Ok – I’m definitely not a horror-drama kind of fan, but hey, first time for everything right?
This drama is like a tripped-up freaky version of the movie “The Sixth Sense,” except it goes more for the outright horror than it does for the quiet, building sense of eeriness.
I have to say, the beginning sequence of the first episode intrigued me, and I loved the way the drama was shot cinematically. So right from the first minute I’m already giving points to this drama. I’m pulled into the drama, and Lee Seo Jin sure is kinda weird… in a good way, for his character. Spoilers will abound, as I will summarize the series and then post my comments.
The drama quickly establishes that Yoon Hana (played by Im Joo Eun, channeling bit of Im Su Jeong from her “Tale of Two Sisters” days) has strange dreams all the time, and they happen to coincide with the series of murders that are taking up the news. Her visions of spirits also haunt her, but it isn’t until she meets Shin Ryu by accident that she realizes ghosts are trying to communicate with her.
In school, Hana is the typical tough girl who can’t be pushed around by the school bully, Jong Chan (played by Yoo Yun Suk). On the other hand, the quiet Park Shi Woo (played by Supernova’s Park Gun Il) has a taste for the macabre and is constantly teased. Hana defends Shi Woo, and here we have the start of Shi Woo liking her…
When Hana’s twin sister Duna (T-ARA’s Jiyeon) is killed, Duna possesses Hana’s body and starts killing the school bullies who killed her. Hana goes mentally insane after Duna’s death, especially since she saw Duna burn right before her very eyes in the same fashion as her nightmares. Enter Shin Ryu, who begins to help her case. He’s a criminal profiler and psychoanalyst, and Shi Woo’s idol. Shin Ryu taps into Hana’s unconsciousness and realizes that she has the power to communicate with the ghosts. The recent murders of the school bullies are due to Duna possessing Hana’s body and killing them. Hana has no recollection when these things happen. Since Shin Ryu can hypnotize Hana, he begins to use her and Duna (with whom he can communicate with when she’s in her sister’s body) to attack the serial killers who deserve to die. At first, the audience is led to believe that Shi Woo, who happens to always be at the right place at the right time during these murders, and has a fascination with knives, would be the serial killer. (And the serial killer is deliciously played by Lee Kyu Han of My Lovely Sam Soon.)
Basically, Ryu begins to use Hana for a bigger purpose: to get the hooligans from his past who held him and his mother hostage years ago, and killed his younger sister. The lawyer that got them off scot-free was also Jong Chan’s father, and because they were freed, Ryu’s mother hanged herself. All of those hooligans happened to work for Jong Chan’s father Do Shik. When Jong Chan is severely hurt and becomes insane (after encountering Duna’s ghost), Do Shik realizes that the cause of all this is Shin Ryu and Hana. He sends the hooligans after them, but each one dies one by one under possessed-Hana’s hand. Finally, only Jong Chan and Do Shik are left, and they are abducted as they leave for Canada (to seek treatment for Jong Chan). Do Shik has remained relatively calm even though he knows his past sins are coming back to haunt him. But when he is surrounded by the dead bodies of his henchmen, and realizes that his crazy son just might want to kill him, Do Shik kills his son instead. He gets sent away to jail, Ryu erases Hana’s memories, and everyone tries to go back to their normal lives.
Two years later, Shi Woo is in college and Hana’s constant companion. It’s clear he adores her, while she sees him as a good friend. She sees Ryu’s doctor-friend regularly for checkups, and everyone makes sure that she is mentally sound. They all protect her from her past in some way, usually refusing to mention what happened to her and her family two years ago; Shin Ryu just avoids her completely. The ghosts don’t haunt Hana as much, although she gets cold whenever she’s in a place surrounded by death. There is another serial killer on the loose (of course), called The Judge, but he kills people who are criminals. (Sounds like Death Note, eh?)
When Hana goes to Shi Woo’s college, she sees Ryu teaching the class about criminal psychology, and sees an image of Lee Kyu Han’s serial killer. That begins to trigger memories within her, and she starts asking questions that makes Shi Woo uneasy. At the same time, Do Shik is let out of jail on probation, and his first act is to befriend Hana by pretending he is her mother’s friend. He gains Hana’s trust, and begins to insert seeds of doubt into her mind about Shi Woo and everyone else around her. Hana begins to suspect Shin Ryu, and finds out that he really is The Judge. Shin Ryu goes mad himself, unable to control the inner demon that manifested when he was taking his revenge with Hana’s help. He abducts Do Shik; Shi Woo, angry that Hana’s getting hurt, goes to find and kill Shin Ryu; Hana remembers everything and, realizing that Shin Ryu is in danger, goes in search of him too.
Do Shik manages to wound Ryu, and when Shi Woo sees that Do Shik – their common enemy – is winning, he attacks him. Do Shik, with a gun, fatally wounds Shi Woo. Hana comes to the rescue with her freaky stalk, and Do Shik falls out of a window to his death. It’s too late to save Ryu, who’s already bled out too much, and so Hana hugs Ryu, crying, until she sees Shi Woo. Yeah – how could you forget the one man who took care of you this whole time?! Shi Woo dies as well, and the final scene has Hana running through the woods, the scary, ghostlike determination back in her eyes.
The beginning of the drama seemed to work too hard in scaring the audiences. While it sort of worked (I’m easily scared by the way), I did think it was trying too hard to go for the shock factor. Along the way, it focused more on Shin Ryu and his plan for revenge, and by then the drama had evolved into a more character-centric one. I liked it because I don’t think the drama could have lasted on just the “fear-factor,” and it made me feel worse for Hana.
The cinematography and effects worked well in this drama, and I enjoyed one particular scene where Hana fell over the railing and two ghosts rolled out of her body. I also enjoyed the shot where in the middle of the street, spirits started surrounding Hana and the camera whirled around her. As the camera passed each spirit, one saw a real person staring at Hana’s crazy antics, until all the spirits were gone and Hana was left swiping away at nothing as a bunch of normal passers-by avoided her.
The acting… I give kudos to Lee Seo Jin, who looked like he enjoyed this role. Park Gun Il was amazing – I really couldn’t tell what his motives were until I settled into believing that he’d stay firmly on the good side. For an acting debut, it was quite impressive. Yoo Yun Suk can definitely pull a mean look – but it seems more like he’d be easily type-casted as the bully in his future roles. I can’t say much for Im Joo Eun. Honestly, her role required her to look wide-eyed or evil. And Lee Kyu Han? Though his role lasted perhaps three episodes total, he was so deliciously evil as he stabbed his victims in the ribs and derived ecstasy from it.
The ending was cheap. So cheap. So dumb. So retarded. I was so mad. I didn’t like the ending at all because everyone just HAD to die. Even Shin Ryu’s doctor-friend. As if Hana hadn’t suffered enough, they had to do it again to her. There was no reason for all of them to die really; I can understand Shin Ryu dying, but everyone was a casualty of Kim Gab Soo‘s trigger friendly character.
Would I recommend watching this drama? Yes – if you want some good ol’ horror and something very different from the old melodrama and romantic comedies out there. It even pulls off a revenge storyline quite well. I never felt like the revenge storyline for Shin Ryu was too cliched or used as a plot device. Shin Ryu was a complex character, a man who was as messed up as the other psychopaths he studied, and yet he had a noble goal. Everyone else orbited around this character, because his actions affected everyone else’s reactions.
Rating: 6/10. For this drama in particular, this ‘6’ is not a bad number. I just don’t feel comfortable giving it a higher rating due to the very last two minutes of the drama.