Sell Your Haunted House: Episodes 1-2 (Review)
As predicted, Jang Nara can do anything, including make this story of an exorcising realtor come to life, which is the plot of KBS’s Sell Your Haunted House. The drama offers a little bit of everything — comedy, drama, ghost and ghouls, and a heroine whose attitude is as caustic as it is lovable.
Note: This is an opening week review only, coverage will continue with recaps.
EPISODES 1-2 REVIEW
I enjoyed the premiere week of Sell Your Haunted House much more than I expected to, and that’s all thanks to our heroine HONG JI-AH (Jang Nara) and the glimpse into her world. Jang Nara’s heroine looks a little bit like a 90s TV character, with her array of black outfits, black combat books, black nail polish, and dramatic makeup. Even better than her look, though, is her no-nonsense attitude (and online shopping habit).
We meet Ji-ah and her business partner JOO HWA-JUNG (Kang Mal-geum) at their headquarters for Daebak Realty. It’s spooky, rundown, and positively awesome. (I’ve come to have really high expectations for K-drama sets, and this drama does not disappoint.) Of course, HQ is a bit of a fancy term for the old-fashioned house whose downstairs is an office, and whose upstairs is where Ji-ah lives… with the ghost of her 20-years-deceased mother.
The crux of Ji-ah’s story is this: she has had exorcist powers since she was young (which presumably her mother passed on to her). Currently, she makes her living by performing exorcisms in properties that are haunted. Ji-ah handles the exorcism, and has her procedure down to a science, and then Mal-geum does the rest, which is the actual selling of the now-ghost-free property.
We see one such operation in full swing when the drama begins, and learn that Ji-ah’s powers alone are not enough to perform the exorcism: she also needs a psychic. According to the drama’s logic, a psychic is a person that is easily possessed by ghosts, and Ji-ah needs them to embody the ghost so she can fight it off. Victory requires her to stab the possessed psychic in the chest with her binyeo, which contains a scroll of the ghost’s birth name, and thus holds a supernatural power.
The level of detail the show put into this process really works — or rather, is what makes it work — and we see Ji-ah performing each exorcism with the same studied regularity as other people type up memos or bake muffins.
Each ghost she exorcises has a story, and we do see those in some detail every time Daebak Realty takes on a new case. This brings me to the downside of the drama, which (for me anyway) is two-fold: it’s full of creepy CGI ghosts, and its structure is verging on the episodic. Both of these elements are not unlike the famous Master’s Sun, which I enjoyed despite both of those things, so I think it’s possible to enjoy Sell Your Haunted House as well.
CGI ghosts aside, the weekly ghost stories actually fit the pace of Ji-ah and her bustling realty business, so despite my not loving that structure, I think it’s effective for the story. And, luckily, there’s also enough overarching story to keep us going. Because if you’re anything like me, that’s essential for any drama worth investing your time into.
Ji-ah’s story is one of an unsolvable problem, or an Achilles heel that she can’t seem to master. It’s archetypal and delicious, adding just enough shortcoming and worry to humanize our otherwise fearless, almost disaffected heroine — you know, the kind that doesn’t have time for BS, can quickly read people like a book, and has a heavy back hanging in the middle of her office for any frustrating moments that might occur.
Ji-ah’s problem is that she’s unable to exorcise her mother’s ghost from their old house, although she’s been trying for years. She’s not strong enough to do it on her own, and she can’t seem to find a psychic that’s able to bear the weight either…. until now. That’s where our hero comes in.
Our hero (or is that anti-hero) is OH IN-BUM (Jung Yong-hwa). Like Ji-ah, he has a delicate and occult operation going on. He also has a business partner, HEO JI-CHUL (Kang Hong-seok who always seems to be effortlessly adorable), and together they impress with their Stanford credentials (lol), and the fancy infrared device that they’re using to research and log paranormal activity.
The idea is to prey on people that are vulnerable by first freaking them out, then offering to pay them to install their ghost-repelling equipment, and then making the client reliant on it enough to pay for it (even though it’s a hoax). In other words, unlike Ji-ah’s business (rooted in real exorcism), In-bum’s is rooted in pranks and playing off of people’s fears. He’s a conman, and he cares primarily about making money.
Ji-ah and In-bum get thrown together (exorcism is a small world, after all), and butt heads in the expected fashion. Although their motives and ideals are different, Ji-ah soon sees enough of In-bum to realize that, unbeknownst to him, he has a powerful psychic energy. Ji-ah, of course, wants to harness this to let her mother’s ghost be at peace… and that’s the basis on which they form a temporary partnership.
The story will ride as much on their clash of personalities as it will the supernatural powers that they have in common. There’s also a few threads in each of their pasts that tie them together in a mysterious way, so even though we don’t know the details yet, it’s obvious that there will be much interconnectedness. Both our leads have a complex and dark past, which links to their occult abilities, so I’m interested to see if they will use those powers to clash with each other, or truly join forces at some point.
I love Jang Nara in this role without question, but Jung Yong-hwa I’m still warming up to. It’s been literally years since he’s been in a drama (because reasons), and I almost want to like him here more than I actually do. Still, I think he’ll win me over entirely before long. He’s got an interesting feel to him that’s a bit different than other leading actors I could see in this role, and I like how he’s totally overpowered by Jang Nara/Ji-ah — it fits their dynamic.
With all the more serious dramas out there right now, I didn’t expect to be most interested by this almost campy tale of a weary heroine, a cocky hero, and a bajillion blue-hued ghosts — but I actually am. If I could kick back and binge watch this entire drama right now, I would.