Recommendations: Halloween at the Heartstrings


Angie Leung

The K-drama, “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God.”

Angie Leung, Copy Editor

In the face of horror, loyalty falters when zombies try to bite you. Young love flickers out when a grim reaper tries to kill you. Bravery wavers when ghosts try to possess your body. But Korean entertainment puts a unique cultural twist on our eerie portrayals of Halloween. With genres ranging from supernatural rom-com to zombie apocalypse horror, here are two must-sees in Korean entertainment to spook you for the Halloween season. 


“Train to Busan” (2016)

“Train to Busan” was the highest-grossing domestic film in South Korea in 2016. Horror movies are not particularly my cup of tea, but I thought this movie had an astonishingly good balance between scary and sentimental. 

Amid a zombie outbreak in South Korea, a father and his young daughter are estranged on a speeding train full of passengers. 

The suspense escalates as the passengers escape each successive car with nearby zombies dangerously on the verge of scratching and infecting them. The zombies, who appear uncannily realistic, nail the rigid contortions of their bodies and have spine-chilling facial expressions. 

While the horror elements are well executed, the story leaves viewers in tears as it presents several key emotional aspects such as young love, the tacit expressions of love between a father-daughter relationship and quivering group dynamics amid an extinction-level event. 

Coupled with the thrill of jump scares, the heated betrayals, surprising loyalties and instants of altruism for the utilitarian good make the story a dramatic, heart-rending rollercoaster. This delightfully terrifying movie will get your adrenaline rushing, and you’ll find yourself behind the screen, with a gut-wrenching mix of fright and anxiety, urging characters to run more quickly from the horror closely trailing from behind. 

Watch until the end you might just end up changing your level of faith in humanity. 

“Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” (2017)

“Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” is a megahit Korean drama whose actors have dominated multiple awards for their roles in the drama series. Every aspect, from the storyline to the sound track, is sheer breathtaking. 

Throw away any preconceptions you have of the supernatural. Employing magical realism, the K-drama features mostly supernatural characters, including a goblin and his bride, grim reapers, ghosts and an omnipresent God. Warning: The ghost is low-key disturbing. 

The story follows a modern day goblin who seeks to end his cursed immortal life by seeking out his bride, who alone possesses the power to do so by pulling out the blood-stained sword that pierces through his heart. Conflict arises when he meets and falls in love with his unexpectedly spirited, youthful bride and no longer wishes to die. The story further complicates when the two encounter a grim reaper whose duty is to restore balance to the natural world by terminating the bride’s life, which is the product of divine interference. 

While the drama series beautifully weaves historical and modern Korean culture with spooky elements, it also poses moral and religious  issues that pull at viewers’ heartstrings. The drama also presents multiple love story plots among different characters, both past and present. 

I especially enjoyed the funny interactions between the goblin and the grim reaper. Gong Yoo, the actor who plays the goblin, acted each side of his character well, from a strong, loyal warrior to a carefree, cute boyfriend. Actor Lee Dong Wook, who plays the goblin’s close acquaintance, portrays an intense and serious grim reaper, inured by his posthumous duties, yet Lee allows viewers to indulge in the grim reaper’s occasional bursts of innocence and romantic cluelessness. 

Not only is the original sound track so heartfelt, but the scenery is also stunning. Shot in both Canada and South Korea, the drama exhibits impressingly fresh and high-quality footage. 

This 16-episode K-drama touches the hearts of viewers as they follow romantic storylines through the passage of centuries and observe how characters overcome personal battles through the different realms of existence.