It’s October, and that means it’s time to pull out the scary characters or the disturbing ideas or the things that get your heart racing! I’m not one for gross-out horror when it comes to Halloween–I prefer to be made paranoid and/or terrified rather than disgusted. So here’s a list of my favorite kdrama thrillers, of both the psychological and the physical variety. Maybe I’ll pull one of these out now that the nights are getting longer…
#1 – White Christmas
One of my all-time favorites, so much so that I nearly broke my own classification rules and put it on the full-length list. While the majority of the cast is (sometimes painfully) green, this is an intriguing psychological thriller that turns into the best/worst kind of can-and-mouse game. The cinematography and soundtrack are some of my favorite things about the show, as is the relentless focus on the show’s central question: are monsters born, or are they made? While a few final act plot holes prevent White Christmas from achieving perfection, this cult classic deserves eight hours of your time. (And yes, I will organize another re-watch this year.)
#2 – Two Weeks
I’m a sucker for redemption stories, and Tae-san had such a wonderful character arc that he’s one of the few absent fathers I have ever rooted for. The deadline to his bone marrow donation for his daughter put real weight behind his desperate attempts to evade both the bad guys and the police in order to stay alive (and healthy) long enough to get to the hospital. Over the course of the show, he earned the allies he needed to go from being a panicked fugitive to a trickster ready to bring the villains down. The supporting characters were amazing, I’m genuinely disappointed this drama didn’t end with an OT3. It was so close! #TeamHappyFamily
#3 – Heartless City
If you’re looking for a cops vs. gangsters drama with a dark and gritty noir atmosphere, look no further than Heartless City. From a slick score to brutal fight scenes to corruption on all levels, this drama is an entertaining ride. The biggest draw for this show (aside from the soundtrack and cinematography) is the enigmatic and well-dressed Doctor’s Son and his two closest supporters. While the show does suffer from sidelining its heroine and its sometimes too-convoluted-for-its-own-good plot twists/character reveals, it is one of the best crime-themed kdramas I’ve had the chance to watch. Give it a shot when you need a break from trendy romantic comedies.
#4 Bad Guys
This was definitely the most problematic kdrama I watched in 2014, but I still loved it—even if it was powered by the blood of fridged women. The metaphors could occasionally get out of hand and the censorship fog was pretty ridiculous at some points, but the show was filled with slick action sequences, a twisty plot, and characters that eventually earned your sympathy. Definitely not a show for the faint at heart, but if you can stomach the violence, Park Hae-jin’s and Kiwm Sang-joong’s performances are worth it. Hey, OCN, if you’re going to give us a sequel, can we add another lady to the mix?
#5 – Liar Game
This was a solid adaptation of a manga I never read. Even if I had to rewatch explanations for the games a couple times to make sure I knew how things worked, it was a tightly plotted and quick-moving show. There were some excellent performances all around (including the scene-stealing Lee El). The hero and the antagonist were nicely fleshed out, but I felt like the show sidelined its heroine in order to further the men’s rivalry, which was a shame, because from what I understand, the heroine was the heart of the manga. Ultimately, this show engaged my brain but not my heart—though I wouldn’t say no to a second season.