The South Korean horror series Squid Game is taking the world by storm.
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said last week there was “a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever”.
The show has only been out for two weeks but is currently the most watched on Netflix in 90 countries, including Australia.
So what is Squid Game? And why is everyone talking about it?
What is Squid Game?
The fictional drama focuses on heavily indebted people playing life-or-death versions of children’s games in the hope of winning a huge cash prize to repay their debts.
The Game follows protagonist Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-Jae), a gambling-addicted chauffeur who resorts to stealing from his mother to pay for his addiction and who is unable to afford a birthday present for his daughter as a result.
He and 455 other competitors are taken to a remote island, where one person stands the chance to win 45.6 billion Won ($53 million).
The rest are “eliminated”. Or more precisely: Brutally murdered after playing six reimagined children’s games.
The hyper-violent thriller runs for nine episodes.
Director Hwang Dong-hyuk said the series was in part a social commentary on the “extreme competition” encouraged in capitalist societies.
He said using easy-to-understand games and relatable characters helped it achieve success overseas.
“I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society. Something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life,” he told Variety.
“But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life.
“As a survival game, it is entertainment and human drama. The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand. That allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted by trying to interpret the rules.”
Audiences have responded with utter shock and overwhelming support for the South Korean series since its release on September 17.
Critics from Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and Vanity Fair praised Squid Game as equal parts “gut-wrenching” and “squirm-inducing”.
“A twisty, fast-paced, action-packed show whose episodes end in killer cliffhangers – in other words, the ultimate binge bait,” wrote Time Magazine’s Judy Berman.
“It’s a vivid, violent show that wrings a supposed societal value inside out to expose the unspoken clauses – and tacit horrors – lining its premise,” said Vanity Fair’s Delia Cai.
Media outlets have likened Squid Game‘s hype to that which surrounded the Oscar-winning film Parasite – another horrifying South Korean blockbuster that won plaudits all around the world.
The series has received a 96 per cent rating from film critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Fans who have watched all nine episodes now expect a second season based on how the first one ended.
But director Hwang tempered fans’ appetite, saying he began writing Squid Game in 2008 – 13 years before its eventual release.
“I don’t have well-developed plans for Squid Game 2,” he said.
“It is quite tiring just thinking about it.”
Meanwhile, if men and women in green jumpsuits and a giant robot girl with laser eyes are dominating your newsfeeds, know that Squid Game is to blame.