Netflix's new horror series Squid Game is taking the world by storm, but it's not easy to sum up for a quick recommendation. The show comes from South Korea, but was released this month in the U.S. as a Netflix original series. Here's what you need to know about the unusual show.
Squid Game premiered on Friday, Sept. 17 on Netflix, with one season consisting of nine episodes. It is a fictional thriller about a reality show where debtors are forced or compelled to compete in a series of games that will leave the losers dead. Their prize is 45.6 billion Korean won - the equivalent of $38.7 million in the U.S. The show blends action, suspense, survival and drama into one twisted story that is finding its audience all over the world.
Squid Game is created, written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, and stars Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo and Wi Ha-joon. Whether you're considering whether to watch, just finished your binge or are trying to convince a friend to check it out, here's what you need to know about the series.
Basically, Squid Game is about a twisted game show where 456 people with a history of financial troubles are invited to play a high-stakes game for the chance of a big cash prize. If they ignore some of the more ominous signs of a trap and accept the invitation, they are whisked away to a secret location and overseen by guards in eerie masks. They are soon told that they must play to win, and face the consequences if they lose.
The players are subjected to violent twists on classic childhood games - in the pilot episode, they play "Red Light, Green Light," but those who lose are immediately shot by guns controlled by motion-sensing cameras. Alliances soon emerge among the players, who are caught between survival, friendship and the chance of riches.prevnext
The main protagonist is Seong Gi-hun, played by Lee. He is has a gambling addiction and a lot of debt, as well as a responsibility to financially support his estranged daughter. In the English-language voice-over version, he is voiced by Greg Chun.
Park plays Cho Sang-woo, while Stephen Fu provides the English-language voice. The character Oh Il-nam is played by Oh Yeong-su and voiced by Kideo Kimura, Kang Sae-byeok is played by HoYeon Jung and voiced by Vivian Lu, Jang Deok-su is played by Heo-Sung-tae and voiced by Paul Nakauchi, Abdul Ali is played by Anupam Tripathi and voiced by Rama Vallury and Han Mi-nyeo is played by Kim Ju-ryoung and voiced by Stephanie Komure in the English dub.prevnext
Hwang spoke a bit about the ideas behind Squid Game in an interview with Variety last week. When setting out to create the show, he said: "I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life. But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we've all met in real life."
"As a survival game it is entertainment and human drama. The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand. That allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted by trying to interpret the rules," he added.
Hwang also said that he first came up with this idea in 2008, providing notes to prove it. He said that at the time he hoped to shoot the story as a feature-length film, but that now it works well as a series. He hoped this would dispel the accusations that he took ideas from other media to make Squid Game.prevnext
Unsurprisingly, Squid Game has been compared to a number of other pieces of media that revolve around a surprisingly deadly confrontation. Most notably, it has been likened to Hunger Games, Battle Royale and a Japanese film from 2014 called As the Gods Will. In the U.S., it is also compared to graphic horror movies like Hostel. Hwang said that he does not care for the implication behind these comparisons.
"I freely admit that I've had great inspiration from Japanese comics and animation over the years," he said. "When I started, I was in financial straits myself and spent much time in cafes reading comics including Battle Royale and Liar Game. I came to wonder how I'd feel if I took part in the games myself. But I found the games too complex, and for my own work focused instead on using kids' games."prevnext
In some parts of the world, Squid Game goes by the title Round Six. However, the title "Squid Game" has more significance to the story - and places it more precisely in South Korea. As Seong explains in the first episode, "Squid Game" was the name for a simple playground game from his youth, played on a squid-shaped court and not unlike tag or Red Rover.prevnext
So far, Squid Game has outstanding reviews from critics and casual viewers alike. Many commenters have praised its rich yet simple story with a close look at all of its main characters. Those that have left bad reviews of the show online seem to be generally uninterested in thrillers in general.prevnext
Finally, many people are clamoring to know if Squid Game is a one-off story or a burgeoning franchise. Hwang has declined to give a firm answer but told Variety that he has no immediate plans to take the story any further. He said that he does not have a clear idea of what another season of the show would even look like, and that to make one, he would need to get better at collaborating for the TV medium.0comments
"Writing [Squid Game] was harder than normal for me as it was a series, not a film," he said. "It took me six months to write and rewrite the first two episodes. Then I consulted verbally with friends, and picked up clues for improvements through my own pitching and from their responses."
Squid Game is streaming now on Netflix, with English-language audio available for those that need it.prev