Given I (like a great deal of the population) had recently watched Squid Game, Netflix recommended Sweet Home to me a few weeks ago. I thought the series was a horror show. I was wrong – it’s a post-apocalyptic horror show!
And not only that, but it has all the tropes we know and love:
- Survivors forced to work together!
- A siege situation against monsters that feels like a zombie movie!
- A curse/plague affecting the characters!
- People using random items as weapons!
- Some great shots of a burning city!
- It even has raiders of a sort!
What is the show about? It’s based on a webtoon from South Korea that follows a group of residents in a run-down apartment building who are trapped when the world is besieged by an illness that turns people into monsters. Yet, the “monsterization” is not passed by contact (e.g. biting, like in a zombie show); as such, anyone could turn at any point.
The monsters are fabulously weird and creepy. There is one that wanders about missing half its head, muttering “I can’t see” over and over. It’s simultaneously darkly funny as well as being terrifying when it attacks.
There are quite a few scenes where I was on the edge of my seat, as well as moments of surprising carnage. This is a show where very few characters are safe. Being a main character is no guarantee of survival!
One of the best things about the show is the characters. They are a varied collection of people, some with tragic or interesting backstories and some who have lived regular lives. The balance was well-struck. Not everyone had a secret, which made those who did more interesting by comparison. And aside from a couple of characters, most of the cast has no fighting skills. They freeze when attacked, they run, they scream – they act in (at times) frustratingly normal ways.
In terms of main characters, there’s a ballet dancer, a doctor-in-training, a hitman, a suicidal teenager, a Christian business guy (with a sword!), a bass player, and a firefighter.
There’s also a collection of side characters, including a lady with a cute dog, a trio of comic relief men, a husband and wife, a soldier, two grieving mothers, and a couple of kids. So there’s someone for everyone to identify with.
Speaking of characters, the show excels at diversity. There are just as many female characters as there are male, all of whom contribute to the plot in meaningful ways. We also have a person in a wheelchair who is a complete and utter badass!
The show really pulls on your heartstrings. Kids in distress are always a way to raise the tension for me, so at some parts, I was on the edge of my seat (I may or may not have ugly cried at one moment). I also love a good shippable romance, and this one has three. Two are pretty subtle, but one had me saying, “Are you going to make out or not!?”
The setting is also enjoyable. 99% of the story takes place inside the apartment building, which is so run-down it’s almost derelict, with small rooms, dark green walls, poor lighting, junk stored everywhere, and a basement you couldn’t pay me to go into. An external staircase that runs alongside the building to the roof also carries a few scenes. There are large ducts, pipes that don’t connect to anything, and a dirt floor in one section. It’s a dump. As such, it’s a memorable and fascinating place to hold a siege.
If you aren’t convinced yet, the show also has:
- One of the best “message from the president” moments ever.
- An amazing freak-out scene.
- This line: “Dinosaurs prove we can also go extinct.”
- A stuck-up girl who keeps getting her ego knocked down a peg.
- Characters defending against zombie-like creatures in a Mad Max vehicle.
- What I can only describe as a Super Mutant Colossus.
- Realism, such as the internet kicking out and the government using an Amber Alert message to warn citizens.
- Heroism, bravery, sacrifice, as well as fear, weakness, and self-serving behavior.
- This line: “You die if you let the one who got bit live.”
Before you think I’m biased, here are four caveats:
- It’s a South Korean show, so you have to choose between subtitles and dubbing unless you speak Korean. I’d say the dubbing is better than Squid Game – most of the time, I didn’t notice, but when I did, it was more amusing than irritating.
- I was never quite sure what made people turn into monsters. This needed a bit more focus in my eyes.
- The monsters drop off in the latter five episodes, which was somewhat disappointing. I wasn’t bored, but it focused more on “people are the monsters” instead.
- The last episode is far from great in terms of pacing and resolution. It isn’t terrible, but it feels a bit like they weren’t sure how to end it. It might be getting another season, so maybe that’s why!
Still, it’s definitely worth spending some time at Sweet Home during the upcoming holiday season!