‘Revenant’ Review: A Fascinating Korean Occult Thriller

revenant kdrama review

Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

revenant kdrama review
Credit: SBS

Despite the chills, it’s hard to look away from its captivating allure. Kim Eun Hee, the screenwriter renowned for rich narratives in Signal and Kingdom, is back with Revenant. Professing itself as a K-style occult mystery, this drama garnered attention even before airing, thanks to the meeting of Kim Tae Ri and Oh Jung Se, both recognized for their exceptional acting prowess, with writer Kim Eun Hee. Living up to expectations, Revenant continues to maintain steady viewer ratings in the 10% range, earning favorable reactions.

Koo San Young (Kim Tae Ri), who lives alone with her mother as the breadwinner, discovers that her father Koo Kang Mo (Jin Sun Kyu), whom she believed to have died a long time ago, was in fact alive all this time and has recently committed suicide. Visiting Kang Mo’s house to say her last goodbye, San Young receives a red talisman said to be left by her father from her grandmother. The moment she touches the daenggi, she hears a chilling voice saying, “You received it?” From that moment, a series of mysterious deaths occur around San Young. Yeom Hae Sang (Oh Jung Se), a folklore professor who can see ghosts, is chasing the evil spirit that killed his mother when he was a child. After receiving a letter from Kang Mo asking him to protect his daughter upon his death, Hae Sang goes to see San Young. And there, he sees the shadow of her hair standing on end and realizes that the evil spirit he’s been chasing has possessed her. Together, they start collaborating to escape from the evil spirit.

One of the charms of Revenant is its successful integration of K-style occult elements into the narrative. The drama features not just an evil spirit but various Korean ghosts and shamanistic rituals, explained easily through Hae Sang’s dialogue as a folklore scholar. It presents a fascinating blend of familiar ghosts such as suicide ghosts, gaeggwi, agwi, eodugshini (spirit of darkness), yeomae (ritural) – which audiences are familiar with through works like the Tale of the Nine Tailed series – alongside lesser-known Korean elements like deokdali trees where dead children were buried or hung, and the heojaebi game, traditionally used to ward off wandering ghosts and drive away bad energy.

The charm of a mystery thriller is another factor captivating the audience. It seems as though the writer, who temporarily lost her footing with Jirisan, has regained her tempo and found the right direction. In the beginning, the drama juxtaposes San Young, possessed by the evil spirit, teaming up with Hae Sang, with police officers Seo Moon Chun (Kim Won Hae) and Lee Hong Sae investigating the mysterious deaths occurring around San Young. Witnessing people dying because of the evil spirit, San Young and Hae Sang chase clues to find out what the real identity of the evil spirit is and how it became one. Moon Chun and Hong Sae discover that there are more deaths where the victims appear to have committed suicide but with bruises on their wrists, and they start investigating past incidents. What initially seemed to be two separate tracks converge at the revelation that Hae Sang’s grandparents had created the evil spirit for the good of their own family. With each clue leading to significant developments and answering one mystery while leading to another, the narrative never loses its momentum and keeps the audience intrigued.

revenant kdrama review
Credit: SBS

The actors’ performances play a big role in maintaining the tension. Kim Tae Ri’s portrayal of San Young possessed by the evil spirit becomes a buzz with each new episode. She embodies the spirit of today’s youth, presenting a persevering San Young despite the bleak future, while also portraying the eerie smile of the evil spirit with a sudden shift to cold, gleaming eyes. Oh Jung Se adds a fresh charm to the drama with his portrayal of Hae Sang, a stark contrast to his usual cheerful and comic characters, delivering a drier, stern performance.

The shocking ending of episode 8, where the evil spirit appears in front of the precinct where Moon Chun and Hong Sae are stationed, seemingly foretelling their deaths, has taken the series to a new phase. While San Young tries to prevent the evil spirit’s killings, she finds herself desiring the evil spirit. And as Hae Sang made his intention to exterminate the evil spirit himself clear, their collaboration entered a new phase. As Revenant becomes increasingly interesting, we can look forward to it continuing to unleash its charm till the end. (7/10)

>> Kim Tae Ri’s ‘Revenant’: What Are the Three Divine Items Still Left to Discover?

Edited by Kim Won Hee: I am a person who needs more than 24 hours in a day because there are so many things I love. I am amassing various genres in the jewelry box in my heart.

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