Imagine we lived in a world with no sin. Everyone got along, there was no war and everyone was pure. Sounds like a perfect place to live, right? Only downside is that a supernatural, biblical entity comes and takes you away to Hell and it doesn’t exactly tickle on the way down. Hellbound ventures into the world of sin and how we as a species deal with those who do sin. Some believe we should handle our own earthly matters. Others think the higher powers that be should be in charge. Regardless of who is actually in charge, there’s no denying the fact that something is happening on Hellbound that shouldn’t be, and it’s creating a crack in the foundation of humanity as well as the way the world works.
Based on the Webtoon of the same name, almost immediately when you begin Hellbound, you’re thrown into a world that’s dark, chaotic and full of lies and deceit. Directed by Train To Busan director Yeon Sang-ho, the basic concept behind it is that a person is given what’s called a “decree”; a message from this mysterious being in the form of a ghostly face that gives you the exact date and time you will die and be taken to Hell. Since this phenomenon first began, a small but devout religious group called “The New Truth” came about, claiming that the beings that are sent to take you away are messengers of God. While these creatures don’t look like the angels we’re used to seeing in modern day literature and entertainment, these messengers are horrifying and stop at nothing to hunt a person down and make sure their mission is complete. The leader of said religious group, Jeong Jin-soo, wishes to change the world and seemingly make it a better place with these biblical events, claiming that God is watching and wants to cleanse the world of sin. Some people believe him. Others don’t. It’s not until a live viewing of someone’s decree that the world finally opened their eyes and started to believe in these creatures. Like almost every religious group, words are twisted and people are manipulated, which creates a sense of uncertainty and fear in both believers and non-believers alike.
Hellbound is visceral and raw in a sense that it very much mirrors what it’s like in our own society today (just minus the big scary demon things that fry you to a crisp). You have some religious groups out there who are so set in their beliefs that it’s impossible to convince them of anything else otherwise. Some even go as far as committing acts of sin on their own in the name of whatever religious entity they worship. Fanaticism, puritanism and radicalism all play very important roles within the series. Both the religious groups depicted in the series, The New Truth and Arrowhead, are the main examples of that. Where New Truth rely on false truths and mental and psychological manipulation to achieve their goals, Arrowhead is more physical but still share the same beliefs set by New Truth; they just tend to take more physical action than their counterpart. Both groups firmly believe that the justice system is broken and should be put in the hands of someone or something more capable of dealing with the judgement, but both disagree on who should carry it out. Whatever their beliefs, many hide behind their own idea of justice and righteousness to a point where they are blind even to their own sins. Violence, manipulation and monetary greed are common in such organized religions that more often that not leads to unnecessary seats of power and control over people. This is evident within the show when a citizen’s damnation is broadcasted to the public which soon converts people into New Truth believers. And much like reality, the organization holds many dark secrets that aren’t known to the general public. As fascinating as it is to watch, it’s also sad that is the reality for many people who are trapped and aren’t able to escape whatever group they’re a part of for fear of abandonment, damnation or even death.
Much like popular Korean dramas Squid Game and Parasite, Hellbound also touches base on sensitive societal topics. In this case, it’s about the unfair justice system with a sprinkle of for-profit religion on top. Many countries in the world have issues with the judicial system set in place to rightfully put someone on trial should they happen to break the law. More often than not, it’s a corrupted structure designed to serve and protect certain majority groups (non people of color, people of power, etc). The New Truth are a prime example of the majority; they’re a powerful group that break laws and warp their ideology as they see fit, punishing those who question it or go against it. At one point you even see masked individuals take part in the viewing of someone’s decree which could be compared to the masked rich men in Squid Game. Whoever these people are, they’re clearly influential and have the respect of those with the ability to condemn others to a lifetime in prison. As for the non-profit part, it’s often a problem when the funds aren’t being used towards what they were intended for. It feels like a scam, which it sometimes is, and many families find themselves in a financial crisis because they put all their money into their faith. In a sense, Hellbound is very similar to Squid Game but at the same time they’re very different from each other. Survival isn’t easy in either series but they’re fantastic examples of what’s wrong with the world today.
Whether you’re looking for your next k-drama binge or new to the genre, Hellbound is definitely one to add to your list. With its heart pounding action to a jaw dropping season finale, it’s no surprise that Netflix has another hit on their hands.
Hellbound is available to stream now on Netflix.