Hellbound REVIEW: Dark, compelling and not for the weak hearts, Train To Busan director does it again

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Director: Yeon Sang-ho

Cast: Yoo Ah‑in, Won Jin‑A, Kim Hyun-joo, Park Jung‑min

Bollywood Bubble rating: 4 stars

Imagine living in a world full of fears, having no autonomy and receiving a decree for sins performed, knowingly or unknowingly. Unfathomable, right? Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-ho unleashes a world where you are summoned to hell and mercilessly murdered by some alien creatures at a time and date informed. It is basically a verbal death certificate handed over to strange people, with no chronology or pattern to figure. At first, what feels like a punishment for sins by God, later makes you question the very definition of the same. I was truly hooked on to this unparalleled world which gives me the chills but at the same time, left me intrigued in many ways than one. Hellbound also plays with human emotions in a nuanced way, ranging from fear to cult culture to inter-personal bonds.

Director Yeon Sang-ho taps on the extreme emotions which hits you right where it hurts. The first half of the show focuses on Kim Shin-rok’s character, Park Jeong-ja, who receives the decree of her death. In a world which is dominated by the cult culture, there is The New Truth agency and Arrowhead who claim to act as the messenger of Gods. As soon as Jeong-ja receives her decree, she reaches out to the chairman of The New Truth, Jeong Jin-so (Yoo Ah-in) and lawyer Min Hye-jin (Kim Hyun-joo) to guarantee safety of her kids.

Ironically, when Jin-so asks Jeong-ja what sin she committed to receive the decree, it was a reflection of our thoughts as the audience. It is at that moment, we realise that the moral compasses to judge someone’s sin or punishment is bizarre and absolutely arbitrary. It is in that moment, you realise how deadly this new world is. Who decides what is a person’s sin and what is not? Another extremely important character is cop Jin Kyung-hoon (Yang Ik-Joon) who is constantly juggling between finding a balance between work and personal life, after losing his wife.

For instance, later in the episodes, we are informed how Chairman Jin-so had himself received a decree about his death which was scheduled for 20 years later on a particular date. Director Sang-ho manages to create a world that is so dark and compelling that it absorbs you in it. It is very clear that a lot of work went behind pulling off this show. The screenplay keeps it engaging with every actor putting their best performance forward. The shock, the fear, the vulnerability, the confusion, is relatable. Like mentioned by the director at the press conference, the emotions are universally relatable and will perhaps leave you with a food for thought.

The setting is kept real and pace is decent which works well with the total narrative of the series, which is spread across six episodes. Director Sang-Ho really knows how to create a world which feeds on fear and stay true to the theme of the series. He picks up nuances and makes sure to shoot it aesthetically, without making the violence seem gory.

With superlative performance and powerful background score, Hellbound is sure to be watched but be aware, it is not for the weaker hearts.

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