I’m not sure what’s up with Netflix recently. They’ve gone way off into left field making several live action versions of different manga, manhwa, and webtoons.
This is, of course, the most correct thing they could have done.
Sweet Home was originally a manhwa webtoon by Hwang Young-chan and Kim Kan-bi, and was recently brought to the small screen by Netflix. It follows the residents of Green Home—a large apartment building—during a monster apocalypse.
If you’re not sure what I mean by “Monster Apocalypse” it basically means that a percentage of the population is randomly turning into monsters and killing any people they come across.
The main character is Cha Hyun-Su (or just Hyun-Su). He is a suicidal shut-in who moves into Green Home after his parents and sister are killed in a car accident. At first, he’s a bit of a downer. Don’t worry though: His backstory (even beyond the whole family dying thing) is tragic enough that you can see exactly why he behaves the way he does.
When his neighbors start turning into monsters and killing each other, he originally opts to stay in his room and hope for the best. However, when he witnesses two children in peril, he ultimately ignores his own problems and, with a knife taped to a mop handle, sets off to save them.
While there are a lot of manga/manhwa that focus on a monster apocalypse, Sweet Home was a novel first outing for this specific subgenre for a few reasons.
What Do You Desire?
What’s interesting about this particular monster apocalypse is that it isn’t a virus, or external force, that turns people into monsters (at least not at the time of this writing). No, what turns people into monsters in this story is their own intense desires.
If someone wanted to be stronger, they might turn into a large hulking monster. If they wanted to be faster, a speed demon, and so forth and so on. This leads to some bizarre monsters with some interesting abilities. While you don’t get a backstory for every monster, the ones that you do get range from anecdotal to tragic.
What I really like about this idea is that it’s not about being bitten by a monster. You could fight one all day and never turn into one. It does, however, mean that anyone, at any time, might suddenly start showing symptoms of the change. This is especially true during the apocalypse where the desire to live could suddenly change you into a freak of nature.
The Real Monster
Of course, with every apocalypse story, you undoubtedly learn that the true monster of the story is… wait for it…
This is also true with Sweet Home.
The bulk of the story focuses on the residents of the apartment building learning to survive and live with one another. There is infighting and mistrust throughout the series, even once everyone seems to be getting along.
This is mostly due to limited resources, but also because at any point someone could spontaneously transform into a giant mouth with snakes for eyeballs or something.
There are, of course, symptoms that precede the transformation (like an intense nose-bleed and auditory hallucinations), but if someone were to hide it, things could go from bad to worse pretty quickly. So, the residents are always on high alert, and ready to turn on one another.
The flip side to this trope is also on full display in Sweet Home. That is to say that the very best traits of humanity are displayed. Whether that is an old man befriending the only remaining children in the building, or the unscrupulous sycophant taking time to help someone besides himself, the show takes the time to show these moments and relish in them.
I don’t know if this needed a whole section with a heading and everything, but I really enjoyed the soundtrack to this show. I mean, the sound design was also pretty impressive, but it was the music that really got me.
There is one song in particular (“Warriors” by Imagine Dragons) that plays in almost every episode, and I love it every time it comes on. It’s always in the climatic moments, and it punctuates them perfectly.
I can honestly say that my enjoyment of the show is probably 80% all of the other stuff, 20% that song at the correct moment.
One of the most frustrating things about Sweet Home is the visual effects. Conversely, it’s one of my favorite parts. You see, there is a strange disparity between different scenes and the special effects—or lack thereof.
Sometimes, a scene is framed perfectly and the effects are amazing, if somewhat stylized. Other times it’s kind of a hot mess. The effects become janky and the framing is off. This can lead to certain parts of the show feeling a little cheesy in a story that seems, for the most part, to be trying to take itself pretty seriously.
This can also affect the impact of some of the monsters. Sometimes they are absolutely terrifying, and at other times, well this…
Hopefully the effects are slightly more consistent in the second season.
Overall, Sweet Home is a pretty solid show. They made the characters a little more grounded and serious than the comic—and also diverged wildly from the comic’s story about halfway through the show—but for the subject matter, it fits. There are some issues—I’m looking at you, Song Kang and your one note face—but they never diminished the enjoyment I received from watching people fight monsters with little more than grit.
I’m giving Sweet Home a monstrous 7.5/10 for…
…Did you hear that… I think…
Ah crap my nose is bleeding.
Got to go.