Ankita Panda, Kolkata, West Bengal
Trigger Warning for elements of gore, indirect cannibalism, and PTSD in the drama.
Strangers from Hell also known as Hell is Other People or Others are Hell (타인은 옥이다) starring Im Si-wan, Lee Dong-wook, Lee Jung-eun, and many more prominent actors. Adapted from a webtoon with the same title by Kim Yong-ki, this South Korean drama aired from August 31, 2019, to October 6, 2019, on OCN, every Saturday and Sunday. The drama spanned over 10 episodes with the duration of each episode being 60 mins.
After watching the drama what absolutely stunned me was the plot of the drama. Yoon Jong-woo (Im Shi-wan) a young guy in his 20s moves from the countryside to Seoul after getting a job offer. Not being from a rich household, he looks for a cheap place to rent and stumbles upon Eden Studio, a hostel that shares its kitchen and bathroom with other problematic and abnormal residents. He is not happy about his residence but decides to put up with it for 6 months until he saves enough money to move out. But when disturbing events start taking place in the hostel, he soon realizes that he unknowingly got trapped in a nightmare.
The drama honestly creeps me out with its dingy and gloomy atmosphere, and the close-ups of the giggling faces of the housemates while they carry out grotesque tasks. The eerie expressions paired with the tension amongst each character of the studio will make you feel uncomfortable and frightened. With each episode, we see the protagonist slowly lose his sanity and derail into madness, and along with him so do the viewers. Each episode leaves you teetering at the edge of your bed as you get sucked into their world of insanity and manipulation, which will leave you with nightmares. From the point of view of the plot, all the characters have engaging personalities, and it will make you curious about their background. The drama uses a literary masterpiece named The Metamorphosis, a novella by Franz Kafka , as a symbolic reference. The characters Jong-woo and Moon-jo (Lee Dong-wook) are often seen reading or discussing the book, which is essential to the plot because it shows the transformation of the protagonist’s psyche and physical body. Similarly, the book’s appearance at the beginning foreshadows the fate Yoon Jong-woo will go through.
The cinematography of the drama is something that needs to be talked about because personally, the cinematography of a drama matters to me a lot. The drama was shot in low-budget settings to accommodate the story but the transitions were absolutely beautiful and a whole masterpiece. Through the transitions we see the protagonist’s gradual change in character, as he shows us his violent side, only to bring us back to reality where he is calm and collected. These transitions make us realize that he has a lot of suppressed anger and frustration which is slowly getting out of hand as the other characters keep provoking him. We, human beings often think about doing and wishing terrible things when it comes to people we don’t like or cannot stand but most often than not we hold ourselves back because we are in control of it. The drama shows us what happens when we lose control; it is a scary reality check.
The cast did a tremendous job in executing their characters, especially Im Shi-wan and Lee Dong-wook. Shi-wan played the character of Yoon Jong-woo and he did it effortlessly, from portraying his distress, to his encounters with other deranged characters, every little action was quite detailed and perfect. It was Lee Dong-wook that surprised me the most, his acting showed his versatility; he played the character of Seo Moon-jo, a charismatic dentist who seems squeaky clean at the very beginning but that’s just his disguise. Usually, I have seen him in dramas where he is portrayed as a romantic hero, so seeing him in this drama just proved that his skills are not limited to certain roles.
Why Watch This Drama
Strangers from Hell is like a study of the human mind and the literal portrayal of our intense and repressed negative thoughts and emotions coming alive. It tells us what we should be scared of is not the outside forces, but human beings themselves.
Have you seen this drama? What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments!