I have a confession to make. You may have noticed that I do not really review the horror genre. I tell a lot of people that I cannot watch horror. But the truth is, this is somewhat of a lie.
I quite enjoy the horror genre when I do choose to watch it. Admittedly, I believe I am more a fan of Asian horror and recall getting very mad when Hollywood tried to remake every damn Asian horror under the sun (I am exaggerating, but still) including Japanese film The Ring and Korean horror Ju-On: The Grudge, both of which have very, in my opinion, pathetic Hollywood counterparts. The prequel to The Ring (obviously the Japanese original), Ring 0: Birthday is secretly (I suppose not so secret anymore) one of my favourite films in Asian cinema and it is a horror film. So, you can imagine my rush of joy seeing many Asian films and TV shows now, finally get their time to shine – without a remake.
I believe the world finally shifted when Parasite took out the Academy Award for Best Picture (my favourite film of 2019 and my pick to win) and have noticed Netflix also leading the way with accessible original Asian film and TV content, which is incredibly exciting.
Given being stuck in lockdown at home due to the global pandemic, I’ve finally found some time to embrace streaming services in a way that I otherwise would not have been able to due to my normal time constraints, and fallen in love with Netflix original series, Kingdom. While the series, the first ever Korean Netflix original, debuted last year and I had been recommended it several times in the past, I do feel terrible for only getting into now because it is so brilliant.
Normally, I am very frightened of the idea of zombies (and would never survive a zombie apocalypse), but on the other hand, I do love seeing enthusiastic deaths on-screen, a little bit of blood, witnessing an excellent intriguing plot unfold and beautiful costumes. Kingdom has all that and more. Adapted from a web comic series written by female Korean writer Kim Eun-hee, the TV series also written by Kim Eun-hee is set in ancient Korea three years after the Japanese invasion during the Joseon Dynasty.
The series follows the Crown Prince of Joseon, Lee Chang, played by a very handsome and talented Ju Ji-hoon, who thinks it is extremely suss that his father, the King, has fallen mysteriously ill and despite being his son and the Crown Prince, he is forbidden to see his father by the young queen. While the story does involve a frightening undead pandemic, what I do enjoy more about Kingdom is the politics.
With class wars, poverty and power struggles, Crown Prince Lee Chang is not only fighting to survive a zombie apocalypse, he is also trying to survive his political enemies, maintain his legacy, his morals, protect his kingdom and fiercely keep his freedom. Although Crown Prince Lee Chang does have ambitious foes in Queen Consort Cho and Lord Cho Hak-ju, played by Kim Hye-jun and Ryu Seung-ryong respectively, the Prince also has allies in his loyal personal bodyguard Mu-yeong (Kim Sang-ho), Dongnae physician Seo-bi (Bae Doona) and mysterious expert gunman Yeong-shin (Kim Sung-kyu). Together these unlikely companions try to uncover the truth behind the zombie disease, help those that they can and aim to stay alive.
In a world fighting to stay alive amid the flesh eating undead, Kingdom isn’t always so serious. There are many character interactions and moments that will make you laugh. But there are also many that will make you gasp, shout at your screen, cheer and keep you on the edge of your seat.
The filming locations and sets for Kingdom are wondrously impressive and combined with the beautifully authentic looking period costumes, Kingdom is incredibly convincing with displaying ancient Korea, taking you back in time. Were there really zombies back then? Probably not. But Kingdom creates a believable alternate timeline with its solid storyline and complex yet charming characters.
The zombie make-up is impeccable and personally I find it so refreshing to see a series, or any form of visual media, rely more on its quality acting, make-up, costuming and storyline to take you on a journey rather than force CGI on you. Even the way that the zombies move, especially when ‘coming to life’ is completely terrifying, but you know that this is all acting, make-up and clever sound effects. No CGI.
The fight scene choreography is so cool, but especially when you see these fight scenes in slow motion. These scenes showing our protagonists swiftly killing zombies seem almost artistic in the way that they are presented. Also, who doesn’t like the idea of sword fighting against zombies? C’mon! It’s bloody brilliant (pun intended).
If you’re like me and find trouble committing to TV series because they can be long and go on forever, fear not! Kingdom, although with two seasons already, only contains 6 episodes each. So, I guess you have no excuse now either.
While Kingdom is a TV show that contains zombies, what I love about Kingdom is that the zombies are more so a prominent part of a much deeper story. It is the much deeper story that has me captivated – the Crown Prince and his fight for justice, freedom and his kingdom.
Kingdom’s Season 1 and Season 2 are available for you to enjoy on Netflix now.