After a sizable pause, Korean monster apoc series SWEET HOME returned to Netflix in 2023. While the second season lacked the grounded intimacy and surprise of the first season, I wasn’t at all disappointed by the shift in tone.
In season 1, a monster apocalypse starts in Korea as seen through the lens of people living in an apartment building. The residents are charming and have big personalities that instantly hook you (as I’ve found in many Korean apoc movies and shows–unlike much of American action cinema, the Koreans are not afraid to be earnest and put it out there to the level of melodrama). When some of the residents begin to turn into bizarre monsters, they have to find a way to secure their building and find ways to survive as the world appears to end right outside.
Season 2 picks up pretty much where the first season left off. Now we see what’s going on outside the apartment building from brutal research into a cure to horrifying decisions made by the government to stem the spread of monsterization to the chaos in the military and safety shelters. Things spiral out of control until a jump in time shows us what appears to be stasis–survivors inside, monsters outside, a tenuous balance which the surviving characters and some new faces must navigate. The season doesn’t end quite tidily, leaving plenty for a future season, but fortunately a season 3 is on the way in summer 2024 (both seasons were shot back to back, apparently).
This is zombie fiction at its best, though with monsters. If you know my INFECTION series, you would probably guess I’d dig this. I loved the overall craziness of it, the uncertainty, how living in terror can derange human thinking and decision-making. And the monsters and apocalyptic setting are awesome, even if the CGI is a little rough at times.
On the downside, the show lost a lot of its clarity. Once it jumps ahead in time, there seems to be no clear overall objective. Instead, characters run into each other while on personal missions that seem to change on a dime. Sometimes, they make decisions that don’t make sense. Plot seems to take the lead over character this season, while the plot seems confused. Even the themes started to get confused, where we’re shown “maybe humans are the real monsters,” which based on what we can see the answer is no, they can be bad, they can react poorly to crisis, they can act first and think later if they’re afraid, but the monsters in this story are definitely the actual monsters that want to kill and eat people.
Despite these misgivings, I had a lot of fun with it. What started for me with great uncertainty–is this going to be a campy comedy? just weird fun?–quickly turned into a seriously dark, emotional, serious take on the chaos and horror of a monster apocalypse. I’m looking forward to season 3.