The Guest: Episode 1
The Guest marks OCN’s first foray into the Wednesday-Thursday line-up, and it’ll be interesting to see how this horror drama stacks up against its competitors, especially since one of those competitors is The Ghost Detective — ’tis the spooky season! The premiere certainly lived up to the horror genre, though — it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. (You have been warned!)
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A woman hands out restaurant flyers by the beach as a voice tells us that “the thing” comes from the East Sea, possessing people by using their weaknesses and encouraging their dark sides. All the holiday-goers ignore the exhausted woman and belittle her, tossing the flyers on the ground.
But a strange look comes into her eyes as the voice tells us that anyone possessed by “it” is no longer human, but a creature that enjoys death and deception, laughing at people’s despair. The woman grabs a knife and brutally stabs one of the pretty holiday-goers that had sneered at her.
Jumping back twenty years ago to a small seaside village, a group of shamans prepare for a harvest festival. YOON HWA-PYUNG, the youngest of the shaman family, watches TV with the sound turned up loud. When his father yells at him to turn it down, the boy says that the scary woman is looking at him.
No one else can see the woman he’s pointing at, so it unnerves the other shamans. But Hwa-pyung’s grandfather realizes that the boy is a psychic and can see ghosts.
The other shamans are suspicious of his abilities, and Hwa-pyung worries that there’s something wrong with him because of his visions. But his mother gently tells him to pretend he doesn’t see the ghosts and tell only her about it.
The shamans begin their festival to honor the spirits of the wind and rain so that the fishermen will have a safe and fruitful year. One of the shamans, Woong-jin, tells Hwa-pyung that they also perform these rites to protect the village from a vengeful spirit named Park Il-do. This spirit possessed one of the villagers a long time ago, and the possessed man killed a lot of people.
They attempted to exorcise the spirit, but failed, and the man ran into the sea and stabbed out his eye. But the man didn’t die until days later — he just stayed floating on the water, staring at everyone.
It’s a classic bogeyman story, as Woong-jin adds that people would say “Park Il-do is coming” or “Sohn is coming.” Hwa-pyung wonders why they would say “a hand is coming,” but the Woong-jin corrects him — “sohn” can mean guest or… But Mom cuts him off, chiding him for telling her son spooky stories when they’re supposed to be headed to the ritual.
Evening falls, and the shamans perform the ritual, asking for blessings and a bountiful harvest for the fishing village. They send off a raft of their offerings to the sea, and laugh when Woong-jin accidentally stumbles into the water.
But something else is in the water, something that can’t be seen, and Woong-jin is suddenly dragged down. As the other shamans worry if they should go in to save him, Woong-jin suddenly surfaces, gasping for air. One of the shamans suddenly starts to shake and declare, “Sohn is coming!”
As everyone cleans up after the ritual, Woong-jin starts to deeply scratch at his neck, enough to draw blood. He also has difficulty seeing out of his left eye.
Woong-jin suddenly grabs a knife and stabs Hwa-pyung’s grandfather. As all the other shamans run to intervene, Woong-jin’s bad eye grows black, and he pushes them off with supernatural strength.
They quickly realize that he’s possessed, and the head shaman screams at Woong-jin to drop his knife. Instead, Woong-jin stabs his possessed eye. Hwa-pyung peeks out from behind his mother and stares in horror as Woong-jin gives an unearthly scream and collapses.
Hwa-pyung now feels sick, and can’t see out of his left eye. His parents worriedly tend to him, and Hwa-pyung stares at a dark corner of his room as though he can see someone there. He fearfully says that “it” is warning him that if he says anything, it will kill everyone.
Later that night, Mom sees Hwa-pyung walking alone to the rocky cliffs by the seaside. Worried, she follows after him, frantically screaming out his name. In the morning, Mom’s body is found floating in the sea.
Realizing that the boy must be possessed, the shamans gather to perform an exorcism. Hwa-pyung’s father is the hardest hit by his wife’s death, and watches from a distance as the head shaman dances, chants, waves knives over head, and gruesomely bites into a pig’s carcass.
With the sound of drums and cymbals reaching a feverish pitch, she dances over to the trembling Hwa-pyung, who keeps rubbing at his bad eye. Yelling at the evil spirit to be gone, she stabs the air near Hwa-pyung’s head. Suddenly Hwa-pyung glares at her, and her eyes grow cloudy as she suddenly spits up blood.
The head shaman realizes that this is a seriously strong and evil spirit they’re dealing with, one that can control weaker spirits — she was able to exorcise the smaller, weaker spirit, but the big scary evil spirit still remains. The head shaman insists that the boy needs to be killed.
