Goedam (2020) - Review
As has become all too obvious on this site now, I love Asian horror. Mostly Japanese horror films (eg: Ringu, One Missed Call, Ju-On: The Grudge), however I have also seen some great Korean horror films too (Phone, Parasite, Whispering Corridors). So when I saw Goedam - a South Korean horror series which tells various urban legends over 8 episodes - on Netflix last night, I was automatically sold.
[Just a disclaimer before I get started, I am going to include SPOILERS in here as well as some pretty graphic content. So please be aware if you planned to watch this series or are faint-hearted!]
If you read my review of Netflix' latest Ju-On adaptation, you'll know I was a little let down with the show we received. My faith has been restored though with this short K-Horror series! Goedam (originally written as 도시괴담) which can be translated as "urban ghost story" is a collection of short ghost stories told over 8 episodes. Each episode is around 7-15 minutes long and tells individual stories (that sometimes overlap) of urban legends.
Some episodes stood out to me as super scary, super clever and the kind of classic K-horror I love to see. Although this was the case for around 85% of this series, there were a couple of episodes I found boring or unoriginal. So I'm going to do a mini review of each episode below!
Episode 1 - Crack
This was a great episode to use as the introduction of the series as it definitely set the tone for the rest of the episodes. In episode 1, a high school student asks to use the toilet however this isn't your usual bathroom trip as she is chased down by what looks like another female student who just so happens to be demonic. Some personal highlights where when I noticed the photos of students on the wall becoming distorted, making me double take and freeze upon realisation, and the reveal of the hair poking out of the toilet in the cubical next to the terrified student. This call back to classic Asian horror had me obviously very pleased.
Episode 2 - Destination
This episode was also fantastic due to the building terror each second brought. It reminded me of the kinds of stories you'd hear in school that would chill you to the bone and make you weary of taxis for the next 6 months. In this short, a tired taxi driver pulls over for a nap in a lay-by when he is rudely awoken by a woman climbing in the back of his taxi demanding to be taken to a local motel. The taxi driver reluctantly agrees despite not being able to find the location on his GPS and the woman's strange attitude. I loved this episode as it just reminded me of the urban legends I'd heard as a kid.
Episode 3 - Special Guest
I saw this episode previewed on the Netflix home screen and boy did it freak me out. It is pretty much my biggest fear ever to see something other worldly behind me whilst taking a photo. Especially when you can't even see it properly! In this episode, an influencer is doing a live stream in her newly rented apartment when ghostly happenings begin to occur. I hate to keep repeating myself but this is 100% a ghost story I would have had told to me by a slightly older kid in school and I would have been too afraid to take a selfie for months after. Honestly, I'm kind of feeling that way now! I was thoroughly spooked by this one! Which made it so enjoyable.
Episode 4 - Curiosity
Set in what looks like the same school as the first episode, Curiosity follows two different high school girls who get caught up with what appears to be a demonic curse/spirit. This episode was also pretty freaky (just look at that doll!) but didn't stand out to me quite as much as the others. I liked the way this episode purposely confused you and lead you to believe things were one way when they were really another. Its themes/characters also appear in later episodes too.
Episode 5 - Red Shoes
I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or a regular symbol in Korean horror stories but there is also a 2005 K-Horror titled The Red Shoes that also features a pair of red stiletto heels. Back to Goedam, in this episode we are in the same classroom as the previous stories and are following a mix of new and familiar students. After a teacher/school attempts to cover up the death of a student to stop rumours circulating, the ghost of the late student returns to take revenge on the teacher. This is a pretty standard story and unfortunately I don't remember it very well, it must not have stuck with me as much!
Episode 6 - Dimension
This episode starts with 2 police officers investigating the charred remains of a suspected student in an elevator. Hoping to get to the end of the mysterious death, one officer follows the directions left by the student to get to another dimension via the lift. The officer succeeds and meets one of the creepiest creatures on this list! I liked the supernatural theme of this episode and loved the practical effects used on the spooky woman! We even see the girls from the previous episode show up to try the elevator trick themselves.
Episode 7 - Threshold
This one was a little disappointing as not a lot happens. After being left in his apartment alone for a few nights, Hak-Su decides to test if the talisman hanging above his bedroom door really does what its supposed to and is met with dire consequences once he removes it. This episode felt a little lacklustre and generic, spooky things happen but nothing I haven't seen before, on multiple occasions. Like the first episode of this series, I did like the use of hair to freak audiences out. Especially considering I shed like a fluffy dog in the summer and will now be forever paranoid to pick up any clumps of hair around the house!
Episode 8 - Birth
This is the longest episode of the series coming in at a whopping 15 minutes compared to 8 minute average of other episodes. This one is pretty twisted and although it did make me uncomfortable, it also bored me a little. In the episode, we see a Shaman practice forbidden black magic that involves sacrificing children to gain their spiritual power. This is the type of story that confuses me more than scares me but it did have some freaky imagery including spiritual possession and an alien type scene where SOMETHING bursts out of the Shaman's chest. It's a lot but still not a terrible episode.
To round up, here are my pros and cons of Goedam...
The stories are actually really spooky!
The short episodes are good in the fact you can binge them quickly
Great practical effects
Lots of references to classic K-Horror
Some visual effects looked cheap and dated
Short episodes were good to binge but missed the series when it was finished
Some episodes lacked in parts
Little context was given to the urban legends, meaning people outside of Korea might have to do research to fully understand each plot.
Overall, this is the perfect series if you're a fan of Asian horror or just love K-Dramas and want to try something a bit spookier! It's a great series if you want a quick thrill however I will warn those of you that are a little squeamish, this can get a little dark at times!
Have I convinced you to watch Goedam? Or have I scared you off for good!? You can tweet me your responses to me @hopeelizab. For more Korean drama posts, make sure you check out my side blog - which is dedicated to Asian dramas completely!
Goedam is now streaming on Netflix.