This is one twisty and hauntingly dark drama (2011), with a plotline that turns everything on it’s head the very second you start thinking you understand what’s going on. It is a little scary and even disturbing at times, and I can’t recommend this enough.
After putting aside the chilling imagery, the mysterious plot and the well-timed soundtrack, I think what you are left with is a straight up character study drama, which asks the question:
‘Are monsters born or created?’
This is the question that threads it’s way through the entire 8 episode drama and drives its plot, taking events at the isolated Susin High School, closed for the winter break and nearly deserted, from bad to worse.
Much much worse.
I am no expert on the technical side of film production at all so can only provide an opinion on what I can see, but this drama seems to me to have every shot and scene filmed in a way that highlights the drama’s disjointed and haunted atmosphere, the long cold empty hallways of the school and the outside snowy scenes emphasising the schools lonely isolation. This, working together with the perfectly chosen and timed soundtrack and dark plot, really hit home to the viewer that people are the worst kind of monster.
And maybe everyone has a monster buried deep (or not so deep) inside.
Each character in this small cast is carefully crafted, all having their own flaws and unique traits, and it is fascinating to get a feel for who they are by watching them interact with eachother. Each has such depth that you are constantly peeling away their layers, never truly being sure that you are seeing the whole picture, and definitely never fully knowing what dark depths they are capable of reaching, highlighted in particular by an ending that is both shocking and incredibly unsettling.
I won’t go into depth about each cast member but my favorites would definitely be Kang Mi Reu (for obvious reasons that have to do with him being so freaking awesome. And played by the absolutely lovely Kim Woo-bin to boot!) and also Yang Kang Mo.
I read some recaps on this drama and there was a lot of hate towards the character of Kang Mo which I thought was actually kind of interesting as it was sort of a reflection of his position in the drama, which was basically people seeing a small part of him and then jumping to the conculsion that he was a monster. I am not going to say that his photo scrap book of obsessiveness wasn’t creepy, but I also think that just boiled down to him being a very lonely kid who wants to feel some sort of connection to something. Still not cool obviously, but maybe not a reason to run through the halls after him with a lynch mob.
The actor who plays Kang Mo (Kwak Jung Wook) also impressed me a lot, showcasing his character’s vulnerability and anger, as well as his wish to fit in and the horror he feels at being pitied. Anyone who has seen any of his other dramas (Shut Up Flower Boy Band, School 2013) can see that he owns his characters, even when they are not particularly very nice.
There are some truly scary moments throughout this drama what with the serial killer and the unfolding mystery, but for me the absolute most terrifying scenes were all in seeing what the students are willing to do when pushed to their absolute limit. They are all different and so react to their crisis moments in different ways and to such different extremes, right from the act of running through the halls trying to murder someone who might by guilty, to taking ones own life to stop themselves from doing something unforgivable and becoming the embodiment of the monster that they hate so much.
This is a fantastic drama and I cannot recommend it enough, with it’s in-depth study of fear and what that fear can push people to do.
Also there is that one scene where everyone takes their shirts off for no reason and frolics around for ages in the snow. Phew….it is still a Korean drama after all.