Wook kills the murderer just blew me away. His hammer coming down on the murderer’s head, splattering blood all over the walls, floor and himself, mirrored with a shot of a banging gavel was so powerful.
4. The Music: Ok, first to address the elephant in the room… That Imagine Dragons song. I know a lot of people really hated it, but honestly? It didn’t bother me. People made it sound like it played at least three times every episode, but I think it only played 4 or 5 times in the whole show and I honestly think it only stood out to some people because it was the only English song and the only song they knew beforehand. Besides that, I loved the music! The BewhY song Side By Side was fantastic and I got pumped every time I heard it. Perfect monster bashing music (or review writing music, as I have it on repeat as I write).
I also knew right from the beginning that I was in for a treat when I heard the Dies Irae opening song. For those who don’t know, Dies Irae means day of wrath and it was originally a Gregorian chant used for funerals, talking about the day of judgement when humans are sent to heaven or hell. It’s been commonly used in music, especially movie soundtracks and operas, to symbolize death, but in this case, I think the concept of judgement is particularly relevant. Side Note: the illustrated opening was also gorgeous. I watched it every episode.
5. The… Humor?: Alright, I honestly had not heard people talk about the humor in this drama before I started it, but for a drama that isn’t a comedy, it actually had a huge number of hilarious moments! I mean, come on, flamethrower grandpa and hot, sword wielding, religious guy are gold. Du Sik’s entrance with his crutch pressure gun was fantastic. And I laughed way too hard at Kim Sung Chul’s (oh hi again, Jailbird, I just saw you in Arthdal) manic clapping at seeing Hyun Soo’s monster arm. They did a really great job of balancing the dark and heavy stuff with lighter, funnier scenes.Random Thoughts
Literally what is the point of anything now that Jae Heon and (presumably but we didn’t see a body) Eun Hyuk are dead?? Ok that’s dramatic, but I’m sad.
What was the significance of the solar eclipse and what did that have to do with Hyun Soo’s arm? Did he transform only because he was getting angry at the other half monster or was the solar eclipse helping him out there? I realize that may be something I can find in the webtoon or something that I might have to wait until season 2 for…
I’m happy I wasn’t being delusional about my Jae Heon x Ji Su ship.Final Thoughts
Since I watched this for my out of my comfort zone drama, I had obviously been putting this off because of what I was uncomfortable with (monsters and gross body horror stuff). I am really happy that I ended up forcing myself to start it! It didn’t take long for it to hook me. The monsters were gross, but overall, it really wasn’t that scary of a drama and I would encourage those who are nervous about it to try it out!!
It’s a 9.5/10 for me. A couple small issues, but in the grand scheme of the drama, they were far outweighed by all of the great things about it! I highly recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about watching it (as long as there aren’t specific triggers that may be too much for you).