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'Hellbound' episode 1 Review: A terrifying opening

'Hellbound' is the latest South Korean thriller to hit Netflix, and the first episode packs an almighty punch.

Hellbound cast
(Image: © Netflix)

Our Verdict

The first episode of Hellbound sets the scene perfectly, leaving the audience hungry for more of the action.

For

  • - Great use of CGI to create terrifying monsters
  • - Compelling storyline and interesting use of religious themes
  • - Supernatural elements are sure to delight horror and fantasy fans

Against

  • - It's a very intense watch so you need to pay attention!

Good pilot episodes have to really draw the audience in, and Hellbound does exactly this. It wastes no time in introducing the viewer to this horrifying new world, with the first scene showing a nervous man sitting in a cafe. He's checking his phone, clearly nervous about something, and when the clock turns to 1:20pm, we find out exactly what that "something" is.

Right on cue, three monsters arrive on Earth and rip the terrified man apart, leaving him in ashes. It's clear this isn't the first time this has happened, and it won't be the last either. This thrilling opening sequence where an unlucky member of the public meets his demise has you gripped immediately.

Following this, Jeong Jin-soo explains that angels are being sent to Earth to condemn sinners because God "wants the world to be righteous". Jin-soo is also the Chairman of a cult called The New Truth, which are obsessed with living a righteous life.

The cult tracks down individuals who have received the terrifying prophecy and try to understand why they have been targeted, more specifically, what their sins are. Even more disturbingly,  Jin-soo and his followers organize public demonstrations of the condemned deaths so people's fates end up becoming a spectacle, adding to the sadistic nature of this dystopian society. They use this to scare the public into believing their message and living "sin-free".

Meanwhile, Detective  Jin Kyung-hun is instructed to investigate the New Truth Society, and Jeong Jin-soo becomes defensive wondering why they're wasting their time questioning "God’s deeds". The dynamic between these two characters is undeniably frosty, and it seems it's about to get even more complicated as the series progresses.

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Fans of the successful Korean horror film Train to Busan will definitely love Hellbound, as not only do they share the same director but there's some similar themes and genre elements. Sang-ho Yeon has proven he's a master of the horror genre and can seriously terrify viewers.

In Train to Busan, we saw a zombie apocalypse break out, with terrified members of the public trapped on a train while all this chaos was going on. Controversially, the outbreak was caused by a leak at a chemical plant, which went on to completely change society in an instant. 

Hellbound is equally as bleak, with humanity doomed and unable to escape their fate. Only instead of transforming into zombies, they're condemned to hell. But both these scenarios have interesting parallels, exploring what happens when society has their lives forcibly ripped from them, and completely changed beyond their control. Living in fear and moral panic are of course huge aspects of both the film and the Netflix series.

The episode ends just as dramatically as it started, with a lawyer named Min Hye-jin discovering that she is bound for Hell, she also learns that The New Truth sent her a decree, and Jun Jinsu would like to do a live broadcast when she goes to Hell, which will further add to their terrifying narrative. At this point it's clear that The New Truth has very little regard for sinners, making a spectacle of their demise in order to recruit more members to the cause.

Hellbound wastes absolutely no time in throwing viewers in the deep end, and there's plenty of questions to be had, including what's going on with Arrowhead, an influencer who is linked to The New Truth Society and incites violence while encouraging people to film it. We'll have to stay tuned to find out more...

All six episodes of Hellbound are available on-demand via Netflix.