‘Revenant’ writer on the horror genre: It taps into our innermost fears | Inquirer Entertainment

‘Revenant’ writer on the horror genre: It taps into our innermost fears

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:15 AM June 30, 2023

‘Revenant’ writer on the horror genre: It taps into our innermost fears


It says a lot about the popularity of a screenwriter when his or her latest TV series is greeted with as much anticipation and enthusiasm by K-drama aficionados as the celebrated actors who bring its story to life.

Such is the case of Kim Eun-hee, writer of the Korean series “Revenant,” starring Baeksang Arts Award winners Kim Tae-ri (“The Handmaiden,” “Mr. Sunshine”), Oh Jung-se (“When the Camellia Blooms,” “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”) and Hong Kyung (“Innocence”). Eun-hee is also the award-winning screenwriter of the fan-fave series “Kingdom,” “Signal” and “Signs.”


The occult horror-mystery thriller, which began streaming on Disney+ last Friday and Saturday and will drop its latest episodes today and tomorrow, is a chilling tale about demons, death and the dangers of the occult.


Directed by Lee Jeong-lim and Kim Jae-hong, the gripping series follows Gu San-yeong (Tae-ri), a perpetually cash-strapped young woman who finds herself entangled in a series of cold cases, suicides and mysterious deaths after inheriting a red hair accessory from her late estranged father.

Helping San-yeong figure out the reason behind the sinister events hounding her is Yeom Hae-sang (Jung-se), a folklore professor who has the ability to see the demons that hold sway over mere mortals’ existence.

Supernatural elements

With some help from Lee Hong-sae (Kyung), a cop assigned to the Violent Crime Investigation Unit, San-yeong and Hae-sang must uncover a demonic doorway and break the curse that has destroyed both their families and claimed the lives of five men in seemingly unrelated but increasingly bizarre cases.

When we spoke to Eun-hee in a one-on-one chat last Monday, we noted that the writer’s biggest critical and commercial successes have fielded stories and themes that are made more appealing by their supernatural or fantastical elements.

Eun-hee smiled when we asked where her fascination for the occult and the macabre is coming from.

“We can’t talk about the supernatural things that happen in my past works without discussing ‘Signal’ or ‘Kingdom,’” she said. “The reason for incorporating supernatural events and themes in my various works is different for each show.


“In ‘Signal,’ for example, I wanted to deal with unsolved crimes, like murder. But if I only focus on those cases, that could be very hurtful for the victims’ bereaved families because of their unresolved status. So that’s why I added a walkie-talkie into the story, which gave the production its fantastical aspect.

“For ‘Kingdom,’ I wanted to maximize the idea of hunger and its various permutations, so it could be in a form of emotional or physical hunger. That’s why I added zombies into that drama.

“In the case of ‘Revenant,’ I wanted to mix demons with the youth. Because these are often [impressionable] individuals who can be swayed very easily. They still don’t have a clear direction as to where they want to go.

“I thought if I added a sort of demon in their lives, that sinister figure can listen to them, give them whatever they desire, and influence the kind of decisions they make. Will they choose to coexist with the demon or do away with it? Truth is, I don’t really know why I keep adding these fantastical elements to my shows (laughs).”

Similarities in real life

‘Revenant’ writer on the horror genre: It taps into our innermost fears


When we told Eun-hee how perfectly cast Tae-ri, Jung-se and Kyung seemed, she said that she belatedly noticed how similar the actors are to their characters. But what does she think do they bring to their roles individually?

“I didn’t immediately realize that the characters were actually quite similar to all three actors in real life,” Eun-hee admitted. “For example, I sometimes think Tae-ri could be a rock band vocalist in Korea (laughs) because she’s so feisty and is always full of energy. In that sense, she’s quite similar to her character, San-yeong.

“For Jung-se, he’s always trying to explore things, which is quite similar to the folklore professor he plays here. Instead of taking action, he would rather use his brain to analyze situations.

“As for Hong Kyung, he can sometimes get very confused while figuring things out. He likes delving into stuff because he plays a detective in the show. But instead of running around and chasing someone, he uses his mind to sort things out—that’s what he does all the time!

‘Revenant’ writer on the horror genre: It taps into our innermost fears


“Be that as it may, they all turn in great performances, and I think that’s why ‘Revenant’ has turned out great.”

After telling her that even the show’s supporting actors are appropriately cast in their respective roles, we asked Eun-hee if she writes characters with specific actors in mind.

“It’s a case-to-case basis, really,” she explained. “For ‘Revenant,’ I did have Tae-ri in mind when I began thinking about the script. The actress has to be someone capable of embodying two different personalities. She has to be like a young person who’s living a very tiring life and who is being swayed easily by the outside world. I thought Tae-ri was perfectly cut out for this role.

“So, when I had the subject matter in mind, I met up with Tae-ri and, while I didn’t have the script yet, asked her to wait for me and to please join me in the project.

“As for the other actors. I spoke with the directors who fortunately had very similar ideas as I did as far as casting is concerned. So, apart from Tae-ri, Jung-se and Kyung, we managed to gather a formidable group of actors, including Park Ji-young, Kim Hae-sook, Jin Sun-kyu and Kim Won-hae. They’re such seasoned actors, so I knew that their performances would only make the script even better.”

Irresistible to audiences

In Hollywood as it is in the Philippines, the horror genre is very popular among moviegoers. In her view, what is it about creepy, fantastical tales and horror stories that make them relatable or irresistible to audiences everywhere?

“I actually thought the horror genre was not so popular because people who are scared of ghosts do not watch horror at all,” Eun-hee asserted. “Even some of my close friends would tell me, ‘Sorry, I’m not watching that one because I’m terrified of ghosts.’ And even I am scared of ghosts (laughs)!

“But every time a horror film or thriller comes out, I would often find myself getting very curious about its story. I think it just tickles my imagination or taps into something inside of me.

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“I’ve never really thought so deeply about your question, but now that I think about it, it probably plays into viewers’ innermost fears—so maybe people do enjoy that disquieting sense of danger or fear. Perhaps that’s what makes people want to watch the horror or suspense-thriller genre.”

TAGS: K drama, Revenant, series

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