'Gyeongseong Creature' review: Resident Evil with a grim precedent

'All right, I promise no singing or dancing this time ... now will you let me get to the set, please? Filming's about to start.' Photos: Handout

The latest K-monster streaming epic is at once more lavish and much neater in execution than the haphazard second season of Sweet Home.

Like that one, though, Gyeongseong Creature does not miss a chance to remind us that however nightmarish a made-up monster can be, it pales into insignificance next to man's inhumanity to his fellow man.

Set in 1945 Seoul (Gyeongseong being the name for the capital at the time), during the last days of the Japanese Occupation, the 10-episode first season is about a desperate search. Two, actually.

The city's information broker Jang Tae-seong (Park Seo-joon, Itaewon Class, Midnight Runners, The Marvels) needs to find the missing Korean mistress of police commissioner Ishikawa (Kim Do-hyun) or risk having his lucrative pawnshop business confiscated.

Roving adventurer/finder Yoon Chae-ok (Han So-hee, The World Of The Married, My Name) has arrived in the city looking for her missing mother Seong-sim (Kang Mal-geum).

'Listen, when I called you stand-offish, I didn't mean you should take it literally.''Listen, when I called you stand-offish, I didn't mean you should take it literally.'

Everything points to the mystery-enshrouded Ongseong Hospital, run by Lt-Gen Kato (Choi Young-joon, Vincenzo) but actually under the cold-blooded Director Ichiro (Hyun Bong-sik, seen just recently as the mysterious hunter-wanderer in Sweet Home Season Two).

What's going on in that hospital? Two words: human experiments. To know more, Google "Unit 731" – and while no specific mention of that unit is made in this show, the similarities are strong. And spine-chilling.

Where it deviates from gruesome history, though, is in the manifestation of the titular creature. There's a bit of a mystery to its origin, and some heart-rending revelations, as well as a faint callback to the Guillermo del Toro-Chuck Hogan The Strain book trilogy and TV show.

Expectedly bloody and startling in its violence, Gyeongseong Creature isn't all just blood, guts and gore though.

'OK, puny human, this is either a Ripley-vs-Alien-Queen moment, or an Alice-vs-Nemesis moment. Actually, I guess neither will be good for me in the long run.''OK, puny human, this is either a Ripley-vs-Alien-Queen moment, or an Alice-vs-Nemesis moment. Actually, I guess neither will be good for me in the long run.'

Created by veteran scriptwriter Kang Eun-kyung (who also created My Horrible Boss and The World Of The Married, among others), it does a great job of quickly establishing its principal and more notable supporting characters; and then fleshing out their lives, relationships and histories with adept use of dialogue and flashbacks.

The stakes for protagonist and antagonist alike are made clear, and the intensity of the different subplots, monster encounters and unravelling of its mystery really gets ramped up right up to the (much-needed) break. (Part One, comprising the first seven episodes, dropped before Christmas while Part Two, with the final three episodes of the first season, were just out on Friday, Jan 5.)

This review is purely on the strengths of Part One, and I must say that Kang and her collaborators made this initial sceptic a true believer by the second episode. (Although, I admit, it took a little longer to accept Park in his suave Mister-Go-To role after his time as Prince Yan of Aladna, heh.)

I like the still-developing bond between Tae-seong and Chae-ok, and the slow peeling back of the layers in the personalities and intentions behind the inhuman undertakings at Ongseong Hospital.

One is heartwarming, the maybe-lovebirds are quite inspirational in their respective readiness to risk life and limb for relative strangers.

The other, as mentioned earlier on in this review, becomes progressively more blood-curdling and spine-chilling as we are reminded of the depths humankind can plumb in the name of greed, ego and "curiosity".

So even if the creature CGI does tend towards "dodgy" as often as it does "slick", Gyeongseong Creature's real success lies in effectively conjuring up the unseeable, unfathomable monsters in the darkest corners of the human soul.

There's all too much historical precedent for that, and we appear doomed to never learn from it – so we might as well co-opt it in our K-dramas for now.

All 10 episodes of Gyeongseong Creature Season One are available on Netflix.

8 10


The Strain, the Strain

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In Entertainment

HK director Wong Jing draws mixed reactions after questioning Tony Leung's best actor win
Eric Tsang celebrates 71st birthday with former Category III actress Amy Yip and more HK stars
Actor Hugh Grant settles privacy lawsuit against Murdoch's Sun tabloid
Country singer Wynonna Judd’s daughter charged with soliciting prostitution and indecent exposure
Pop star Jackson Wang makes surprise appearance at Coachella, duets with K-singer Bibi
Zainal Abidin, Sharizan Borhan and more to perform in 'All That Jazz' in PJ on April 21
K-drama 'Goodbye Earth' to be released despite actor Yoo Ah-in’s drug charges
Meghan Markle developing series showcasing her cooking and gardening
Malaysian-born TVB star Jacquelin Ch'ng reveals flaws that led to her divorce
HK actor Lee Lung Kei, 73, breaks down after 36YO fiancee faces additional charge

Others Also Read