Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
There’s been a lot of buzz around Hellbound and it’s easy to see why. K-dramas have been riding a dizzy high these past few years and with Apple and Disney finally throwing their hat in the ring, Netflix remain the central pillar for much of the original content out of Korea.
This year alone has spoiled us with Move to Heaven and D.P., along with decent but-not-quite-great titles like My Name. Perhaps it was always due a slip-up at some point and unfortunately that comes in the form of Hellbound.
Directed and written by Yeon Sang-Ho, the man responsible for the brilliant Train to Busan and the not-so-brilliant Peninsula, Hellbound faithfully adapts the web-comic of the same name but does so with a series of conflicting halves.
The first half of this show is excellent, with the three episodes bottling up a tremendous amount of tension and managing to spin numerous questions at once.
There’s a fine line between bending and breaking suspension of disbelief though and if the first half bends it, the second half shatters that completely. I wont spoil anything here beyond a basic synopsis, but there’s a time-jump that really doesn’t work and completely knocks the wind out this show’s sails.
The idea here though is actually pretty good and interesting enough to stick with past the shocking and absolutely absorbing opening.
Within this, a seemingly ordinary day in Korea is turned upside down when strange shadowy creatures show up and hunt down an innocent bystander. Only, he’s presumably not innocent and actually a sinner.
It’s around this time that a strange cult-like group called New Truth begin to show up, pedaling this as a message from God and claiming that He has come to cast judgment upon those who deserve it. This narrative comes from the mouth of charismatic but mysterious Jin-Soo, the leader of this group.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Kyung-Hoon, a detective determined to figure out what’s happened. Joining him in this fight is a lawyer called Hye-Jin, who steps up to join him.
The first 3 episodes then dive into this cult, the ideas around the misuse of social media and dangerous ideologies passed off as fact. It’s great stuff and Hellbound really excels when it focuses on this sort of material, elevating the material to much more of a thought-provoking think piece than run-of-the-mill horror schlock.
The biggest problem here though comes from the worldbuilding. It’s really difficult to go into this without revealing massive spoilers, and it’s something I actually do a lot more of in the individual episode recaps so do feel free to check those out.
Suffice to say though, the surface level questions early on soon gnaw deep into the foundations holding this show together and completely fall apart when you apply a little bit of logic.
Hellbound is undeniably gripping though and there’s a definite moreish feel to watching a lot of this story play out. You feel compelled to see if there are any answers and while the disappointing open conclusion won’t be for everyone, there’s enough here to enjoy.
Overall then, Hellbound is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a great show for three episodes and a pretty poor one for the other three. This strange enigma of a series will keep you glued until the end no doubt but may struggle to reel people back in once you’ve seen the conclusion to this.
Hellbound is a divine misfire and next to so many other great Korean shows this year, undoubtedly struggles to stand out after such a disappointing second half.
Verdict - 5/10