Netflix’s psychological thriller that wants to overthrow The Squid Game

Netflix’s psychological thriller that wants to overthrow The Squid Game
Netflix’s psychological thriller that wants to overthrow The Squid Game

We all know what happens when a viral phenomenon occurs in movies and series: the sea of ​​platforms drags new ideas that want to emulate the success of the original. With The Squid Game (Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021), who covertly conquered the planet, had to happen. But today is not that day.

It has been Netflix itself that has launched a new South Korean series of psychological intrigue that will inevitably remind us of the Squid Games, but that is much closer to the philosophical reflection of The hole (Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, 2019) and the sociological study of myth The experiment (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2001).

But not only in its narrative influences; the thing is the Netflix premiere that could become its new viral phenomenon is based on the webtoon series Money Game by Bae Jin-soo released in January 2020. In case you are confused, The Squid Game It arrived in 2021 on Netflix.

I’m talking about The 8 Show, the series of eight 50-minute episodes that is now available on Netflix and that you are going to have to marathon these days if you don’t want to be eaten up by your friends’ conversations next weekend. Slaves to content, yes we are.

The 8 Show is the story of eight people who are part of a macabre and interesting contest broadcast for a mass audience in a pseudo-hotel with very particular rules. For every minute they last in it, their final prize will increase. But… at what price?

The less you know about its plot, the more you will be able to enjoy what The 8 Show aims to offer. If you want to avoid spoilers, now is your time to watch the first episode and come back here to continue reading. If not, you can skip the next block.

The human anthill

The rules of coexistence are very simple: you cannot cover the cameras, you cannot take anything out of the room, no one can leave after midnight and no one can die. If any of them are violated, the contest ends immediately.

The contestants are divided into eight floors; one for each of them. A hypervisual metaphor for social hierarchy: the higher floors will receive more money per minute than the lower floors proportionally. The archetypal class struggle, wow.

To delve into the chaos of nature, the eight protagonists will choose their floor before entering without knowing the conditions of their choice. Thus, those who choose the smallest numbers will be the most disadvantaged and will end up forced to submit to the yoke of the highest.

Because the other determining factor is food and drink. Although everyone can use a telephone in their room to buy what they need, food and drink will be prohibited and they will only be able to receive it through a forklift that will take the rations from the eighth to the first floor every day. And if those above sin from greed, those below suffer from it.

All The system is designed to be an instrument of physical and psychological torture in the purest capitalist style. of modern society, but in a more explicit way. If you are born poor you have to dance.

Cruelty under restraints

This type of narrative requires a meticulous balance so that the representation does not fall short of being naïve, Manichean, or simply self-interested. The 8 Show slightly succumbs in part of them.

It is naive in the behavior of some of its characters, whose little blood will make yours boil halfway through the season. Justified, at least, in the drastic educational differences of South Korean society with respect to Western society.

The cast continues to demonstrate that the South Korean interpretation is on the crest of the wave, achieving a reliable representation of modern Asian society, but too corseted to meet the interests of the plot thanks to immobility.

This self-pity, melancholy, or, plain and simple, supreme stupidity, will facilitate the narration and the continuous escalation of violence, achieving an unbearable martyrdom that, despite its preparation, manages to transfer the pain of helplessness to us until it takes us to the limit.

Like—saving the distance—the first time I faced Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000), I wanted to finish watching it immediately and, at the same time, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, dreaming of some divine justice.

From here, the more or less thoughtful development of the plot comes into play. That was the pillar of support and the main seduction of works like Wave (Dennis Gansel, 2008) or the Spanish The method (Marcelo Piñeyro, 2005). See how far the ethics of the characters and their own viewers stretch.

The Netflix series plays with this last concept. The spectators do not appear because we ourselves will judge, but we will have little reward for our work and the reflection will be extremely biased.

The key here was to explore the limits of the morbidity of its characters through ourselves, and in this it falls short of expectations without reaching the ceiling of its brutal possibilities to represent society in an infinitely reduced environment.

The 8 Show proposes a cruel social parable, artistically creative and addictive, but with some pacing swings that falter near the end of the season. She doesn’t have the viscerality of The Squid Game, but she doesn’t want it or need it either.

Nor is it the most brainy exercise, nor the representation that can most enhance our empathy. But I could devour a second season with new characters in the same blink with which I write these lines; The 8 Show has everything we could ask for in a psychological thriller with a daring nod to black comedy that also surpasses in certain aspects the tiredness of The squid game.

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