But Grandpa decides to call in a Catholic priest to do an exorcism. Priest Yang declares that the boy isn’t possessed, since Hwa-pyung — despite looking ill and having lots of scratches on him — doesn’t react to the Bible or the crucifix.
The young priest-in-training, Priest Choi, suggests that perhaps Hwa-pyung is being abused, and leaves behind his information in case Hwa-pyung wants to talk. Hwa-pyung whispers that he has something to tell him, and Priest Choi leans in close.
Whatever Hwa-pyung told him has him rattled, since as the priests wait at the bus stop, Priest Choi looks sick to his stomach. Priest Yang is worried that the younger man might be too spiritually weak to become an exorcist, but Priest Choi insists that actually, for the first time ever, he’s confident in his faith.
He suddenly decides to see his family. His father wonders why he’s home, and Priest Choi says he has a surprise for them. Then he asks where his younger brother, CHOI YOON, is. Dad says that Yoon is supposed to be in his study classes, but really Yoon is hiding in his room, playing video games.
Outside, the family dog keeps barking incessantly, and Priest Choi says he’ll take care of it. With a glassy look in his eyes, he grabs a bat and slowly walks outside. He “takes care of it” by brutally beating the dog to death.
Hwa-pyung realizes that he can now see out of both eyes. His father is drunk and still convinced that Hwa-pyung is possessed, and tries to strangle the boy. Hwa-pyung runs away, remembering that he has Priest Choi’s address in his pocket.
Except Priest Choi is slowly walking through his family’s dark house, using his bat against his father as he growls out that he never wanted to be a priest. Just like the dog, Dad is brutally killed.
Priest Choi is desperately thirsty and gulps down an entire pitcher of water as the lights flicker. The phone rings. It’s Yoon’s teacher, calling to let his family know that Yoon never showed up for his evening classes. Priest Choi realizes that Yoon is in the house and begins to walk to the bedroom.
Yoon, terrified, leans against the door, locking it. Meanwhile, Hwa-pyung walks barefoot along the road until he reaches Priest Choi’s house. But he sees something that makes his eyes grow wide in horror, and he stops in his tracks.
A mother and daughter drive down the dark road. The woman, following her motherly and policewoman instincts, gets out of the car to check on Hwa-pyung who’s staring at nothing (at least to her eyes), but she mostly notices is the bruises on his arm. She tells her daughter, KANG KIL-YOUNG, to stay in the car while she investigates potential child abuse.
Meanwhile, Priest Choi frantically beats on the door to Yoon’s room until it opens. Yoon hides under his bed, his hands over his mouth so his brother can’t hear him breathe. But Priest Choi bends down and tells Yoon that he shouldn’t have skipped classes.
The woman knocks on the front door and Priest Choi answers it, carefully hiding his bloody hands. She asks if Hwa-pyung lives there, and Priest Choi says that he doesn’t — his younger brother is already home. The woman notices the bloody hands and suddenly asks if she can have a drink of water.
Priest Choi excuses himself to use the bathroom, leaving the woman alone to investigate. She tries to open a door, but it doesn’t budge very far because Dad’s bloody body is blocking it. The woman stifles a horrified gasp when she realizes why she can’t open the door. She quietly calls in for backup.
She finds Yoon hiding under the bed, and whispers that everything is going to be okay. But when his eyes widen, she suddenly spins around and finds Priest CHoi attempting to bash her head in. She fights him off and yells at Yoon to run.
She thinks she has Priest Choi pinned, but he’s got supernatural strength and throws her off of him. He grabs a huge glass award from Yoon’s dresser and beats her to death. The lights flicker.
Hwa-pyung and Kil-young watch as Yoon runs out of the house. Kil-young stops him, demanding to know where her mom is, but Yoon yells that he doesn’t know. She heads towards the house, but Hwa-pyung grabs her. His eyes wide in terror, he tells her that she shouldn’t go in.
Later, the police and ambulance arrive. Kil-young’s mother’s body is carried out, and Kil-young screams in grief while Yoon dazedly watches. Hwa-pyung, though, sees the possessed Priest Choi, standing eerily in the middle of a field like a terrifying scarecrow.
In 2018, adult Hwa-pyung (Kim Dong-wook) is a taxi driver who’s been traveling from town to town, looking for someone. He’s got a breezy, nonchalant attitude, but uses his psychic ability to protect a very drunk woman from going home with a guy who’s trying to take advantage of her.
