Hellbound's opening scene is awesome, it is everything a last call to judgment doomsday prophesy should be if one existed. Everything from the cinematography to the directing, the script, the editing, the use of CGI, the extras were well planned and placed. Even the decision to create a doomsday story about dark angels who come to earth to bring sinners to hell. At first sight, the story seems more of a fantasy, when it is much closer to truth than not, especially in the way it births a religious group that's more of a cult, despite it not identifying as one. Even if the dark angels are a fantasy, the story that comes along with them isn't. And that's what makes Hellbound both terrifying and irresistible, because doomsday stories and cults tend to capture the attention of just about everyone.
Most ordinary people go through their daily lives, assuming tomorrow will be like today. No pits of fire will open up, society won't collapse, and the world would likely keep going, as it has for generations before and after. But then there is an extreme view of those who strenuously believe humans have become dreadful in their existence, and that the only way to cosmically correct the world and rid it of the sinful is through doomsday judgment -- angels of God, so to speak. And only those prepared for the end-of-world prophecy, such as the one preached by the New Truth, and Jung Jin Soo (Yoo Ah In), will survive if they lived a proper life. And the most fascinating aspect to me is that religious believers who prepare and believe expect to be among those who will be saved from the torments of an ending world. Secular sinners, on the other hand, should be prepared to die for their sins.
I understood detective Jin Kyung Hoon's (Yang Ik Jun) skepticism and fervent pursuit of New Truth, its arrowhead followers and angels of death predictions, who come for sinners and had them hellbound, no normal human being would believe that. But if history has taught us anything, it is the impact of religious groups/sects such as Peoples Temple, Aum Shinrikyo, Heaven's Gate, Manson Family, Branch Davidian, and the influence they exercise cannot and should not be underestimated. I doubt they thought of themselves as cults anyway. It is debatable whether New Truth is a cult, religious group, or simply a man who uses supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena to exert a form of justice, not that it matters. But the fact remained that no one knew why these creatures of darkness came.
The one thing that is indisputable though is that faith group leaders believe they are saviors of humanity, and one's doomsday is based on their life choices. In a perfect world governed by religion, sinners are bound to hell, while believers are saved from them. A man like Jung Jin So, who is well spoken, charismatic, and claims to have a special connection to God, and who uses religion to rid the world of its filth, would be righteous to the many lost souls who seek purpose in their lives. And if we live in a world governed by religion, that would be ideal, but we don't. We live in a world governed by certain codes and morals that often than not can be easily exploited by the wicked, but manipulating humans using their fear of doomsday judgments doesn't feel any different either.
On the contrary, Jin So acted, sounded and felt like a cult leader who uses God and religion to give his life purpose, and worse, make everyone as miserable as he. I would've appreciated his misery, more if he hadn't falsely tricked so many into believing his lies. The reveal that he received a proclamation that he was bound for Hell in exactly 20 years, despite not knowing what sin he'd committed since he was an obedient child. Not only that, but he never found any evidence of the Hellbound being worse sinners than anyone else. It was all made up, he used God and religion to manipulate the vulnerable, like Jin Hee Jung (Lee Re) Kyung Hoon's daughter into believing revenge over the wicked is righteousness. So in that sense, I can appreciate how Jung Jin So needed to believe in his New Truth, seek to live a more righteous life in the hope it would bring him salvation, it doesn't. All it does is create a far worse evil, discord, and maliciousness.
I commend Yoo Ah In, Park Jung Min, Kim Hyun Joo, Won Jin Ah, Yang Ik Jun, and the rest of the team for their outstanding talent. Yoo Ah In in particular never disappoints. He did an outstanding job projecting the superficial charm and charisma of a cult leader, as a means of disarming people from realizing the true deceptive and controlling nature of Jung Jin So as a messenger of God. He fully embodied the nature of a cult leader incapable of showing genuine love or empathy. Instead, projects superficial love and care for the salvation of humanity to fulfill his own personal gain and agenda. But rather than a God of salvation, this god he was so invested in seemed like an off-center, unkind sort of character with a bleak outlook on life. Ironically, Jin So was so immersed in his own lies that he pretended to forget that he too was hellbound and more of a sinner than those he carelessly condemned. The murderers, rapists, cheaters, and everything else.
What I like most about Hellbound is its thought-provoking messages and the many questions it raises, but it also answers a life-long question many ask -- who and why would fall for the garbage spewed by someone like Jung Jin So and the New Truth? And the answer is much simpler than expected. People of all backgrounds and statues are attracted by the simplicity a cult or religious sect offers. The world is a tough place, and for many, the line between delusion and what the rest of the world believes can be easily blurred, especially for those who perceive the world as doomed. And it's the reason why many join cults, not that they join it believing it's a cult, but because they are offered solutions, answers, a road-map for the meaning of life, something they've struggled to understand or accept becomes an open book.
Everything from the nature of good vs. evil, God, religion, the meaning of life, family, law and punishment, is what people seek to understand, and religious and numerous other groups are skilled at providing the simple answers that make sense, an exact opposite to life-long struggles. It's how they can exploit the weakness of others and promote an illusion of comfort, unconditional love, unbreakable bond, and salvation from projected catastrophic events. Hellbound brought to the forefront the thinking that the less control people feel over their circumstances, the more likely they are to entrust their fates to a higher power. A former cult member said most people have no idea the organization they enter is a cult, and neither do they realize a cult isn't necessarily religious, it could be political, business, lifestyle cult, or a combination thereof.
Cults are beautifully packaged to look like something quite different from the outside. By the time people figure out what they’ve actually bought into, their whole life is committed to serving the cult community. The message I take from this drama, despite it leaving me with many unanswered questions, is that nothing is sacred. One should question everything, trust their gut when something doesn't make sense or is too good to be true. People should follow that instinct, not only about cults, but everything in life, because cult-like mentality and behavior exist in many areas of life, besides religious sects or groups. It's in the corporate world, ethnicity, culture and traditions, society, in characteristics shared by groups, the internet, and much, much more. Watch Hellbound here.