Squid Game: Netflix’s newest hit

Netflix’s latest psychological horror continues to impress audiences and critics alike

Joe Gilmor

South Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s “Squid Game” is one of Netflix’s latest additions to the horror genre, a psychological thriller series which has quickly upended the charts of the ever-popular streaming service.  Released on Sept. 17, 2021, “Squid Game” has rocketed its way to the top of the most watched list, becoming the first show on Netflix to gain over 100 million viewers. 

The fame is well deserved.  Scoring an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and an 82% user score on IMDb, “Squid Game” has won fans over with its masterful blend of thematic elements and gruesome violence.  The series is not afraid to address controversial contemporary issues such as economic inequality, poverty, and race relations in a very bloody fashion, and features everything from fights to the death with kitchen knives to a robot doll armed with a machine gun.  While the shower of gore present throughout the show is perhaps its most controversial aspect, the bloodshed raises the stakes of the show’s action, and grounds “Squid Game” with a sense of brutal severity. 

The cast of “Squid Game” delivers a strong performance all around.  Lee Jung-jae does an excellent job portraying the desperation of gambling-addict protagonist Seong Gi-Hun.  However, he is overshadowed by supporting actors  HoYeon Jung and Park Hae-soo, who steal the show with their cold, cunning, and ruthless characters Kang Sae-byeok and Cho Sang-woo, respectively. 

These achievements are made even greater considering the relatively short amount of time the actors have to make a lasting impression on their viewers.  Clocking in at a mere 9 episodes and just over 8 hours of cumulative run time, “Squid Game” wastes no time with overzealous exposition or extremely lengthy dialogues.  Rather, the show utilizes its strong cast, relying on subtle yet intense interactions between characters to organically develop their unique personalities and push the plot forward. 

The positive reviews “Squid Game” has received are indicative of the rapidly growing South Korean media scene, which has proven very successful at marketing to Western viewers in recent years.  In 2019, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” another South Korean film of the same genre as “Squid Game” which addressed many of the same themes, saw great success on Hulu and in U.S. theaters, scoring an 8.6/10 on IMDb and a 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Media like “Squid Game” and “Parasite” are prime examples of the continuous internationalization of the film industry.  If South Korean producers can maintain this momentum, their representation and influence in the Western media world is sure to increase. 

Carefully balancing psychological thriller elements with contemporary themes, “Squid Game” has become an overnight phenomenon with worldwide implications, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in thriller movies or the horror genre.