“Strangers From Hell” is a 10-episode OCN drama that aired its finale on October 6.
The ending was shocking but the buildup sort of gave it away. There remain some fans who have not fully understood “Strangers From Hell” ending and today I am going to explain what exactly happened.
“Strangers From Hell” is one of those dramas that can be seen a culture study, the way I understood it at least. Our protagonist, Jong Woo, comes from a humble background, his brother is sick as the drama implies and his mother relies on him. In previous episodes, she calls him to ask for money for his brother hospital bills. There is no father figure to take care of the family as implied in previous episodes as well. This all plays to shape Jong Woo’s character.
In Korean society, superiority is a huge part of the culture; this means that if you don’t come from a wealthy family or a great background, you’re considered a punching bag. Jong Woo struggled with that and seems to harbor hatred to society and to certain people that he still deems below him. His sunbae who finds him a job is only interested in connecting with his girlfriend; he mistreats him and steps on him whenever he gets the chance.
He is also left feeling isolated, misunderstood by his peers and neglected by his girlfriend who refuses to take him seriously or even listen to him. He has no figure to rely on because of his family difficult circumstances, he’s left to deal with it all alone and it broke him.
It is hinted throughout the show that Jong Woo has deep mental issues. In certain scenes of the drama you see him imagining beating someone to death before snapping back to reality. He shows glimpse of his deranged mind here and there throughout the drama runtime.
There is the incident that happened during military service that deeply affected him and shaped his character, while on the exterior he can be considered quiet and timid, when he’s pushed to a corner he snaps. Instead of expressing his anger as each situation comes along, he suppress that for the sake of ‘seniority’ or respect to elders/those in power. Due to that, he’s considered the type of character that doesn’t often get angry but when he does, he wreaks havoc.
If you’re asking how all of this plays into the fiasco that is the ending, it’s because it’s a combination of things that led to the ultimate showdown, it is what explains why Jong Woo snapped all of a sudden and killed four people when he’s never killed before.
The environment, the pre-existing mental issues and the drugs that the ahjumma gave him all led to this moment, he was a ticking time bomb. Moon Jo found that out and groomed him.
To answer the first burning question, yes, Jong Woo killed the four of them and yes, the doctor, Moon Jo (played by Lee Dong Wook) was real. Moon Jo was a cannibal dentist that enjoyed killing people with cold blood and he did it with the help of people at that dorm. He’s a psychopath who can spot one in the making.
Moon Jo had been planting ideas in Jong Woo’s head this whole time knowing how hard he was trying to suppress everything inside him, you can say that he basically groomed him to become a killer before getting killed by his ‘creation.’
I truly believe that deep down Moon Jo thought he could groom him to become his sidekick and that they’d go on killing sprees together. You can also see that he deeply understands his character and his struggles because he’s always watching from afar.
I firmly believe that Jong Woo alter persona killed Eom Bok Soon, Yoo Ki Hyeok and Byeon Deuk Jong, when he snapped back of it, he can’t recall what he’s done. He pictured himself as if he just broke free from the chair and held on to a knife to kill Moon Jo with.
His facial expressions while killing the three others differ from his expressions as he’s fighting Moon Jo, which suggests that developed dissociative identity disorder, his other alter ego is the killer that Moon Jo helped groom, while the humane part of him has always been the timid Jong Woo who only killed in self-defense.
After he kills him, he start hallucinating again thinking that he’s talking to the dead person he had just killed which helps his humane side cope with what he’s just done. That’s when his girlfriend hears him mumbling to himself.
From now on, Jong Woo’s alter ego which is personified by Moon Jo, will make casual appearances to go on a killing spree, he has become Moon Jo. Moon Jo might be dead but he lives on inside Jong Woo’s mind.
For the last scene where Jung Hwa sees Moon Jo its only part of her own imagination, she’s suffering from PTSD due to the traumatic experience. She previously noticed that Moon Jo was stalking her as well.
Some people seem to believe that the detective reaction to this doesn’t make any sense, while I will not try to justify their stupid actions, in retrospective, it’s not like every day you’d stumble on a dorm filled with people who’d slaughter others, this type of goishwan attracts the lowlifes of society that many really don’t care deeply about, hence, if they’d gone missing, not many people would care.
I personally believe the detectives concluded that Moon Jo killed all of them before having a showdown with Jong Woo because it wouldn’t make sense to think someone like Jong Woo would snap and kill all of those people.
When fighting for your life, you’re not thinking about not harming the person in front of you, your survival instincts kick in and all you want to do is survive. This is why detectives will rule Jong Woo actions against Moon Jo as self-defense.
While us viewers knew what happened and how Jong Woo character basically deformed throughout the drama run time, it’s not easy for the average human being who has no insight to this whatsoever to conclude that Jong Woo killed them all.
There are many ways to go about explaining the ending of “Strangers From Hell.” It’s a drama that’s filled with metaphors; everyone will interpret it according to their own understanding of the plot. Regardless, I think its an interesting take on the human nature and how circumstances can break or make a human being.
If Jong Woo didn’t have those tendencies to begin with or if he had been in better circumstances that allowed him to leave without having to sacrifice his pride, he wouldn’t have ended up the way he did.
What did you personally think of “Strangers From Hell”?