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The 8 Show - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Deo e-i-teu shyo

South Korea 2024

Number of Episodes: 8
Thriller, Drama, Comedy

Han Jae-rim

Ryu Jun-yeol
Chun Woo-hee
Park Jung-min
Park Hae-joon
Lee Yul-eum
Lee Zoo-young
Bae Sung-woo
Moon Jeong-hee

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The 8 Show

The 8 Show - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Jin-so (Ryu Jun-yeol) is in a lot of debt because he took out a loan to give money to an investor, who then ran off with it. He has no way of ever earning enough money to pay back the giant amount as he has not learned any reasonable skill in life. Just when he is about to take his own life, he gets a message on his cell phone. With each additional message, money is being transferred to his account. The messages tell him to get into the limousine that is about to arrive if he is interested in making some money. Since Jin-so has nothing to lose, he rides along and then gets dropped off in front of an old movie theater. There, he is asked to choose a card between 1 and 8 and then he is supposed to join a game. He agrees and has to leave behind all his personal belongings. From then on, he lives in a small room on the third floor of the converted cinema, where cameras are installed everywhere. Each minute he gets 30,000 won and he can buy anything he wants in his room - but for a price a thousand times higher than usual. Soon it turns out that there are also people living on the other seven floors, such as Floor 6 - who is probably a gangster (Park Hae-joon) -, or a slightly crazy woman (Chun Woo-hee) living on the eighth floor. She gets 340,000 won per minute and it turns out that the card the players chose at the beginning decided on what earnings they would get. In the large community hall, there is also a huge screen on which they can see a countdown. As soon as the time runs out, the game ends and everyone goes home with the earnings that are on their personal account by then. So first, the players have to figure out how to earn more time, but once they know the rules, the game gets more and more violent...

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The 8 Show - Film Screenshot 4

Review: For some Netflix viewers, "The 8 Show" will seem like a copy of "Squid Game", but those viewers probably never read any of the various manga or never watched any anime that already dealt with stories like these years before. "The 8 Show" is based on two webtoons and it seems as if the series has not gotten the attention it actually deserves, probably because it was labeled as a "Squid Game" copy and the hype train had already left. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the series works better on a socially critical level, and on closer inspection, the games are also more interesting. Perhaps the biggest problem of the series, and probably the reason not every viewer makes it to the end of the eight episodes, is that there is too much repetition in the middle and that you don't feel like anything is moving forward. Towards the end, however, this changes thanks to several twists, and the first episodes are also very exciting and don't have any unnecessary lengths. So, there is no real justification for the series only receiving mediocre ratings from most viewers. It is often mentioned that the series is too brutal, but this impression is probably due to the fact that some episodes feel like a punch in the gut.

The 8 Show - Film Screenshot 5

Above all, this refers to the socially critical tone. Chance (= birth) made the players choose their card, and with that their social status is determined. Moving up seems impossible, and it becomes repeatedly clear that the lower floors only get leftovers from the top - such as the food. Moreover, Floor 1, played by Bae Sung-woo ("The King") in the most complex and convincing role compared to the rest of the characters, functions as the "sewers". Since he has no specific skills and as there is no toilet in the building, all fecal matter is collected at his floor. The other characters also start to conform to their roles more and more. What is particularly interesting is that the upper floors tend to become the oppressors in the further course. Although the series sometimes plays with expectations, it shows quite clearly what one of the eight players puts in words when she says that she does not feel like herself, but rather like a player who does what is expected of her. The players don't even know their names, instead they call each other by their floor number. This anonymity allows them to let go of certain moral values more easily as they live in a microcosm that is subject only to the rules that they impose on themselves. Apart from the rules of the game, of course, especially the one about the game ending immediately as soon as one of the players dies.

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The latter is probably one of the most intriguing aspects of the series. Unlike "Squid Game", the plot, which is based on the webtoons "Money Game" and "Pie Game", does not focus on getting ahead by counting on the death of other players, but actually focuses on the need of cooperation. However, since the story revolves around inequality in society, which is depicted in the game, cooperation also means exploiting each other. Eventually, you get alliances and rebellion, everything you would expect in a system of inequality, including the vain hope that you could change something about your situation. After some time, the players also realize that they have to entertain the anonymous viewers, about whom we never find out anything (which is a good thing). Early on, Floor 7, portrayed by Park Jung-min ("Deliver Us From Evil"), already starts to think about how to only slowly raise the entertainment level, as an increase in the games' intensity is inevitable. The first episodes are therefore about finding your bearings in the microcosm and understanding all the rules. Then there are the first games and one of the biggest weaknesses of the series comes to light: Some things seem to repeat themselves unnecessarily and you start to wonder if the show still knows in which direction it wants to go or if it is just trying to run out the clock.

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Fortunately, this is not the case, instead, as expected, the series becomes more extreme and sometimes rather brutal, even though you don't have to see an unnecessary amount of blood. Baseball bats being smashed against heads isn't the worst thing you'll have to watch, though. Instead, later scenes are worse, as they include psychological terror and give us a glimpse into the abyss of the human soul. Above all, at the beginning of the game the players gave up responsibility for their own actions and everything they do is for the sole purpose of entertainment. Characters like Floor 8 are particularly sadistic, even though it is obvious right from the beginning that she has some psychological issues. Chun Woo-hee ("Unlocked") shows a completely different side of herself and she clearly deserves great praise for her acting. With Floor 8, however, another problem of the script becomes apparent too, as the individuals are sadly written in a somewhat clichéd manner. Although you quickly get a picture of everyone and you know who you can root for, the decision to preserve the characters' anonymity robs the series of its depth. It would have been much more compelling if we had also gotten a few more flashbacks into the people's past, so that we could compare their behavior in the real world with that within the game. Although we are led to believe at the beginning of each of the eight episodes that a different character stands in the limelight, this is not the case, and we only get some small insight into why that person is participating in the game. Even though some individuals are written rather one-dimensional, they still manage to spark sympathy or antipathy. Floor 2, played by Lee Zoo-young, for example, is a powerful woman, not because it has to fit into some kind of woke agenda, but simply because she is a physically and mentally strong person who never gives up and just happens to be a woman. A very nice touch.

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Another great thing is the fact that reality is presented in a 4:3 format and with very subtle or even dark shades, while the microcosm of the game comes along in 16:9 and bright colors. As expected, director Han Jae-rim ("Emergency Declaration") does an excellent job and even manages to wow us with some pretty original shots, for example when he visualizes the mental breakdown of one of the characters during a torture scene. Unfortunately, the script has some big problems. Some of the players' decisions simply have to be described as stupid. After several days, they have seemingly forgotten about basic rules of the game, so that problems are created where there shouldn't even be any. The epilogue also shows signs of weakness, but only until the whole thing is raised to an interesting meta-level. In the end, you have to respect "The 8 Show" for its general goal and for mostly achieving it: mirroring the existing inequality in society, and, contrary to expectations, doing it with some dark humor. So, some of the rather mediocre ratings can only be explained by the fact that casual viewers, who were enthusiastic about "Squid Game" (I still don't get where its enormous success came from), might have expected something different, maybe something more lightweighted. Despite some undeniable serious flaws, "The 8 Show" is a very entertaining series with some original moments.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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