Netflix’s “Hellbound” (2021) is based on a webtoon of the same title, written and directed by Yeon Sang Ho, a well-known creator for his outstanding films such as the award-winning “Train To Busan” (2016) and “Peninsula” (2020).
It is a fantasy-horror genre with its message revolving around false prophecy, injustice, sin, death, occultism, and violence, starring Yoo Ah-in, Kim Hyun-joo, Park Jung-min, Won Jin-ah, and Yang Ik-june.
In a world where sin continues to lurk, “Hellbound” simply asks, “Who needs self-reflection? The one who receives the decree or the society who is quick to judge and condemn?”
Here are 3 thought-provoking points to ponder from the series:
1. We live in a judgemental society.
More than the beastly creatures and occultism presented on the show, “Hellbound” subtly states how we live in a judgmental society, especially in this age of technology and social media.
It depicts the fact that we face a challenging online environment every single day where minor issues are exaggerated and some reports are fabricated for personal gain.
“Shouldn’t the press be correcting fake news? This is why people never respect reporters,” states Detective Jin Kyunghun who saw how journalism affects the entire society, both in good and bad ways.
Everytime the media shares a controversial story, the netizens and citizens are quick to entertain gossip, form conclusions, rousing defamation and cyberbullying that spiral out of control.
For example, “Park Junga”, the single mother who received a decree was mentally tortured by the netizens, making snap judgments about her sins, intruding her privacy, and leaking online photos. It even caused a mob of protesters to cancel her.
This kind of hypercritical behavior that rushes to judgment and hastily draws conclusion without considering the full narrative has become a norm in the present time.
On episode 1, two people in a coffee shop discussed about the strange phenomenon of death and hell prophecy. The man wondered, “Wait. People believe this crap?” The woman replied, “Yeah. There are actually a lot of people who believe it.”
This conversation is a fact how our present society operates. Making judgemental calls emerge everywhere every single day and many rely on the news put on the table, however one-sided, distorted or false.
2. We live in a time where violence, rage, and fear-causing strategies are used to manipulate people.
“Rage is what drives us,” the guy in skull mask of Arrowhead screams violence for people who received decrees.
The Arrowhead represents the vicious people of today who constantly look for faults to pick on in others. While some use weapons, others use abusive and manipulative words to torture someone. It happens around the world.
People are being labeled negatively or canceled ubiquitously and instantaneously when an idea does not fit a person or group’s standards of morality and belief. Every single day, people are condemned and tortured for whatever they do, think, or say. It happens everyday across social media.
What’s odd is that some use religion or profess that they are followers of God while exercising violence in their speech, thoughts, motives, and actions. In the drama, the Arrowhead shouts, “We’re doing this for God,” amid punishing sinners with physical beating, mental torture, and forcing them to ask for God’s forgiveness.
Humanity has gone violent. It’s a cruel world.
3. We live in a toxic world where public shaming and social murder are easily exercised to cancel people.
“Making the world a better place through intimidation and condemnation? That reminds me of a place called hell,” Producer Bae Youngjae loudly states his opinion regarding the demonstration that the religious group in the series required for sinners.
On the exact day of her death prophecy, “Park Junga”, the single mother sat in front of the masked VIPs, media, viewers, and citizens to witness her murder.
Banners and streamers filled the street such as, “Damnation is the only solution”, “Do not have mercy on the devil”, “God’s judgment day has arrived”, “God has abandoned you”, and “Let the world know of God’s will”.
A religious host announced, “The demonstration is a form of divine intervention that shows the eternal pain to the subject. This is God’s will to teach humanity the weight of sin. All of you who are watching this must shed your arrogance and stubbornness and witness the divine intervention with penitence.”
The society has treated her like a ruthless criminal by taking matters into their own hands and control. They gave justice a new meaning by calling it God’s will. It caused fears to the audience, thus, making them rely to the principles of the “New Truth” religious group.
“What else would make humans repent other than fear?” the head of the New Truth persists.
In real life, the demonstration is practiced as “public confession” or “cancel culture“. It’s a form of virulent social murder that has unforeseen psychological effects and in extreme cases, high rates of depression, stress disorder, and suicide.
Sadly, due to the legalistic and harsh approach for inappropriate behavior, many are discouraged to engage with religiousity or community. The society which is supposed to be a community of sincere expressions of peace and love becomes a traumatic place for self-reflection, healing, growth, and recovery.
The world has become toxic, no longer safe to live in, and every encounter with people is hard to trust, especially across social media.
DRAMA RATING: 9/10
The works of Yeon Sang Ho, such as “Hellbound” are known to portray society’s injustice, suffering, and chaos, taking its audience to a penetrating yet engaging worldview, contrasting good and evil.
One of the casts states, “Hellbound simply depicts the hell we now live in.” Hence, what’s more terrifying than the strange creatures portrayed in the drama is humanity. It is thought-provoking and causes one to ponder, “Who needs self-reflection?”
Photo cover: Netflix Korea