The Bequeathed Season 1 Review – Richly atmosphere, but not quite horrifying enough

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: January 19, 2024 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
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The Bequeathed Season 1 Review
The Bequeathed | Image via Netflix
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Summary

The Bequeathed is rich in atmosphere but struggles to sustain its mystery. However, the payoff is just about worth the investment to get there.

Netflix is kicking off its K-Drama slate in 2024 with an attention-grabbing horror-thriller from Yeon Sang-ho, late of such light-hearted fare as Train to Busan and Hellbound. And The Bequeathed is predictably steeped in a familiar atmosphere, despite being directed by Train to Busan’s AD Min Hong-nam rather than Sang-ho himself.

Things get off to a grim start, with a slightly drunk old man chuntering along to himself before eventually dying in a dramatic, breathless fashion, collapsing right in front of an ominous gravesite around which the entire plot will revolve for six hour-long episodes.

This man is the uncle of Yoon Seo-ha (Kim Hyun-joo), a lecturer who didn’t know he existed. With her deeply awful yoga instructor husband Yang Jae-seok (Park Sung-hoon of The Glory), she travels to authorize the transfer of his body and is told by the police that a) she is entitled to the family burial ground he died on and b) he might have been murdered.

There is a great deal of weirdness surrounding the whole affair, not least the creepy Kim Young-ho (Ryu Kyung-soo from Jung_E), who reveals himself as Seo-ha’s half-brother and has a background in ritualistic shamanism, which is rarely a good sign.

The Bequeathed revels in all this, though. Its bleak countryside setting – a rural village wrapped in fog, loomed over by a stark mountain range – could hide many unimaginable horrors and secrets, and – spoiler alert – it does. Everyone is weird enough to be a suspect and nowhere feels safe, and that’s before the shamanism starts to get going.

Even the character dynamics are tinged with dark details. The police are represented by detective Choi Sung-jun (Park Hee-soon), who has quite the backstory with his former inferior, Park Sang-min (Park Byung-eun), now his self-loathing boss. Whether in flashbacks or the present day, flashes of violence can seemingly come from anywhere.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that this isn’t really a horror show as advertised, and certainly not a supernatural one. It’s full of unpleasant people who do nasty things, but it’s more reminiscent of a police procedural and a character drama than an outright shocker.

Likewise, the central mystery, which has an immediate hook and benefits from the strong sense of place, loses its way a little across even six episodes. That runtime, though, is refreshingly brief for a K-Drama and is welcome nonetheless.

Manage your expectations

The Bequeathed nonetheless comes with a recommendation from me. It’s too short and inconsistent to set the K-Drama world alight, with a saggy middle stretch and a sense of familiarity to its plotting that even the lingering atmosphere can’t account for as things stretch on. But the payoff is worth the time investment.

It’s also nice to see Yeon’s stylistic and thematic hallmarks return in force here, despite him not being in the actual director’s chair. Don’t go in expecting Train to Busan and you won’t leave disappointed, but you probably won’t be thrilled either.

What did you think of The Bequeathed Season 1? Comment below.


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