Hwa-pyung’s ability to figure out what’s really happening is enough for the man to get out of the car, so Hwa-pyung drives the girl safely to her home. But he gets no gratitude (or payment) because the drunk girl complains that she wanted to be with the other guy.
Hwa-pyung can’t stay annoyed at her for too long because he sees a tall, creepy figure looming at the other end of the street. Except it’s just a guy, waiting for his girlfriend — not a possessed priest.
Adult Yoon (Kim Jae-wook) is now himself a priest, and he slowly walks down an alleyway filled with sleeping homeless men, glancing at each face. When he sees one whose face is covered, he yanks off the blanket, then apologizes since the man isn’t who he’s looking for.
The homeless man pleads with Yoon to give him some money for alcohol, but Yoon just silently shakes him off and keeps walking.
Hwa-pyung arrives at a shaman’s house. The shamen, YOOK KWANG, cheekily greets him. Hwa-pyung asks if he’s heard through the shaman grapevine about any possessed people, but Yook Kwang says Hwa-pyung should just give up his endless search for this “Priest Choi” and move on with his life.
That doesn’t seem likely, since Hwa-pyung has an entire wall devoted to news articles about families being brutally killed. Hwa-pyung has been apparently tracking deaths all over the country, ones that are suspiciously similar to those committed by Priest Choi.
It’s his mother’s memorial day, and Hwa-pyung sets out his meagre offerings, including a bowl of the mint candy he hated so much as a kid. But they were his mother’s favorite, so he eats one now. He vows to find and catch Priest Choi — or at least the spirit inhabiting him.
Hwa-pyung has a psychic vision, seen through the eyes of someone dragging a body to a reservoir. Hwa-pyung searches online for images of nearby reservoirs and finds the one from his vision. When he gets there, he peers in and tells a nearby man to call the police.
The crime scene is under investigation as adult Kil-young (Jung Eun-chae) drives up. She’s now a detective, and the other detectives on the scene don’t look thrilled to see her. It seems her insolent and violent tendencies get her in frequent trouble — she has no fear or shame in beating up criminals (or eating at a crime scene).
Her sunbae, DETECTIVE GO (Park Ho-san), fills her in on the case, revealing that the victim was randomly stabbed all over at an unknown location and then moved to the reservoir after he died. Detective Go finds it odd that the reservoir is dry, yet the body is soaking wet.
They investigate a nearby abandoned car with a backseat that’s covered in blood. Kil-young wonders why the killer would leave the car in such an obvious place but go through the effort of moving and hiding the body.
Kil-young follows up on information about the victim. She finds out that the victim was the owner of a cleaning company, and his company had been hired to clean the drain at the reservoir.
A few months ago, one of their workers was seriously hurt while cleaning the reservoir. The cleaning company employee giving her the injured employee’s contact information finds it odd that everyone’s been asking about that incident. They already had “some taxi driver” ask him for the same information earlier that morning.
Hwa-pyung visits the employee’s house and explains that he’s from an agency that investigates cases where workers were treated unfairly. Hwa-pyung can only speak to the man’s wife, however, since the injury the man incurred while cleaning the drain caused brain damage — he can’t walk and can barely speak.
The woman begins to cry as she says that since her husband was only a temporary employee, the fact he was hurt on the job means the CEO wouldn’t give them any compensation. Hwa-pyung still wants to try and talk to the man, though.
The man doesn’t even acknowledge Hwa-pyung, but when Hwa-pyung holds up a photo of Priest Choi, asking if the man has seen him, the man becomes distressed, grunting and flailing in his wheelchair. Hwa-pyung leaves his contact information with the wife, asking to be informed right away if her husband starts acting like a different person.
As he leaves, he sees a teenage girl lurking outside. It’s the man’s daughter, who doesn’t want to go inside her house. Hwa-pyung wonders if it’s because she’s scared of her father, and she’s shocked that Hwa-pyung knows how she feels. She admits that, even despite his injury, her father hasn’t been acting like himself.
Hwa-pyung grabs her arm and intensely asks her what she means, which unnerves her. He quickly backs off, offering to give her some money for a snack. The girl says she can’t take it or else she’ll get in trouble, then hurries away.
Hwa-pyung returns to his taxi, lost in thought. He’s startled when Kil-young raps on his window. He insists that it’s not illegal for him to nap in his taxi, but she asks him if he was at the reservoir that morning. Hwa-pyung plays dumb, explaining that taxi drivers go everywhere — he can’t possibly keep track.
