After Netflix’s Squid Game took the world by storm in waves of obsession, I finally gave in to the hype and took to Netflix to satiate my growing curiosity. Being such a fan of Asian cinema, it’s nothing short of a crime that I never watched it sooner. The hype, however, is historically a sign of a letdown to come and left me somewhat dubious about the trending series.
Does Squid Game Derserve the Hype?
As mentioned, I’m usually quite reluctant to jump aboard the bandwagon. As always, however, I soon fell victim to the impending threat of spoilers and dived right in. I’m delighted in having done so too. Squid Game definitely has an edge over other series’ and is deserving of the cult following it has garnered.
With that being said, try to go into it with your own expectations. Hype can create expectations and ruin viewing experiences.
What’s Squid Game Like?
The general consensus on the internet was to enjoy Squid Game in its native Korean language and use English subs. With this being the way I have always enjoyed foreign cinema, I certainly agreed it to be the best way forward. Bad dubbing is the bane of many otherwise great productions, and it would be a crying shame to ruin a solid show by using decrepit translative aids.
Squid Game does start relatively slow. However, it’s clear that this is done to build a story around the protagonist rather than to merely stretch out the runtime. The story starts by following Seong Gi-Hun (excellently played by Lee Jung-Jae); an out-of-luck father that, despite having all of the best intentions, can never seem to do right for his daughter. On hearing the child’s mother and stepfather are set to leave Korea to live in America, Seong feels that he is backed into a corner and feels all hope is lost. That is until he is offered a way out in the form of a game-playing businessman.
If it’s too Good to be True…
The old saying ‘if it’s too good to be true, it usually is’ should have been ringing loud in the mind of Seong on meeting the suit-wearing character. The man offers Seong a game of ‘Ddakji’ with a whopping 100,000 won (around $83) prize for each win. Having no money to place a similar bet, the kind man offers to take 100,000 won from his bill each time he takes a slap to the face. With dollar signs in his eyes (and stars around his head), Seong plays until he has made a wad of notes. It’s at this point the mysterious man hands our star an equally mysterious business card. Along with a promise of further fortunes and more games like the one that had just netted him his spoils.
Without going into too much detail, what follows is a series of childhood games, with grizzly consequences. Held prisoner in what seems to be a huge industrial unit, for 456 people, ‘the game’ has just begun. A giant piggy bank is dropped from the ceiling and begins to fill with stacks of cold hard cash. The mostly reluctant players are told the rules: If a player loses, they are eliminated; If a player refuses to play, they will be eliminated; if a player breaks a rule – yes, you guessed it. The contents of the suspended piggy bank are promised to those that survive the six coming games. Sounds fair, I think.
The games in themselves are imaginative and well thought out. To add further to the experience of Squid Game, ‘what game will be next’ is always a great topic of conversation should you be watching it with somebody. I found this guessing game that was playing out in my front room really gave Squid Game an extra layer of appeal.
Squid Game – A Psychological Horror
While, at first, I disagreed with this genre, it does seem to merge into such realms. Not so much as in the conventional haunting way we are used to, however. The psychological aspect of Squid Game stems from an omnipresent feeling of not knowing what’s next. You develop a real liking for many of the characters and find yourself worrying about their possible demise. This, coupled with the constant second-guessing, makes for an interestingly great mix.
It’s not often that I follow the hype train and tag something with a ‘must see’. Squid Game, however, confidently breaks the mold. It’s surprising how such a simple premise can create such extraordinary commotion. I have noticed that most people that say they didn’t enjoy it have watched it dubbed. So please, give it the honor it deserves and turn on those subtitles. Furthermore, at just nine episodes, Squid Game is just the right length. It’s not long enough to dilute interest, and it’s not short enough to not leave you wanting more.