Busan 2022 Review: CONNECT Sees Miike Takashi Trade J-Horror for K-Drama
A young man, with the ability to heal himself, makes a special connection with a deranged serial killer
Miike Takashi becomes the first Japanese director to dip his toe into the ever-expanding world of K-dramas, helming all six episodes of Disney’s upcoming fantasy horror series Connect. Adapted from Shin Daesung’s webtoon of the same name, this ghoulishly entertaining meld of soap opera and body horror follows a young man (Jung Hae-in), who has his eye stolen by backstreet organ harvesters, only for his errant eyeball to wind up in the skull of a prolific and flamboyant serial killer. The first three episodes of Connect were screened at the Busan International Film Festival ahead of its December debut.
The notion of Miike working abroad within the melodramatic confines of the K-drama format raises a number of tantalising questions right off the bat, not least whether the director of such over-the-top oddities as Ichi the Killer and The Great Yokai War will find himself somewhat muzzled by his new surroundings, or given free rein in a realm that has already started to bare its bloodied teeth with such genre-bending offerings as Hellbound, All of Us are Dead, and of course, Squid Game.
The good news for Miike fans is that Connect goes straight for the throat, and from its opening moments sets the tone with a grisly sequence of dismemberment, that quickly pivots into more supernatural territory as our protagonist’s secret special abilities become immediately apparent. “Connect” as he is known, has the ability to heal at extraordinary speed. No matter what injury he incurs, be it a broken bone or sliced off ear, strange snake-like tendrils emerge from his wounds to reconnect his body, and restore him to full strength.
It is because of this affliction, a burden he has carried since he was a child but whose origins remain a mystery, that he retains a bond with his missing eyeball. Whatever it sees, he can also see, which proves especially traumatic when his eye’s new host starts offing people in ridiculously elaborate fashion. Think The Eyes of Laura Mars in the backstreets of Seoul. As a result, our hero bears more than a passing resemblance to Kitaro, the one-eyed yokai demon boy from Shigeru Mizuki’s hugely influential 1960s manga. It all brings a reassuring symmetry to the show, as Japanese manga influences Korean webtoon, which in turn is adapted into a k-drama by the reigning godfather of J-horror cinema.
Connect is so much more than a foreign field trip for its director, however. K-drama stalwarts have plenty to sink their teeth into too, as the show is also a slyly entertaining police procedural. The cops have their hands full following the appearance of a string of bizarre statues, stone sculptures positioned in elegant classical poses, which conceal, to their horror, the bodies of our killer’s latest victims. From the very first episode, Kim Roi-ha’s lead detective has emerged as a gruff, yet oddly eccentric character. Related to a long line of shamans, he wields an uncanny sixth sense that gives him a nosebleed whenever he cracks a case, which adds an air of humour to their otherwise grim duties.
Surprisingly, the identity of the killer, who appears to be drawing his deranged inspiration from astrological symbolism, is revealed very early on to be Go Kyoung-po’s steely office worker. The show seems more interested in teasing the subsequent stand-offs between him and “Connect”, than in hiding his true identity. It also presents the mouthwatering prospect of a serial killer with a penchant for manipulating the bodies of his victims squaring off against a guy who cannot be killed, no matter how many pieces he is diced into. It’s a set-up that recalls Miike’s 2017 film, Blade of the Immortal, which followed the endlessly violent exploits of a similarly indestructible samurai.
While there is still plenty in Connect that has yet to be revealed, we already know that an underworld consortium is aware of our dismemberable hero’s existence and recognises the monetary value of his gift. Similarly, Kim Hye-jun’s mysterious heroine Irang has emerged from the shadows on more than one occasion already to offer him assistance. She claims to be researching rumours of his condition for an upcoming novel, but one suspects that she represents something much larger, but as yet unrevealed.
On the basis of what we have seen thus far, Connect is hugely entertaining. Despite working with an entirely Korean cast and crew Miike seems totally at ease, as the story dances nimbly from fantastical violence to mundane office romance, to everything inbetween. With the script already tossing viewers a host of twists and surprises, it is anyone’s guess where Connect will take us next, but with Miike at the helm, we know it’ll be a ride worth taking.