By Bryan Tan
Unlike its title, there is nothing in Sweet Home that’s remotely sweet. The latest drama to break ranks from the chain of popular romantic chick flicks from South Korea, Sweet Home, which was released on Netflix on 18 Dec, is a gory and thrilling 10-part series adaptation of a popular dystopian-zombie webtoon.
A big draw would be its director Lee Eung Bok, who has produced hits like Goblin (2016/2017), Mr. Sunshine (2018) and Descendants Of The Sun (2016).
The up-and-coming cast features lead actor Song Kang from the romantic series Love Alarm (2019), who played Cha Hyun Soo in Sweet Home – a depressed high schooler who moves into a dilapidated apartment complex after being orphaned in a tragic accident.
Other cast members include Lee Do Hyun (18 Again), Lee Jin Wook (The Time We Were Not In Love), Lee Si Young (Killer Toon) and Kim Nam Hee (Find Me In Your Memory).
Unlike shambling zombies that merely react to their environments, the monsters in Sweet Home are products of the desires of their human hosts, making them unique and infinitely more dangerous.
‘’We didn’t want the monsters to look too human or monstrous, so we had to strike a balance with the visual effects and make-up,’’ said director Lee at a virtual press conference on the creation of Sweet Home’s monsters.
‘’There are hardly any scenes without CGI. This kind of series with many CGI sequences is very rare in South Korea, and we had a lot of fun experimenting with the visual effects, even the failures. We had several VFX teams which even came all the way from Hollywood.’’
The cast members acknowledged that it was a challenge to prepare for their roles.
“I had to spend a lot of time imagining myself as Hyun Soo and his other personality. The director and I had many conversations over how I could portray the two sides of my character,’’ said Song Kang about the duality of his character Hyun Soo, who becomes infected with the mysterious virus.
“For my action scenes, I had to go to action school and prepare at least one hour in advance with my instructor before going to each shoot.’’ he added.
Lee Si Young had the most physically demanding parts playing the role of Seo Yi Kyung, a fire fighter and former Special Forces soldier. ‘’I had to spend six months working out with weights and doing martial arts to attain a fit body, in order to make my delivery of the confident and strong character believable,’’ said Si Young of her gruelling training.
Lee Do Hyun did not have to go through much training as he didn’t have many action scenes, being the brains of the group trying to tough out the apocalypse as a young medical student.
But he did have one underground carpark scene, where the 25-year-old battles monsters from a car.
“It was winter then, and the whole scene was filmed underground – you could imagine how cold it was. I was also in a car trying to drive and fight inside. It was a real challenge trying to do all that at the same time,’’ said Do Hyun.
Perhaps the most profound eloquence came from Lee Jin Wook, who plays the anti-social character of Pyeon Sang Wook and becomes infected with the virus, becoming a bestial monster with empty, sad eyes.
When asked about his feelings about the Sweet Home series, he said, ‘’It speaks about what it means to be human. In the show, it is about humans versus monsters. But to me, it is the choices that we make that make us human.’’