Halloween 2023: Home Sweet Home Monsters, Part One!
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Home Sweet Home is a South Korean comic that ran on webtoon from 2017 to 2020, ending mere months before the debut of a live action Netflix adaptation entitled only Sweet Home (not to be confused with a 1989 horror film of the same name, nor its video game adaptation)
I considered going over the monsters from this series way back when it was brand new, but 2023 has proven to be my last chance at a timely Sweet Home review, since a surprise second season has debuted on Netflix December 1st, 2023, a full three years after the previous season. That's a big enough gap, I'd have never guessed more was coming at all!
Many of you are possibly hearing about this series for the very first time, and you might find comparisons around the internet to a Zombie Apocalypse scenario. This is "functionally" accurate, since it's a story in which human survivors are trapped in their apartment complex by a catastrophic global outbreak of dangerous creatures that used to be people. That's a BIG similarity, yes, leading to many of the same story beats you're familiar with (or sick of) from any plague of walking corpses, but there are two rather critical differences, here:
The first is that we aren't talking about an exponential contagion, but a transformation that suddenly afflicts only a relatively small number of people.
The second is that they are not only not zombies, but no two are ever the same sort of monster.
"Monsterization" in Sweet Home is activated under extreme emotional duress, and every subject takes on a completely unique physical form adapted to facilitate their strongest wish at the time of their metamorphosis. The resulting creature is subsequently so fixated on this purpose to such a maniacal, single-minded degree that the vast, vast majority seem driven to indiscriminate violence, and even those with a relatively harmless directive are easily driven to aggression the moment they're obstructed from it in any way, intentionally or otherwise. Worse yet, they only grow back stronger from any injuries they might endure, and can only be killed if they're completely burned to ash.
The mayhem inflicted on society by these creatures is much like that of zombies, yes, but the creatures themselves are effectively the polar opposite: a zombie apocalypse strips us of our individuality and reduces millions of people to a mindless, interchangeable mob of bodies. Sweet Home's Monsterization, on the other hand, elevates a privileged few beyond their limits to fulfill the deepest desire they've ever experience.
So rather than simply losing your humanity, per se, the thing you personally want takes over to the point that you no longer care about anybody else's life; the rest of humanity, even your former friends and loved ones, suddenly mean no more to you than disposable obstacles, stepping stones or pesky rivals, and the same mysterious force that does this to your mind also happens to give your body whatever tools you need to mow down those unimportant annoyances on the path to your Greatest Goal.
Good god....it's like an outbreak of terminal main character syndrome.
......So I guess you'll need to get to know alllllll the true Main Characters, then.
Starving Monster If you go in blind to Sweet Home, the first monster might trick you (deliberately?) into thinking this is just a Zombie story; a just-ghoulish-enough woman driven by a ravenous hunger. I like her slightly stretched mouth and weird, walleyed expression, unfortunately lost in the Netflix series where she does look more like a straight-up putrid corpse.
To be fair, though, they still gave her the skewed eyeballs, and it wouldn't be that easy to pull off the Webtoon's face in practical effects.
MOTIVATION: as a human, she hoped for a career as a model or an actress and even hired an agent, but unfortunately an agent who pressured her into losing weight through a harsh diet. She turned as her appetite for real food finally overwhelmed all other logic.
Blind Monster Our more formal introduction to how all this works, this monster begins as an unnamed human who abruptly begins to transform, becoming a black-skinned fiend with pointed ears and lipless jaws. Mid-way through his transformation, however, the top of his head gets sliced off. Monsters can typically regenerate, but this injury apparently happens at just the right moment that his final form permanently adapts to it; his skull now ends with a flat surface full of large holes, like a lotus pod, and his hearing is enhanced.
The Netflix design isn't too bad, mostly fairly faithful, though I think it loses something by making the top of the head look like puffy brain matter. The holes are still there, but they were a lot more striking when they were just gaping, black pits in grown-over flesh.
MOTIVATION: according to his muttering just before he turns, he has a murderous hatred of his boss. Now as a monster this rage has taken over as an indiscriminate lust for killing.
Tongue Monster Still one of my favorites, this monster is a bit taller and thinner than a normal human, with pale and veiny flesh. His bald head is swollen into a tall, bulbous shape and his gaping mouth stretches into a vertical orifices all the way down to his chest, housing an incredibly long, hollow, and sharp-tipped tongue that can rapidly drain the blood from a human body. I love the disturbing way his head bends back a little, blank eyes staring upward.
