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What's Streaming: POSSESSED: Something original

If you take a moment to explore Netflix’s library of new releases you can find some pretty unique content, especially if you take a chance on foreign offerings. If you don’t mind subtitles, “Possessed” is one such show.

“Possessed” is a South Korean drama that is such an amalgam of western concepts combined with Korean folklore that it comes off as completely original. The first episode (of 16, released one a week) is a bit of homage to western films, such as “Fallen” with Denzel Washington and John Goodman or even “Silence of the Lambs.” It’s grisly, it’s gory, and it’s slasher filmmaking.

But it quickly moves from there to the type of comedic detective work you might find in a Jackie Chan film: bumbling police agents who put a smile on your face while trying to find a serial killer. The main character, Detective Kang Pil-sung (played by Song Sae-byeok) is not your typical cop. He is skittish, a bit naive, and wholesome. “Gosh” seems to be his favorite word. His captain is bombastic, his partners are star struck with him, and they have one “green” newcomer that is far too upbeat.

The music of the series is about as convoluted as the story, ranging from ‘70s wha-wha guitars to spiritual bells. The show shouldn’t work but it does.

Before too long, Detective Pil-sung meets and makes friends with Hong Seo-jung (played by Go Joon-hee), a shaman who has the ability to see spirits and also runs a clothing store. After having dinner and reading Pil-sung’s mind, Hong opens Pil-sung’s third eye and now he can’t stop seeing ghosts. His reaction to this newfound ability is over-the-top comic gold as he beats the spirits with plants and bells and shouts. “Die! Die!” As he tries to accept this unwanted lifestyle, he fights feelings for Hong (and she for him) and eventually the sexual tension begins.

As the episodes progress, so does their affection for each other and so does the danger. By episode three, we have a stronger understanding of the serial killer and his ties to a dead serial killer and some big-time special effects that give the show its name.

The serial killer, Oh Soo-hyeok (played by Yeon Jung-hoon), is a brilliant rich doctor who seeks to finish the “work” of a former serial killer Hwang Dae-du. Both actors play their roles with chilling effect. So much so you might want to keep the lights on if you watch at night.

The music of the series is about as convoluted as the story, ranging from ‘70s wha-wha guitars to spiritual bells. The show shouldn’t work but it does. The blend of genres, from sexual tension love stories to serial killer pulp, quickly adds spiritual aspects that include powerful shamans (witches) and deities at battle with a serial killer that gains ever-growing spiritual powers stolen from others.

The filmmaking is modern and reminds one of shows like “Breaking Bad.” There are overhead shots taken (presumably) with a high-end drone camera. There are interesting locations with unusual architecture.

“Possessed” was released on March 6 with weekly releases on Netflix. You can wait and binge watch the whole thing or hop on board now and wait for the weekly release that will end season one on April 25. Whatever your preference, “Possessed” is something original to watch in an age of re-boots and sequels.

To reach Mail Tribune reporter Brian Fitz-Gerald email him at bfitz-gerald@rosebudmedia.com.

Detective Pil-sung and his fellow police detectives.
Pil-sung wards off ghosts before entering his home.