Busan 2022: Disney+ K-drama Connect – Jung Hae-in stars in Takashi Miike’s wickedly fun – and gruesome – Korean drama debut
- Japanese filmmaker breathes new life into K-drama tropes in series about a demented serial killer and a man with the miraculous ability to recover from injury
- The show’s gory violence is deftly tempered with black humour, and the impressive cinematography and pacing make this an incredibly entertaining watch
For the second time this year a major Japanese filmmaker has dipped his toes into the Korean market.
Jung is Ha Dong-soo, a diffident junkyard worker whose body has the extraordinary ability to heal itself no matter how badly it is damaged. It does this by shooting bloody red cords to suture cuts and reattach severed body parts.
At the beginning of the show, Dong-soo is abducted in an alley by a pack of deranged organ dealers. As he lies in a grim makeshift operating theatre, torn open and with his eyeballs removed, his body heals itself and he is able to escape. But he only has time to reattach one of his eyes as he dashes out of the door.
Some time later, his empty eye socket begins to give him trouble, and for brief periods he is able to see what someone else sees. This someone is office worker Oh Jin-seop (Go Kyung-pyo), the beneficiary of Dong-soo’s other eye.
Jin-seop is no ordinary salaryman. In his spare time he’s also a serial killer, who murders and embalms his victims before posing them as morbid statues around town. These crime scenes, which are dubbed “corpse art”, have captivated the world.
The connection between Dong-soo and Jin-seop is triggered whenever the latter hears a song anonymously written by the former that has been covered and turned into a national hit. One fan of the song is Jin-seop’s affectionate colleague, who uses it as her ringtone.
Meanwhile, now aware of Dong-soo’s ability, the organ trafficking ring tries to track him down again and turn him into a “money bag”, capable of producing unlimited organs. They almost catch him several times, but he evades them thanks to the help of the mysterious Lee Yi-rang (Kingdom’s Kim Hye-jun).
Connect is a highly effective combination of Miike’s style and the tense and grisly tropes of Korean thrillers, from organ dealers to demented serial killers.
Organ trafficking is by now considered a bit old hat in Korean media, but Miike breathes new life into this trope with vivid scenes that are violent, suspenseful and cleverly designed – and also tempered with wicked black humour.
Dismemberment and other grotesque forms of body horror have been a trademark of Miike’s throughout his career, and Connect offers plenty of opportunity to continue this in a Korean project. While unquestionably violent, there’s a cartoonish aspect to the show’s most gruesome moments which makes them slightly more bearable for squeamish viewers.
Jin-seop’s “corpse art” may not be a novel concept, as K-drama A Superior Day had a similar art-obsessed killer earlier this year, but he’s one of the most frightening serial killers we’ve seen for a while.
This is partly down to Go’s disaffected and threatening performance, but also thoughtful camera work and staging. Almost every time he appears on screen, sections of his face are obscured by a series of overlapping shadows, and the actor’s height is utilised to unnerving effect in the frame.
In one particularly unnerving scene, an unexpected visitor drops by Jin-seop’s flat, and he oozes menace as he looks at her through a thin sliver of light as he opens the door a crack.
Similar tracking shots appear here, as we often follow Dong-soo and other characters making their way through a dense maze of alleys. These lend the show verve and vigour, helping to keep its story and characters in perpetual motion.
The sterling production values, combined with the sheer energy of Miike’s pacing, help the show gloss over some of its sillier story beats.
Also beneficial is the show’s keen sense of humour. One of the most amusing recurring gags involves the grizzled detective pursuing Jin-seop, played by Kim Roi-ha, who always gets a nosebleed when he has one of his eureka moments.
Connect will start streaming on Disney+ in December.