Sweet Home Review – A Relentless, gore-soaked good time
It takes less than a minute for a monster to show up in Netflix’s South Korean original series Sweet Home, and you only see more of them from there. It’s probably the ten-part show’s cleverest gimmick, to supplant the usual shambling undead with a seemingly infinite variety of nigh-invincible killing machines, most sprung to life in not entirely convincing fashion by CGI. Some of the usual zombie media tropes are here, though, along with a smattering of nods to traditional horror, including the snap-crackle-pop J-horror joints. But Sweet Home isn’t scary so much as relentless, soaked in enough gore to paint all the walls in the dilapidated apartment building where its action takes place.
That building, the Green Home, makes for a fun setting, a single location that’s expansive enough not to feel like one but remains coherent in its geography. That helps with tension-building, knowing everyone is by definition in close proximity to everyone else, and set-piece design, as each room, corridor, and stairwell forms a piece of a larger puzzle. The early episodes delight in the idea of being trapped in one building with a bunch of eccentric people who barely know each other, and the different micro-stories that spring up as a result — a shopkeeper trying to protect their business, a traumatized woman who pushes around an empty pram after the loss of her child — help to power the early-going as the main characters take their time to bed in.
Among those main characters, suicidal loner Cha Hyun-su gets particular focus, and flashbacks are deployed here and there to dole out necessary context. An eclectic mix of personalities joins him in his fight for survival, which quickly takes a turn when the infection begins to take a hold of him very early into the story (so no, that’s not a spoiler. Relax.)
If there’s a knock against Sweet Home it’s perhaps that it’s a bit too chaotic for its own good. The gore is excessive, but that’s an intentional design choice and the schlocky effect is a riot, even if it borders on silliness rather than scares. With so many characters there’s a bit of disorientation in the first few episodes, but it settles down into a more coherent rhythm as it goes. It’s hard to say whether or not we have a real rival to Kingdom here, but either way, it’s an enjoyably demented and energetic romp that’ll tide over the binge-watching crowd this weekend, especially with nothing else of note on the agenda.