Gruesome new Korean thriller is hailed 'the next Squid Game'

Is this the next Squid Game? Gruesome Korean thriller Bargain about organ harvesting and a bloody battle for survival is being compared to Netflix’s smash hit

  • Bargain, directed by Jeon Woo-sung, has been released on Paramount+
  • READ MORE: Fans go wild for insane Squid Game: The Challenge trailer after contestants were stretchered off set and considered suing Netflix over ‘inhumane’ treatment  

A gruesome Korean drama about the dark world of organ harvesting has been dubbed the next Squid Game by fans.

Bargain, currently streaming on Paramount+ from today, won Best Screenplay at the Canneseries Festival this year – the first Korean series to be awarded such an accolade.

However, the gritty thriller is not for the faint hearted, featuring sex scams, violent crime and organised gangs.

The series opens with a teenage schoolgirl Joo-young meeting a middle-aged man in a motel room, where they engage in a negotiation over her virginity.

After the teenager’s initial suggestion that he should pay her $1,000 for sex, he negotiates down to $70 – but quick as a flash, he becomes involved in another negotiation. This time, he is blindfolded and strapped to a board, while other people bid for his organs – before an earthquake hits and all the characters are forced to fight for survival.

Bargain, the gruesome Korean drama streaming on Paramount+, is being hailed a ‘new Squid Game’ as characters battle for survival

The dark series is a reimagined version of a 2015 short film which won several awards at the Mise-en-scène Short Film Festival in South Korea the following year.

Speaking to NME, director Jeon Woo-sung, who was also involved in the production of the original short film, revealed there were never any plans to turn the story into a longer series, but then he was approached by a production company and began to think about how the story could be expanded upon.

And, after the finished series began to collect awards across the board, the director admitted he was surprised with by the acclaim and thought only around ’40 percent’ of the audience would like it.

Speaking about the dark and twisted tale, he declares that ‘all the characters in the series are rogues and villains’.

The drama begins with an earthquake in a motel where a middle-aged businessman was being offered up for organ harvesting

As a man is strapped to a board and blindfolded, with the location of his organs sketched out on his body, the young woman holds an auction for his body parts 

However, the director explained he wanted the audience to resonate with some of the characters as the plot unfolds, even though they’re not very nice people.

The character of Keuk-ryul, for example, is involved in the organ harvesting trade as he’s after a kidney – but his motivation is a desperate bid to save his sick father’s life.

The director explained: ‘Some people might think that he’s not as bad as the others because he actually had to get an organ for his father but, still, he is a villain as well.’

In a theme that some fans may argue parallels the Oscar-winning movie Parasite, Jeon said the crumbling motel, the foundations of which are precarious after the devastating earthquake, is a metaphor for capitalism. 

But there is another parallel to be drawn with this gruesome, dystopian Korean series which is set to take the world by storm – Netflix’s smash hit, Squid Game.

Although Jeon finds the comparison funny and insists he didn’t think about Squid Game when he was developing the series, he agrees there are similarities between his series and the dystopian competition drama, which is thought to have pulled in a whopping $900 in revenue for Netflix.

Parallels lie in the bloody violence, the characters’ lack of regard for the sanctity of life (with the exception of themselves), and a life-changing amount of money up for grabs.

When Squid Game premiered on the streaming giant in 2021, viewers were quick to point out the premise was a parody of capitalism as contestants risked their lives to win an enormous jackpot and paid the ultimate price if they didn’t come in first place.

Speaking about this theme, Jeon said that many Korean filmmakers have the theme of capitalism on their minds, which in turn encourages individualism.

However, while many may point to unintentional similarities with Squid Game, Jeon insisted his conscious influences were Hollywood blockbusters including war epic 1917 and Michael Keaton drama, Birdman.

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