After a 14-year hiatus, MBC is bringing back its summer night special with a vengeance.
Drawing from classic Asian horror motifs -- vindictive ghosts, spiritual possession and some major grudges -- the upcoming 10-episode series deals with such strong content, that, according to news reports, it received the Korean television equivalent of an R-rating.
In other words, it reportedly received a 19-rating, meaning the program may contain material inappropriate for viewers under 19 -- in accordance with the Korean age system (meaning 17 or 18 in the States).
According to an MBC representative, the rating came about, not so much because the show exhibits excessive violence or cruelty, but because of the subject matter itself.
So, now that they`ve been rated "R" -- per se -- will the drama get toned-down or will it stick to its guns?
Viewers can rest assured that they won`t be served up watered-down horror. According to the representative, changes are not being made to the series.
The MBC series "Hon" (which means "spirit" or "ghost" in Korean), explores the human capacity for evil, primarily by charting the fall of its lead character, played by the dimpled-and-handsome Lee Seo-jin, into darkness.
The premise of "Hon" could easily be considered stale, as it is one we`ve seen before. A high school girl, with a deceased twin sister to boot, is tortured by spirits.
Paying homage to classic Asian horror themes, as exemplified by hit flicks like "The Eye" and "Ju-on," "Hon" steers clear of more upbeat "The Sixth Sense"-like ghost whisperers and spirit guides.
There is no kind spirit to help this heroine come to terms with her supernatural abilities. Instead, Shin Ryu, a criminal profiler, exploits her powers in his quest for justice. His initial plans for good slowly turn sour as he gives into the temptations of the other side.
According to an MBC press release, Lee, whom many will recognize from the SBS romance "Lovers" (2006), revealed that he was fascinated by the moral ambiguity of Shin Ryu.
"I decided to star in the drama because I was attracted to the double-sided nature of the character," the 36-year old actor said.
Lee, who showcased his talent for taking on bad guy roles in the SBS drama "Shooting Stars" (2002), may very well overshadow co-star Lim Ju-eun.
Relative newcomer Lim nabbed the hair-raising role of a spiritually possessed heroine through open auditions; which, according to news reports, "Hon" director Kim Sang-ho said he held because of tight production funds.
News reports also stated that director Kim revealed he was inspired by the Swedish vampire movie "Let the Right One In" (2008). A morbid yet lyrical tale of a boy and a vampire girl, the film charts the boy`s poignant friendship with his bloodthirsty girl chum.
How the film will influence the series remains a mystery. Judging from the teaser -- which reportedly racked up 1,000 hits when it was posted on the official website in July -- the series does not look like it will move too far away from the realm of traditional Asian horror.
"Hon" starts tonight on MBC at 10 p.m.
By Jean Oh