Sadly, the Tongue Monster isn't nearly as cool and haunting in the television series; the proportions of his head are a lot more normal, and his mouth has been given more dramatic, fangly teeth. He shouldn't even need teeth if he feeds through his tongue!
MOTIVATION: while not stated in either version of the series, an official blurb states that he simply "wanted it all" while he was still human. I guess it was a general covetousness, greed or jealousy of what everyone else has, translating to a gluttonous vampiric diet.
Eye MonsterAnother favorite! Eye Monster has a mostly normal human body, still wearing a suit and tie, but its head is just a fleshy orb with scraggly hairs and multiple large, irregular black eyeballs on it, able to extend on a long stalk!
Netflix Eye Monster has somewhat more natural looking eyes, not quite as freaky in themselves, but the tapeworm-like head and neck are still well preserved. They didn't have the budget to add its angry transformation, but it's overall a solid effort and memorable sequence.
MOTIVATION: this monster does nothing but peek in at people through windows, and only attacks when this is interfered with. The popular interpretation is a peeping tom, but it could have just as easily been someone deeply paranoid, unable to rest easy if he can't know what everyone else is up to.
Tentacled Monster This monster initially looks mostly human except for his discolored skin and big googly eyes, not unlike the Starving Monster, but he maneuvers on a cluster of powerful tentacles emerging from his spine, his body dangling on its back.
Tentacles also demonstrates for us just how far monsters can evolve and mutate, his later form having lost its human limbs, hair, ears and nose. His face is still upside-down, but his head is receding more into his body, his eyes are even larger as well as spaced more to the sides, and he has multiple new crustacean-like limbs.
MOTIVATION: the phrase "tentacled monster" might set off some pretty gnarly alarm bells, but it's actually nothing like that; many of the webtoon monsters can still speak in broken, repetitive phrases that reveal their final thoughts as a human being. Tentacles has a few such catchphrases, mainly translating into statements like "I'll...survive" or "want to...live." The monster outbreak itself triggered his change, making him into a monster out of sheer fear of death.
Reach Monster This monster is first seen as a giant hand on a long, stretchy arm. When this poor man's real body is finally located, he still looks mostly human, but his face is mushed up against a wall, and he doesn't seem to notice anything around him, his arms stretching in opposite directions to blindly clutch at whoever they can find.
MOTIVATION: two survivors take this monster's backpack before lighting the being on fire, the only known way to completely destroy the creatures. A personal diary reveals that he was a father, and was holding his son's hand when an unidentified, fast-moving monster left him holding only his son's hand. He tried to go on surviving, but was steadily eaten away with he regret that he couldn't pull his child to safety...
Hair MonsterThis monster is just a very nasty man with lots of very long, black hair.
The Netflix version actually kind of improves this one, by giving him SO much hair you can't really see anything else, except one very brief glimpse of his face.
MOTIVATION: this one is darkly hilarious, because as a human, he's just a complete and utter bastard. A rude, rotten, hate-filled asshole who beats and terrorizes his family, especially his wife. So just what emotion proved powerful enough to shatter his very humanity? What deep, dark desire pushed him over the edge from human monster to monster-monster?
Well, he didn't like being bald.
Needing no formidable monster powers to fulfill his greatest wish, he isn't even strong enough to stop his battered wife from beating him to death as she ridicules him for the pathetic meaning of his transformation.
Speed Monster This actually seems to be the monster that took Reach Monster's son; a creature that can run faster than the eye can track. Its muscular, sleek humanoid body has powerful dinosaur-like legs, and its streamlined skull lacks features other than simple holes for ears, a set of teeth and three large eyes. I like how the cranium also kind of follows the shape of a bike helmet!
Sadly, this rather iconic antagonist of the Webtoon is stuck with a completely human face by the streaming show, save for the lack of pupils, and the arbitrary addition of a fire element; probably the lousiest transition for any of the comic designs.
What's especially baffling about this is that artist Mauricio Ruiz originally offered up a MUCH more faithful design that both old and new fans would have surely found more memorable than just a toasty zombie. Ruiz seems to have also experimented with variations on the eye design before the poor triclops was finally rejected altogether. What exactly drove the production to go with something so watered down?! It couldn't have just been a budget concern, could it?
MOTIVATION: not just a man who wanted to go fast; he wanted to be a successful track runner so badly, he murdered his faster-running roommate out of jealousy. As a monster, he's also more conniving and self-aware than most, expressing at one point how "fun" it is when humans put up a challenging fight.
Security Guard Monster A bit underwhelming for the Webtoon, actually the plainest zombie-like transformation ever seen.
