I didn’t think I had the stomach for Squid Game, but now it has amassed more than 111 million views worldwide (and counting), my curiosity won.
The South Korean mega-hit, Netflix’s biggest-ever debut series, makes for shocking television.
Across nine episodes, the dystopian horror show follows Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae), an unemployed, divorced, gambling addict who can’t afford to pay his mother’s health bills or buy his own daughter a birthday present. He’s a downtrodden disappointment.
One day, a businessman offers him a deal. Play a game and win money.
As a result, he’s invited to Squid Game, knocked out with gas and bundled off to a secret island where 455 other desperate, broke “losers” are all ready to play.
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This is where everything becomes deeply sinister. Players compete in a series of children’s games with a violent twist.
If they make it through six games, they win millions. If they lose, bad news: they get shot in the head.
Soldiers in red jumpsuits and masks –now predictably this year’s top Halloween costume – calmly gun down players and remove them in coffins adorned with pink bows. It’s all completely messed up and thrilling.
In the first game, Red Light, Green Light, 255 players flinch under the laser stare of the scariest doll you’ve ever seen and meet a grisly end.
Other games include a Tug Of War next to a vertical drop and a game of marbles I’m still thinking about days later.
The tension comes from the constant dread. What will be the next game? Who will survive? Who is behind this elaborate set-up for gratuitous violence, using humans as bloodsport? There’s social commentary here on class and capitalism as cartoony VIPs watch and wager from a viewing area (cigars, drinking, drawling American accents… this part is all a bit hammed up).
The thriller also shamelessly draws on our emotions as players form bonds, but also turn to betrayal and murder as greed and panic takes over.
Just like the players, we eventually become numb to the violence, but the show keeps pace with the excitement of the new games, each with lavish, gigantic set-pieces.
Morality and the corruption of society is under the spotlight here – but are we just as bad for enjoying brutality as entertainment?
Squid Game doesn’t delve too deeply – and it’s not subtle – but for a visual hammer-blow, this has made waves.
And if you don’t watch it, you are missing out on a TV phenomenon.Internet Explorer Channel Network