In many ways, this chaotic supernatural thriller from prolific Japanese provocateur Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) lays out the blueprint for Squid Game. Starting with a deadly version of ‘Red Light, Green Light,’ Miike’s film pits school kids against one another in a series of head-splattering playground games. But because Takashi Miike is Takashi Miike, things are somehow more gonzo than in the comparatively thoughtful Squid Game… that means that instead of a shadowy cabal, the ones pulling the strings are vengeful gods operating through enormous, wise-cracking dolls. You’ll never look at a lucky cat statue the same way again.
Last week, audiences all over the world fell in love with Squid Game, an endearingly odd, viscera-soaked South Korean series that took Netflix by storm. The tale of desperate strangers whisked away to a mysterious island and enticed to play a series of deadly children's games – starting with a bullet-riddled game of ‘Red Light, Green Light’ – is an instant global sensation. In fact, it’s now tracking to become the streaming service’s biggest hit of all time, topping Lupin, The Witcher and Bridgerton in sheer numbers.
With its endearing characters and commentary on bloodlust and bureaucracy, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s series seems to have everything audiences were looking for. And apparently, what audiences in every corner of Netflix’s global market wanted was character-driven melodrama, high-stakes survivalism, ultra-stylised dystopian settings and endless geysers of blood.
The series’ popularity makes the Tiger King craze seem tame by comparison. There’s no way Netflix will let its surprise hit be a one-and-done phenomenon, but while we all wait for the next round of Squid Game, there are plenty of films and shows that share its dark and cheeky DNA. The below – a mix of classics, survival sleepers and cult sensations – should keep your bloodlust sated while we await for a return to South Korea’s most violent playground.