...So for once, the Netflix version is actually quite a bit of an improvement! Still basically a zombie-like guy, but with the added twist of attracting and controlling a dense swarm of flies, first seen completely covering his face like a buzzing, jittering black mask. I love flies, and I still find this effectively unsettling.
MOTIVATION: the apartment building's night watchman is quite simply fed up with the fact that many other odd jobs are constantly left for him. He even has to mow the grass and weeds in the lot outside! In the Netflix show, he was given a basket of unwanted fish as a rather weak gesture for his trouble, and flies were already gathering to them, so I guess this might have been the final little straw before he snapped.
Infant Monster This monster is nothing but a gigantic, reddish fetus, suspended upside-down in an even more gigantic, translucent womb. It doesn't do anything but suck its thumb, it has no apparent aggression, it's never seen to grow or develop any further and is safely left alone.
This monster is also kept as-is for the live action design, not that there's a whole lot you could really do to mess with this one!
MOTIVATION: one of the saddest by far, this monster was originally a mother who lost her infant child in an accident. Unable to accept reality, she deluded herself into believing her baby was still alive, always seen with the same old stroller. When the stroller is destroyed by a monster, she's finally forced to confront the truth, and it proves too much for her humanity.
...But is she actually the giant fetus? Like many readers seem to have concluded, I believe what she really became was the protective womb, and that the fetus is a separate living thing she created in the process as a surrogate child.
Slime MonsterTOO adorable! Slime Monster is nothing but clear, green jelly with two floating eyeballs. Sometimes it takes on a humanoid shape, but sometimes it just looks like an amoeba or a puddle. Flawless!
Live action Slime Monster is still just a shapeless mass of green ooze, a little goopier, sludgier and more detailed. Sadly we can't really see the eyeballs, but I'm going to pretend they're there.
MOTIVATION: another contender for the saddest. Slime can speak, but mostly only expresses surprise that anyone can see it, believing itself to be totally invisible. This monster's sole desire is to hide from all other monsters, hence a semi-transparent form that can squeeze into tight spaces, and at one point even takes over a human corpse as a disguise! Monsters don't normally attack their own, however, so it didn't even need any special abilities to be safe from its own kind. What it's not safe from are humans, who end up burning it, perhaps understandably, because they simply can't know if it will always remain gentle.
...As a human, however, this monster was only around five or six years old.
Protein MonsterThis fan favorite is a ridiculously buff and muscular ogre-like hulk
with a disturbingly small, happy humanoid face, empty black eyes and
mouth usually smiling almost like one of those comedy masks. It later gets an "evolution," but simply grows bigger, redder and even more muscular.
Ruiz designed the live action take on this monster as well, and got to keep a more comic-accurate look, though admittedly this one already had a humanlike face.
MOTIVATION: a bodybuilder, obviously, not just from its appearance but the fact that it only really says one word: "PROTEIN!" And in this quest for protein, it's one of the only monsters that goes out of its way to kill and eat other monsters, devouring loads of them before it's finally put down. Until then, unfortunately, it also seems to find human flesh even more appealing.
The Garage Monsters When a few of our survivors hope to escape out the parking garage, there are several monsters for them to deal with first. One of these is a humanoid with a chunky body, thin limbs, and an upside-down face on its chest, which you can see from behind here.
Another of these monsters is a shapeless, blobby mass of dark grey flesh with multiple pinkish eyeballs, as well as a couple of remaining hands and feet.
Finally, we have an absolutely wonderful snail-like monster. It at first appears to have withdrawn completely into its armadillo-like shell, but as one survivor smashes it, it turns out the occupant has left it behind as a decoy!
...The real snail monster is as adorable and lovable as you could have imagined, a doughy slug with stalked eyes, dangling human limbs, and a lamprey-like maw hidden under its mantle. It's hard to guess what might have driven someone to become the earlier humanoid or the multi-eyed blob, but I'd say the snail was someone who just wanted to relax and take it easier.
It's too bad that while the garage scene does occur in the Netflix show, all we really see are a bunch of humanoid CG ghouls with slightly odd arms and legs. But with that, we've now covered virtually all monsters that appeared, or should have appeared, in the first run of the TV series. It's just that this isn't even half of the total monsters introduced by the comic.
Meanwhile, you can now catch Season 2 of "Sweet Home" on Netflix or wherever you might watch something you were supposed to watch on Netflix. I mentioned that it seems to diverge a bit more from the comic, but by how much? I guess I'll have to try and catch up by Part Two of this review feature.
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