How K-drama Hellbound is like a gruesome version of Death Note

·4 min read
Yoo Ah-in as Jung Jin-su, the founder of New Truth, in Hellbound. (Photo: Netflix)
Yoo Ah-in as Jung Jin-su, the founder of New Truth, in Hellbound. (Photo: Netflix)

Following the success of Squid Game, Netflix is releasing yet another K-thriller, Hellbound. The story features individuals who are sent to hell by unearthly beings. This supernatural phenomenon also gives rise to a religious group founded on the idea of divine justice.

We've finished all six episodes of the show, which were screened for media ahead of its release on 19 November, and cannot help but find the story similar to Death Note. Here's how:

1. The sinners suffer a mystical yet violent death.

Before the individuals die, they receive a decree from an angel-like figure, who tells them when they will go to hell. The period can range from a few seconds later to decades later. When the time comes, three demon-like executors will appear out of thin air and brutally attack the so-called sinner. Instead of having someone write names on a notebook, one can only presume it is God who decides who will be condemned.

However, Hellbound takes the violence up a notch, which may be too gruesome to watch at times. Rather than delivering a smooth and easy death, the executors go all out for the blood and splatter. There is literally no mercy at all, and no sinner can escape from their clutch.

2. The believers in such divine justice worship the founder Jung Jin-su.

Along with the supernatural phenomenon, a religious group called New Truth emerges. It is led by Jung Jin-su (Yoo Ah-in), who has been warning the public about how sinners will incur the wrath of God. While people are skeptical at first, they come to believe him and even join his cause – akin to the worship of Kira in Death Note – after witnessing the live broadcast of an “execution”. Some may say they are blindly jumping on the bandwagon, thinking they are upholding justice.

At the same time, another group called Arrowhead spawns and decides to take things into their own hands. Specifically, they track down the non-believers of God and the sinners, and assault them, claiming their actions are all according to God's will. In a way, they are the aggressive version of New Truth, and often do the dirty work for them.

Fronting the Arrowhead is live-streamer Skull Mask, who may be really annoying at first, as he screams and overreacts during his livestream. But it turns out this character is quite important later on. The audience can look forward to guessing when and where he will serve his actual purpose in the story.

Skull Mask, who fronts the Arrowhead, in Hellbound. (Photo: Netflix)
Skull Mask, who fronts the Arrowhead, in Hellbound. (Photo: Netflix)

3. It's based on the webtoon of the same title, and directed by Train To Busan's director.

Just like how Death Note is based on a manga, Hellbound is based on a webtoon of the same title. The webtoon was written by Yeon Sang-ho, who directed the Train To Busan series, and illustrated by Choi Kyu-seok. Yeon also directed the Hellbound drama series, which helps to ensure the drama does not deviate too far from the webtoon, while incorporating the terror elements from Train To Busan.

In fact, Yeon also had strong ideals about the story, including developing the character Jung Jin-su with the actor Yoo Ah-in in mind from the early ideation stage. There is also a reason why the executors appear as a trio: one is not threatening enough, two is insufficiently so, and more than three is too big a group.

4. There is likely to be a sequel.

The series ends on a cliffhanger that suggests the likelihood of a sequel, although this is also dependent on how well the series fares. Hellbound may not be as sensational as Squid Game, but it still has an intriguing plot, albeit not entirely original. It is also difficult not to associate its ending with a certain concept in the acclaimed Harry Potter series.

Besides, these six episodes seem to be merely an introduction to a potentially more elaborate story, which Yeon has yet to come up with. After all, the drama has already covered the whole webtoon, which spans two seasons and a total of 55 episodes.

Hellbound will be available on Netflix from 19 November, 4pm (SGT).

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