SQUID GAME on Netflix is a new thriller series from South Korea. The other genres are drama and adventure in this very character-driven series. A total of 9 one-hour episodes make up season 1. And yes, it is definitely worth watching. Read our Squid Game season 1 review here!
SQUID GAME is a new Netflix series from South Korea and we love South Korean productions here at Heaven of Horror. Especially if they’re genre productions. For this new Netflix series, thriller is the main genre but drama and adventure are close contenders.
Also, there are definite moments of horror as many people die brutal and violent deaths. In other words, this is not for the faint of heart, but very much worth checking out.
Continue reading our Squid Game season 1 review below. The season features nine episodes that each have a runtime around the one-hour mark.
Character-driven with heart and pain!
As with most South Korean genre productions, Squid Game on Netflix is very character-driven. Even the zombie period piece series KINGDOM from South Korea is character-driven, but – as fans of these productions will know – they know how to make it extremely interesting and engaging. Hell, the movie Parasite even won virtually all major awards being character-driven.
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However, it is virtually impossible to talk about Squid Game without also mentioning the Japanese Netflix series Alice in Borderland (read review here). This is also a series that is character-driven and have the participants (or “players”) either win or die.
Still, the people in Alice in Borderland didn’t know what was going on, the players in Squid Game choose to play the game willingly. Well, okay, they don’t know exactly what playing the game means (ie. that when you’re eliminated you will die). But they do find out during the very first game.
Also, the games are inspired by children’s games. In this adult version, the players aren’t just playing for honor and fun, but to win a lot of money. Of course, the alternative to winning is dying… though even this isn’t without its “benefits”. Another thing we learn very early on.
Squid Game is full of twists and surprises
You might think you know where Squid Game is heading once the games begin. However, you should prepare for quite a few surprises. Both in terms of who will live and who will die, but also when it comes to the basic storyline of this Netflix series. In good ways, fortunately.
Just like Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, this movie is very much a social commentary.
It highlights the desperation some people are faced with when debt takes over every part of their life. Sure, you might think the Squid Game main character is an idiot (and he is), but you will also see the kind and gentle sides of him. Plus, here and there are glimpses of how much trauma he has endured in life. Rarely highlighted, just mentioned in passing.
I call one person the “main character”, but it really is much of an ensemble movie. As it is often the case with character-driven stories of this kind. Still, the one I would still refer to as the main character is portrayed by Lee Jung-jae, who was in the Netflix horror movie Svaha: The Sixth Finger (2019).
And, yes, there are quite a few familiar faces. From episode 1 you’ll see Gong Yoo, who many will recognize as the star of Train to Busan (2016) – the South Korean mega-hit of a zombie movie. Also, Wi Ha-Joon from the 2018 horror movie Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum and the serial killer thriller Midnight (2021).
Watch Season 1 of Squid Game on Netflix now!
Hwang Dong-hyuk is the creator of this Netflix series as both writer and director. He also directed and wrote the screenplay for Silenced (2011) which also stars Gong Yoo (Train to Busan). Other than that, I can’t say I’m familiar with his work. However, based on this Netflix series, I am certainly very impressed.
The characters are very well-written, the story works on so many levels, and while it’s slow-burn at times, it is never boring.
If you like South Korean genre productions, then you cannot miss out on Squid Game. Also, if you like Alice in Borderland but want the story placed in a very realistic setting, then this series is for you. It’s brutal, direct, and works well on all levels.
Squid Game season 1 is out on Netflix from September 17, 2021.
Writer & Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Stars: Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Gong Yoo, Lee Byung Hun, Wi Ha Joon
A mysterious invitation to join the game is sent to people at risk who are in dire need of money. 456 participants from all walks of life are locked into a secret location where they play games in order to win 45.6 billion won. Every game is a Korean traditional children’s game such as Red Light, Green Light, but the consequence of losing is death. Who will be the winner, and what is the purpose behind this game?