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HomeBollywood'Train To Busan' Director Yeon Sang-ho Talks 'Parasyte: The Grey'

‘Train To Busan’ Director Yeon Sang-ho Talks ‘Parasyte: The Grey’

From zombies in Train to Busan to the supernatural forces in Hellbound and parasitic creatures in Parasyte: The Grey, Korean director Yeon Sang-ho‘s oeuvre of work has conjured fantastical monsters to launch dark, searing critiques of the evil that lurks in humanity’s midst.

Yeon’s latest Netflix series, Parasyte: The Grey, is an adaptation of a popular manga titled Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki, which was published by Kodansha from 1989 to 1994. Premiering on the streamer tomorrow (April 5), the six-episode thriller stars Jeon So-nee (When My Love Blooms), Koo Kyo-hwan (D.P., Escape from Mogadishu) and Lee Jung-hyun (Decision to Leave, Peninsula).

Yeon read Parasyte in his youth and refers to himself as a seong-deok, a Korean slang term for a “successful fan” (a long-time fan who eventually meets their idol). In Parasyte: The Grey, a young woman named Su-in (played by Jeon) is caught between her humanity and a parasitic influence, while a team called The Grey, led by Jun-kyung (played by Lee), is determined to hunt down and eradicate these parasitic organisms. “Back then, I remember thinking about how this took place in Japan and what would happen if the same thing happened in Korea,” Yeon told Deadline. “It all really started from my imagination of loving the manga so much.”

After watching Jeon So-nee in several independent films, working with her was had been on Yeon’s radar for several years. In Parasyte: The Grey, he also reunites with Koo Kyo-hwan and Lee Jung-hyun, after working together on the Train to Busan sequel Peninsula in 2020.

On Koo’s casting, Yeon said that he needed someone who could be funny and entertaining to provide some comic relief to balance Parasyte: The Grey‘s dark drama. “I thought that he would be a great contrast to the main character, who tends to be a more gloomy and serious character,” he added. “The character that Kyo-hwan plays is almost like a messenger between the two extremely different characters of Su-in and Jun-kyung.”

In the early stages of development, Yeon initially wanted to adapt Parasyte into a Silence of the Lambs type of thriller. “I was planning for a graver, more serious tone and something from a crime-investigation-thriller genre,” Yeon said. “However, I thought that the reason why the original manga was so appealing had a lot to do with its main hero structure, so the idea evolved away from a crime and investigation type of storytelling towards more of a hero- and character-driven storyline.” In this adaptation of the manga, Yeon also opted for a more serious, adult world, instead of the manga’s original high school setting.

“With Parasyte: The Grey, I had this firm idea that it should not be about the fight between parasitic organisms and human beings,” said Yeon. “I came to the conclusion that any being that is willing to sacrifice others for their own gain is really the true evil. Turning a critical eye to the current society we live in, I asked myself, ‘Do these organizations that have been formed under the premise of protecting individuals, really do that job? Are they really there to protect individuals?’”

The Netflix series also required a substantial amount of visual effects work to express the transformation of humans into parasite-infected monsters, which pushed Yeon to take a different approach with his directing craft. “It is not an easy task directing something that you can’t see but I tried to help the actors to imagine what’s going to happen,” said Yeon.

“I think that I’m pretty good at creating sounds of things. For example, if we were to do a radio drama, you can’t see anything but with just the sounds, you have to tell the story. I used a lot of sounds to explain what I’m envisioning to the staff and to the actors, which was the fastest way for them to be on the same page and understand where I was going.”

The series is the latest from the Netflix Korea production line that is being underpinned by a massive $2.5B content investment over coming years following the success of Squid Game.

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