K-drama review: Faith and fear mix in Netflix's dark, interesting 'Hellbound'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 25 2021 09:45 AM | Updated as of Nov 25 2021 09:47 AM

A scene from 'Hellbound'
A scene from 'Hellbound'

An "angel" would appear before a person to "decree" the exact date and time of his death, and that he was going straight to Hell. On the designated time, three giant hulking supernatural creatures would suddenly appear to kill the person. A religious cult called The New Truth, founded by Jeong Jin-su (Yoo Ah-in), had gained virality when it broadcast one such "demonstration," explaining these to be God-ordained punishment for sinners.

Meanwhile, a lawyer named Min Hye-jin (Kim Hyun-joo) had formed her own group called Sodo to protect those who have received their decrees, but would like to keep their demonstrations secret. They believed that these decrees and demonstrations were a random mystical event that had nothing to do with any sin. The case of one particularly controversial decree recipient had both groups mobilizing their ranks to gain control of it.

The concept of this six-episode mini-series by "Train to Busan" director Yeon Sang-ho was quite novel and interesting -- one that mixed morbid supernatural events with fanatical human behavior to create very dramatic situations. The misguided religious fanaticism and warped philosophy here were very disturbing to watch. Its origins may have been simple and sincere. However, with increased popularity comes pride and greed, so violence soon became inevitable.

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The amount and degree of physical violence here was excessive. Those giant executioner demons could have simply vaporized the intended victim and be done with it. But no, they had to hurl them against walls to spray blood all over, before killing them with the bright light they emitted. There were also the goons of The New Truth called the Arrowhead, who did extra-decree killings of people who wronged them, using anything from bats to incinerators. 

The first three episodes dealt with Jeong Jin-su, played with so much charisma by acclaimed actor Yoo Ah-in in yet another riveting performance. The last three episodes tackle events four years after Episode 3, with all new characters by less enigmatic actors, except for two rivals who now assumed positions of leadership. 

The final episode climaxed with so much emotional drama, but head-scratching logic. A chilling epilogue promises a possible season 2.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, “Fred Said.”