But she’s got him on CCTV, so she hauls him down to the police station. She takes his statement, where he grumbles that he was just passing by. She snarks that he must have just been “passing by” the cleaning company, too. But Hwa-pyung’s distracted by a big gangster that has a black eye, courtesy of Kil-young.
Kil-young says that she’ll beat him up, too, if he doesn’t answer her questions. Or at the very least, she’ll have him arrested as a suspect. Sighing, Hwa-pyung explains that he’s had psychic visions since he was a kid, and he had a vision of the killer leaving the body in the reservoir.
Kil-young thinks it’s nonsense and orders Hwa-pyung to stay put while she continues the investigation. Hwa-pyung protests that he has an emergency to attend do, but Kil-young doesn’t care. A man was murdered and Hwa-pyung is a suspect. He’s not going anywhere.
Detective Go updates her on the autopsy, which reveals that the water soaking the body was salt water — which is odd, since the reservoir should hold freshwater.
He also doesn’t understand why Kil-young is so determined to look into the man in the wheelchair, since the man couldn’t kill anyone due to his mental and physical state. But Kil-young thinks the death of the CEO is related to that family. She especially finds it strange that a man who can’t walk has shoes that are freshly covered in dirt.
His wife seems to find it odd, too. She’s also unnerved when she gives her husband the huge glass of water he desperately begs her for, discovering his hands covered in cuts. Her husband looks at her, and his head tilts. In a creepy voice he tells her “Let’s die.”
Scared, she tells him that she’s going to go to work. She nervously starts to put on her shoes, but in that same creepy-demon voice, her husband asks if she’s going to call Hwa-pyung. Her husband doesn’t look so helpless as he starts to wriggle and rise out of his wheelchair. His wife stares in horror as the man stands on his tiptoes and stares at her, eyes and mouth wide open.
While Hwa-pyung dejectedly sits in the police station, he has another vision — this time of someone attempting to wash off the blood on their hands. The person in the vision turns and looks at the teenage daughter from before.
Hwa-pyung’s been at the station for hours, but he’s finally released once they confirm that Hwa-pyung wasn’t near the scene of the crime when it happened.
Hwa-pyung races to the wheelchair man’s house, getting there just as Kil-young’s about to knock on the door. She’s annoyed that he’s there, but Hwa-pyung barges into the house, anyway. As soon as they see blood in the hallway, Kil-pyung stops him and goes in first.
The lights won’t turn on, so she uses her flashlight, following the trail of blood through the house. They find the wife lying in a pool of blood — but the body also soaked with water, just like the body in the reservoir.
Hwa-pyung realizes that the daughter isn’t there, and Kil-young orders him to get out of the crime scene. The lights flicker and on the street below, they see the wheelchair man standing and creepily grinning at them.
Ooooohhhhhh, this was genuinely scary! And overtly gory! Not that I would expect anything less from this director, knowing his style quite well from his past work on Voice and Black.
I am not generally a horror fan, so I don’t have a lot of basis of comparison, but I am excited that OCN seems to be branching out in a genre that I feel is pretty overlooked when it comes to dramas. Considering how excellent (and terrifying) a lot of Korean horror films can be, I’m a little surprised that more shows haven’t tried to fill that niche. There have been various ghost-themed dramas throughout the years, but a lot of them are fairly benign — more focused on mysteries (and even romance) than pure terror. This is definitely no Master’s Sun or Oh My Ghost, in case anyone is wondering.
Overall, though, I think this was a decent premiere — it set the stage for the Big Bad, as well as the various characters and how they’re all connected. This is not just a random grouping of a psychic, a priest, and a detective — they all have a personal vendetta against Sohn. He killed their families and they’re all determined to track him down. Well, at least Hwa-pyung and Yoon are. I’m not so sure about Kil-young, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she had her own collection of “mysterious death” articles hidden somewhere. Or maybe that wouldn’t be practical enough for her, since she didn’t personally encounter the possessed Priest Choi, so can only assume that her mother was killed by a violent, disturbed individual. Which is perhaps why she’s so willing to beat up criminals, making them the literal punching bag for the death of her mother.
My only real quibble is that we got barely a couple of minutes of Kim Jae-wook. I realize that the backstory is important, but couldn’t there have been a little more time to get to know Yoon as an adult? All I’m asking for is a little less blood and little more cheekbones. That’s all! I do love Kim Dong-wook as Hwa-pyung, though. He adds some much-needed humor, and I hope that he stays cheeky and irreverent because I figure we’re going to need all the lightness we can get in a show that’s so oppressively dark.