K-drama ● Review: Sell Your Haunted House
English Title: Sell Your Haunted House
Korean Title: 대박부동산 [lit. Daebak Real Estate]
Director(s): Park Jin-suk
Screenwriter(s): Ha Soo-jin, Jung Yeon-seo, Lee Young-hwa
Studio: Mayqueen Pictures, Monster Union Released: 2021
Runtime: 16 episodes, ~1h each.
Starring: Jang Na-ra, Jung Yong-hwa, Kang Hong-suk, Kang Mal-geum, Ahn Kil-kang, Heo Dong-won
My Verdict: Attempts to be a supernatural thriller-drama. Formulaic in many respects. Nothing bad but nothing special either.
● Hong Ji-a (Jang Na-ra) is an exorcist and real estate agent. Clients approach her because their properties are haunted, their value having dropped because such news gets around. She exorcises their haunted properties and then somehow sells them at market price. Exorcisms require a “psychic” individual to act as a vessel for the target soul to momentarily possess before Ji-a performs the task. Such psychics are rare.
● Oh In-beom (Jung Yong-hwa) with his friend Heo Ji-cheol (Kang Hong-suk) are con artists who fake hauntings and then perform “exorcisms” for a fee. After a chance meeting with Ji-a and her discovery that In-beom has psychic abilities, he starts working for her.
● The plot is the typical amalgamation of the main characters’ unresolved past and present issues: Ji-a was present when her mother died 20 years ago during an exorcism seemingly gone wrong and Ji-a is still trying to help her spirit move on, not knowing what exactly happened; said exorcism involved In-beom as a child with his uncle and he doesn’t know what happened either; In-beom’s uncle was involved with gangster Do Hak-sung (Ahn Kil-kang) who still runs a construction company, threatening Ji-a and In-beom (for different reasons).
● There is the usual “redemption arc” for the two leads. For Oh In-beom, he comes to appreciate the honest work that he and Ji-a try to do, even naively wanting to go out of his way to help people. As for Ji-a, she has become cynical over the years so she learns to regain some of the naivety that In-beom displays.
● Consistent to the theme of souls who don’t move on because of unresolved issues, there is the so-called redemption arc for Heo Ji-cheol and Ji-a’s manager/guardian Joo Hwa-jung (Kang Mal-geum) as well but obviously to a lesser extent. There is, however, particular emphasis on Kim Tae-jin (Heo Dong-won), a thug who works for Do Hak-sung. Although mostly predictable and in some ways a joke character, Heo Dong-won plays him with an effective blend of humor and pathos.
● The mechanics of the exorcism are rather convenient dramatic devices; that is, it requires a psychic vessel, the exorcist (Ji-a) absorbs the memories of the deceased, but In-beom absorbs them instead of Ji-a for some reason. That’s the premise so one either accepts it or not.
● Even accepting all the mechanics, and without going into details, the series is not always faithful to them for the purposes of creating dramatic moments here and there. These are not always so huge as to be jarring or completely ruin the story but they do feel a little convenient and cheap.
● Despite being a supernatural-thriller drama, it contains other elements as intended. However, both the tone and the plot are unfocused at times. For example, Oh In-beom is initially presented comically and Jung Yong-hwa indeed plays him a little comically. There is nothing wrong with that and it is good that his character development is not rushed but it probably takes a little too long for him to turn. From a different angle, the main plot points can be easily described, which is good as it demonstrates the writers’ ability to be clear, but the plot doesn’t really move until halfway through the series. And then both the tone and plot become almost too serious at that point.
● Visually, it is dark as expected. Generally, it has a nice palette and it is nicely lit. The makers have obviously seen to it that Jang Na-ra looks good in black and, overall, the show looks good enough. However, the action often tries too hard. It is great to see Jang Na-ra not get typecast, to see her play a different role, and although she is not bad, she is not the best person to pull off an action sequence. That is a relatively minor issue anyway because it is the choreography and the film editing that tries too hard. It’s an exorcism, not a firefight.
● On balance, it is not a bad series. There is nothing offensively wrong with it and it is a good effort given that it is the writers’ first drama credit, but there is nothing particularly special about it. In many respects, it is formulaic but the writers are able at least able to follow it.
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