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Chilling Korean Netflix series 'Somebody' debuts at Busan Film Festival

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Upcoming Netflix series "Somebody," starring Kim Young-kwang and Kang Hae-lim, premiered at the Busan International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Busan International Film Festival/Netflix
Upcoming Netflix series "Somebody," starring Kim Young-kwang and Kang Hae-lim, premiered at the Busan International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Busan International Film Festival/Netflix

BUSAN, South Korea, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- South Korean psychological thriller Somebody, headed to Netflix in November, brings a dark and menacing chill to the search for that special someone.

The eight-part series by noted film director Jung Ji-woo (Happy End, A Muse), debuted at the Busan International Film Festival with its first three episodes on Thursday.

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App developer Kim Sum (Kang Hae-lim) has a hard time making connections in real life, her emotions as flat as her monochromatic outfits and minimalist office decor. Diagnosed with Asperger's, Kim's closest relationship appears to be with an AI chatbot she created while still in high school.

Her programming genius ultimately led to the development of Somebody -- a groundbreaking dating app that has recently been at the center of a police investigation into deaths and disappearances traced back to the platform.

As Kim looks for answers behind the scenes, she encounters a figure with several different online profiles -- the strikingly handsome Yoonoh (Kim Young-kwang) whose gentle demeanor scans as creepy almost immediately (the Jeffrey Dahmer-style eyeglasses don't help).

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The menacing role is a departure for the model/actor Kim, who is the most established performer in the cast, with recent starring roles on the 2021 Netflix dramedy Hello, Me! and the hit action comedy film Mission: Possible.

Soon drawn into the mysterious web are Kim Sum's estranged friend Kieun (Kim Su-yeon), a wheelchair-using police officer in the cybercrimes unit, and Mokwon (Kim Yong-ji), a professional shaman who may have otherworldly abilities.

Through the first three episodes, the series develops at a slow, sometimes meandering pace as it introduces new characters and follows episodic storylines. An unrelenting air of dread hangs over the action like a heavy fog, occasionally erupting in scenes of jarring violence.

Somebody is one of several series premiering at the Busan International Film Festival, which has broadly expanded its lineup of streaming content this year.

Nine series, including seven Korean-language shows, are being screened at the festival, among them Netflix's sci-fi thriller Glitch, which premiered on the platform Friday.

Other debuts include Yonder, a sci-fi fantasy by renowned film director Lee Joon-ik, which will stream globally on Paramount+, and the Disney+ original Connect, Japanese director Takashi Miike's first Korean-language project.

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The festival's embrace of streaming content is a sign of the times, said Joe Cho, communications manager for Netflix in South Korea.

"The borderline between series and films is blurring," Cho told UPI at the Busan fest.

"If you look at our Netflix series, these are made not just by those who used to make TV dramas," he said. "We have great Korean film directors, great Korean writers and film studios."

South Korea has been a key content pipeline to the streaming world, with a massive investment from Netflix resulting in hits ranging from Squid Game to Hellbound to Extraordinary Attorney Woo. Other platforms have also struck gold with Korean content, including Pachinko on Apple TV+ and Snowdrop on Disney+.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Busan is leading the way in bringing the streaming world into the film festival fold.

"Here at the Busan festival, they are very open to creative excellence, regardless of whether it's a film or a series or a documentary," Cho said.

Somebody will premiere on Netflix on Nov. 18.

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