There’s little to write home about, but Goedam offers a large swathe of South Korean horror in digestible chunks that seem perfectly suited to the streaming age.
It’s just a coincidence that Goedam released the same week as Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, but it’s a fortunate one nonetheless. Train to Busan is commonly regarded as a contemporary zombie-horror classic and is in many ways the exact kind of thing that an anthology collection like Goedam is designed to show off. Currently available to stream on Netflix, where such things seem very well-suited, this curious little swag bag of South Korean horror shorts works as a tasting menu of the region’s genre output, and it’s worth a look.
Boasting only eight episodes, each clocking in between 5-15 minutes, Goedam is aiming for quality over quantity but can’t quite manage to provide that on a consistent basis. While, as in any anthology, some shorts are better than others, there are no real lasting stand-outs here and most of the offerings are the worst thing they could possibly be: Unmemorable.
That isn’t to say that many – or indeed any, depending on your perspective – of them are outright bad, just that they lack the enduring imagery and great scares that have made Eastern horror so prevalent in popular culture. But there’s a wide swathe of styles plucked from Korean folklore and urban legends that offer enough variety, especially at such short runtimes, to keep an audience engaged, even if they’re unlikely to think too much about the stories after they’re over.
Without much room to maneuver, Goedam often leans against violence and gore for its scares, which isn’t all that effective even if it can be plenty of fun. The best horror is, I think, that creeping, slow-burn psychological fare, and you just can’t build and sustain that in ten minutes. The build-up and release of tension works a treat, though, giving each of the shorts a reliable rhythm punctuated by the jump-scares and nastiness.
Ultimately, Goedam isn’t expansive enough to be an all-time great anthology the way, say, Love, Death + Robots was for science-fiction; it doesn’t have that collection’s stylistic verisimilitude, even if it’ll please fans of short-form genre storytelling by playing the classic beats in tune. Worth a look, but not more than that.
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