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Entertainment

Hellbound tops Netflix global TV series list within 24 hours

Its novelty fascinates global fans, but some critics say it's too pessimistic and story development is loose

By Nov 21, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Hellbound (Courtesy of Netflix)
Hellbound (Courtesy of Netflix)

Netflix's original South Korean drama series Hellbound topped the platform’s global chart within a day of its Nov. 19 release, much faster than the smash hit Squid Game, which took eight days to take the throne in September.

Global fans had high hopes for the horror series Hellbound even before its release, but few envisioned such success. Some critics said its performance proves the growing popularity of South Korean dramas, or K-dramas, on the global stage, while some were concerned that it was a halo effect of Squid Game.

Interest in K-dramas has been overwhelming since Squid Game hit the global market. Hellbound topped Netflix’s most-watched list in 24 countries including South Korea, Indonesia and Belgium, according to streaming analytics company FlixPatrol. It ranked No. 2 in France and No. 3 in both the US and Germany.

Three South Korean drama series were among the top 10 with Squid Game, Netflix’s biggest show to date, at No. 2 and the King’s Affection, a historical series, at No. 9, as of Nov. 20, according to FlixPatrol.

NOVELTY VS PESSIMISM

Hellbound, consisting of six episodes, starts with supernatural events in which some people are suddenly condemned to hell. The story is about an emerging religious group amid the chaos related to the phenomenon and people who try to reveal the truth against the pseudo-religious organization.

The thriller series, created by Yeon Sang-ho, the star director behind the celebrated film Train to Busan, received positive reviews on its novelty. It has a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a US review-aggregation website, that said “summoned by the devilish imagination of writer-director Yeon Sang-ho, Hellbound leverages its terrifying concept to thoughtfully explore human fallibility.” The rating was higher than Squid Game’s 94%.
Hellbound (Courtesy of Netflix)
Hellbound (Courtesy of Netflix)

But other critics downplayed such exultant reviews, saying its view of the world is too pessimistic since the series reflects dystopian perspectives while the development of the story is a bit loose.

STORY IS KING

It is extremely hard for one country’s dramas to fascinate all audiences around the globe. A drama series is much longer than a song or a film, making foreigners feel a stronger sense of linguistic limits and cultural gaps.  Because of this, many South Korean dramas were previously remade in other countries rather than exported. 

K-dramas, however, have strong potential. Their main overseas markets had been in Asia but they are penetrating into the US and Europe. Netflix-sponsored blockbuster zombie series Kingdom kicked off the trend and Squid Game accelerated it. 

Their worldwide success is possible based on powerful stories. In addition to novel subjects, sophisticated story development and messages that evoked empathy and deep insight have played a big role. Only strong stories that are immersive on a global level are expected to succeed. 

Write to Hee-Kyung Kim at hkkim@hankyung.com

Jongwoo Cheon edited this article.

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