It’s official: ‘Heading to Hell’ is Netflix’s new Korean sensation. Of course, it is doubtful that it reaches the insane viewing figures of ‘The Squid Game’, but it already appears in the Top of the most seen of the platform, and some estimates external to Netflix they give it initial success even faster than that of the popular series of lethal children’s games. Word of mouth is starting to work, and it’s being talked about as the new must-see fantasy series on Netflix. At the moment, there are a few very obvious keys to explain its success.
1.- Obviously, she is Korean
It may seem like a no-brainer, but among audiences, even those who are not necessarily cinephiles or oriental film buffs, it is becoming apparent that Korean productions are different. The pace, the lack of prejudice, the originality of his arguments: South Korean series are commercial and accessible, but at the same time different from Western productions. Thanks to ‘The Squid Game’ his nationality has become a differentiating hallmark, and the mass public understands him in the same way that the regulars of film festivals have understood him for years.
2.- Conciseness and intensity
The Serie, Despite having the inevitable high intensity dramatic interludes, bordering on melodrama, it gets to the point from minute one presenting the conflict that underpins the entire plot: the appearance of creatures that reduce some very specific humans to dust, apparently taking them to hell, and the use made of this by an ultrareligious sect. And from that moment on, he does not take his foot off the gas, does not get lost in subterfuge, and although the monsters appear in a very punctual way, we have them invisibly present in the plot. Which helps, of course, its tight duration of just six episodes.
3.- The youtuber
There is a very interesting character that arises from practically the beginning of the series, a disguised youtuber / tiktoker and religious fundamentalist who supports the sect’s abusive movements and beliefs. Through him the series sends a poisonous message about the mass media and how easy it is to control people’s opinions. In the opening section of ‘Rumbo al inferno’, when the identity of a woman who is theoretically going to be executed by monsters is filtered, it is not difficult to find parallels with chillingly real events in the media lynching that follows.
4.- Yeon Sang-ho
The director of ‘Rumbo al Infierno’ is one of the Korean creators with the greatest international relevance. Yours are Cult animated films like ‘The Fake’ or ‘Seoul Station’, aesthetically as dark as this new series. And his biggest international hits are the magnificent ‘Train to Busan’ and its sequel ‘Peninsula’, which gave a good account of his expertise in mixing tension, drama, brutal action and pure terror. All of them, ingredients that come together again in this series.
5.- The lure of evil: the sect
Everything what surrounds the sect and its activities is the true core of the story, above the spectral apparitions. This is thanks to his way of controlling the behavior of his faithful, and also the imagery that he sets in motion, with thematic and visual moments as fascinating as the whole apparatus to attend the execution of a sinner at the end of chapter 2. A good part Of the interest of this part of the plot lies in the interpretation as leader of the organization of Yoo Ah-in, a Korean superstar internationally acclaimed for his work in the excenete ‘Burning’, and who gives his best in the climax of the chapter 3.
6.- An overwhelmingly depressing tone
‘Heading to hell’ is not the joy of the garden. In fact, it has been criticized for its hopeless message and dark tone. Yeon Sang-ho films like the murky ‘The Fake’ already abounded in that style, but ‘Heading to Hell’ reinforces it with the use of Catholic mythology to reflect on guilt and revenge. In addition, the series has very hard images and moments, such as the beating that one of the secondary characters receives in Chapter 3, absolutely creepy.
7.- The stark apocalyptic environment
The feeling of inevitability in the face of monster attacks gives the whole a ghostly end-of-the-world atmosphere that creates echoes in the desperate characters, in the behavior of the sectarians and, above all, in the idea that we are all doomed and there is no escape. Yeon Sang-ho already talked about the subject in ‘Train to Busan’ and all its derivations, and here he insists from a much more macabre perspective: although he is not describing the end of the world as such, the viewer’s feeling is that he is peering into the beginning of the end.