Welcome to Sweet Home where solace is found in solidarity. Based on the widely-acclaimed Line Webtoon by Kim Kan-bi and Hwang Young-chan, Sweet Home (스위트홈) is a South Korean 10-episode drama adaptation. Released on Netflix to a top five ranking in Singapore, the horror-thriller film illustrates survival of the fittest in an apocalyptic world of monsters.
Men and monsters
An unexplained phenomenon is bringing about a gruesome change in the human race. Succumbing to the hatred and negativity in their hearts, the individual will soon metamorphose into veritable creatures of the dark. This mutation fulfils the person’s innermost desire as they transform into mindless creatures that only kill. Depending on the individual’s willpower, this darkness could be controlled before their consciousness ebbs away completely.
Interestingly, monsters are not the only antagonists in the film. Taking advantage of the troubled times, there are also wicked men who exploit the crisis to pillage and raid. Detouring from the usual monster troupe, Sweet Home daringly explore the darkness that lies within the human’s heart in both forms.
The atypical hero
“This is a story about us, the ones trying to find a reason to live in a world where this is harder than merely surviving.”
Set in a dilapidated apartment building, Green Home, the story follows the eccentric and quiet Cha Hyun-su (played by Song Kang). Orphaned after his family passed away from a fatal car crash and suffering from bullies in school, Hyun-su has become withdrawn and depressed.
As the story progresses, Hyun-su is forced to ally with his neighbours against the horde of monsters appearing in their building. After exhibiting symptoms of monsterisation himself, Hyun-su’s strong willpower is able to overcome the transformation. In contrast to his suicidal thoughts in the beginning, Hyun-su has found people he desires to protect, realising his strong will to live in the world.
The depth of characters
The residents of Green Home form a great team of mismatches despite their initial misgivings. Each has a complex past, suffering from loss and pain, and it is within this common ground that they have formed a powerful bond. Notably, the film takes place largely in Green Home, a simple, single location with many storeys that’s almost labyrinth-like – comparably similar to its rich and diverse residents with their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Seo Yi-kyeong (played by Lee Si-young) is a valiant firefighter whose fiancé has disappeared days before their wedding date. Having her suspicions about the government, Yi-kyeong believes her fiancé is complicit in the ongoing phenomenon. Helming a lot of action scenes, viewers are treated to an extravagant performance by Si-young whose character possesses both strength and intelligence.
Then, viewers are introduced to Pyeon Sang-wook (played by Lee Jin-wook) whose intimidating appearance is in contrast to the good heart buried deeply within. Inflicting torture on evil men who escaped from the law of justice, Sang-wook dishes out punishments of his own as he deems fit. A morally grey character, his actions and intentions leave much to be debated upon.
Lee Eun-hyuk (played by Lee Do-hyun) is a medical student whose exceptional intelligence and calm demeanor allows him to keep the residents in check. While many may perceive Eun-hyuk to be cold and ruthless, his decisions are largely made for the good of majority, In my personal view, Eun-hyuk is indeed the ideal leader for such perilous times as his judgments are made logically and sensibly.
The compelling story
Opting for Green Home as their sanctuary from the chaotic world, the residents decide to seal themselves within the apartment complex. However, they are not completely safe from the carnage. Battling with neighbours who have morphed and the impending fight within their own body, the residents are shown to have difficulty staying alive and sane.
Soon after, inevitable conflicts appear when food and water become limited in the enclosed space. Self-preservation becomes primary in the midst of this mayhem. However, there still exists those who decide to look after one another wholeheartedly. The plot illustrates the multi-faceted characteristics of humanity.
A tough choice, or not
Morality and the desire to live are at odds once again. Towards the end of the film, the government has offered a special deal to provide a safe haven for those who report on the ‘special infectees’. This means the betrayal of Hyun-su who has been using his newfound monstrous abilities in protection of his fellow residents.
Sweet Home is an unconventional monster drama where viewers are misguided initially to believe it is only about men versus monsters. Both the external and internal conflicts allow viewers to feel the depth of humanity in the film. While there are selfless individuals, there are also those who willingly sell out their friends in a bid for survival. Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong, only leaving one to ponder upon the circumstances.
The characterisation of the many main characters is intricately fleshed out with stellar performance portrayed by the cast. Love, loss, tragedy and lies, their stories are heavily burdened with pain and yet hope is strongly depicted in a world that is ending. Suspense is also brilliantly used throughout the episodes, leaving viewers rooting for their character of choice, hooked and anxious for the next scene.
The producers of Sweet Home have indeed spared no effort with the use of CGI and intense gore to portray carnage in the apocalyptic world. However, the grisly creatures could have been better blended against the mundane landscape to look more realistic instead of standing out awkwardly with its over-the-top designs. A representation of human’s negativity, the meaning behind these monsters are better appreciated instead.
Notably, the Netflix drama should be watched as a standalone as it has detracted from the original creation with substantial changes made. All in all, Sweet Home is a must-watch. With its complex blend of science-fiction, horror, and perhaps ethics, Sweet Home has brought a new meaning to the words ‘monster’ and ‘men’.