Squid Game: the smash-hit South Korean horror is a perfect fit for our dystopian mood | Television



If you’re one of many many tens of millions of individuals world wide dwelling in a metropolis taking tentative steps out of lockdown, it’s possible you’ll be like me in that amongst my jumble of emotions – pleasure, aid, pleasure – can also be a stunning diploma of hysteria.

And maybe in case you are additionally one of many many tens of millions world wide who has now watched the newest Netflix hit Squid Recreation, the present and its blood-splattered, horror-tinged violence could have supplied an exhilarating catharsis.

The South Korean thriller, which reached No 1 in 90 nations in 10 days – with 95% of viewers outside of Korea – is on monitor to be Netflix’s greatest hit ever. Written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the premise is easy sufficient: lots of of determined, debt-laden contestants compete for an enormous jackpot – more cash than they might ever dream of. All they must do is survive a sequence of disturbingly merciless, win-or-die, kill-or-be-killed kids’s video games. There are apparent nods right here to Battle Royale and the Starvation Video games.

The compelling trailer will prime you for 9 hours of torture porn. That each one the stabbing, capturing and killing orgies happen in shiny, pastel units with outsized toys that render adults kid-sized, remembers Japanese tv recreation exhibits that many years in the past pioneered the style of humiliation tv, lengthy earlier than it morphed right into a western actuality TV present staple.

On one stage, Squid Recreation is your basic Faustian discount. Like a dumb dare query on TikTok, it revels in exhibiting us by means of a gleeful splatterfest precisely what sick, wicked issues an atypical individual would possibly do for a life-changing amount of money. The very fact the cash is gained through childlike video games (pink mild, inexperienced mild; tug of battle) has a contact of Lord of the Flies about it: oh how shortly “civilised” individuals devolve into savagery.

However what shouldn’t be captured within the trailer is how bighearted the present is, how joyfully humorous and compassionate it’s to its characters. Our protagonist Seong Gi-hun is a part-time chauffeur, full-time playing addict. In a splendidly expressive depiction by Lee Jung-jae, his emotions-writ-large strikes us effortlessly from the heart-wrenching guilt of seeing his long-suffering mom head wearily to work to the slapstick humour of raiding the cookie jar for her bank card earlier than hitting the racetrack.

Later we find out how Seong Gi-hun’s life took a flip for the more serious when, following layoffs at his automobile manufacturing unit, he witnessed his colleague killed at a employee’s strike. A case of PTSD was adopted by the breakdown of his marriage, and among the present’s most painful scenes are between Seong Gi-hun and the sunshine of his life – his 10-year-old daughter – who will quickly transfer along with her mom and stepfather to the USA.

And so it’s with each one among these contestants, an nearly Dickensian struggling is threaded by means of their backstories: a teenage North Korean defector on the mercy of individuals smugglers-cum-scam artists; an impoverished Pakistani migrant employee whose manufacturing unit boss refuses to pay his wages; a businessman whose weight of social strain and expectation drives him to commit riskier and riskier offers.

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‘These are people who find themselves barely managing to maintain their heads above water in a system designed to crush their spirits.’ {Photograph}: Netflix

What Hwang Dong-hyuk needs us to know is that these are usually not unhealthy individuals. These are determined individuals. People who find themselves barely managing to maintain their heads above water in a system designed to crush their spirits and strip them of each dignity. And the way he does that is by means of one of many present’s small however intelligent departures from battle royale conference: the contestants are given a selection, to remain or go.

The truth that most contestants elect to stay on this hellish torture chamber (as one of many characters acidly factors out, it’s “simply as unhealthy on the market as it’s in right here”) is an indictment of contemporary society, advised within the darkest, funniest approach doable. The more severe the abuse, injustice and cruelty our contestants are keen to endure (and inflict on others) turns into a yardstick for simply how abusive, unjust and merciless the “actual world” is.

As Squid Recreation raced to the highest of Netflix charts world wide, I puzzled if it has struck a chord as a result of so many people are feeling burned out, “over it”, and we’re trying to find a path of least resistance out of the each day grind. We’re toying with becoming a member of the “Great Resignation”; we’re discovering inspiration from these laconic revolutionaries of the slacker-style Chinese language motion tangping or “mendacity flat”.

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‘Moments of human connection and cooperation counterpoint scenes of contestants wearing an identical inexperienced tracksuits.’ {Photograph}: Youngkyu Park/Netflix

For the contestants of Squid Recreation, acts of resistance are equally light and gentle. These might be so simple as splitting a corn cob, or asking one other contestant their title moderately than utilizing their assigned quantity. Moments of human connection and cooperation counterpoint scenes of contestants wearing an identical inexperienced tracksuits, marching in step by means of an Escher portray of stairs and doorways – a putting visible metaphor of the rat race.

Squid Recreation reminds us that standard life wasn’t sunshine and lollipops for all of us. So earlier than we go dashing again on the market, what would possibly we do to make “on the market” higher?

Squid Recreation is streaming now on Netflix. For extra suggestions of what to look at in Australia, go to our Stream Team column



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