With its charismatic and modern take on musogin (lit. people who practice shamanism) culture, Sell Your Haunted House ended its 16-episode battle with ghosts last June 09– earning an admirable 4.4% (part 1) and 5.5% (part 2) nationwide viewership for its two-part finale. In this Weekend Binge review, GwenchaNoona takes a look at what made this supernatural drama so appealing.
Real Estate is complicated enough as it is...but when you add in unrested spirits and possible bloodshed? It gets even more grueling to sell your property. So Daebak Realty offers these poor unfortunate souls their service! The owner and mudang (practitioner of shamanism) in charge, Hong Ji-Ah (Jang Na-ra, The Last Empress) continues to send unrested spirits to the afterlife in her quest to give the same reprieve to the unrested spirit of her mother. To do so, she must find a strong psychic to help her. Enter, Conman Extraordinaire Oh In-beom (CNBLUE's Jung Yong-hwa, The Package), who makes his living by pretending to be a paranormal detective and scientist. Constantly on the move to forget his tragic past that stemmed from his strong psychic abilities, Oh In-Beom's path crosses with Hong Ji-ah during an exorcism. Slowly, Ji-ah and In-beom realize that the memories that haunt them are one and the same. How will these two unravel the mystery of their past together?
A few years ago, during one of my YouTube rabbit hole moments– I came across the concept of Japan's Jiko Bukken (lit. Stigmatized Property). Jiko Bukken are houses or properties where the previous owner or occupant died in a violent or horrific manner– these include suicide, murder, and accidents. Under Japanese real estate law, these properties are sold or rented at extremely cheap prices and can only be resold or rented at the standard price after a tenant or owner has successfully lived in the property without any further accident or death. Before even attempting to sell or rent a Jiko Bukken, real estate agents must disclose the messy and horrifying details of the property. This may be because Japanese people (and Asians in general) strongly believe in supernatural entities such as ghosts, poltergeists, and many more. I find it so fascinating that a strong belief in the supernatural actually made it into the legal system of Japan. Sadly, despite my search (a very short googling session), I was not able to dig up any similar laws in South Korea.
But K-dramaland has finally noticed the connection between real estate and the supernatural– and the end product is a refreshing but familiar story. While Mudang dramas aren't exactly a new concept, Sell Your Haunted House takes the concept of Jiko Bukken and cuts out the middle man (because why do we even need a middle man like the government? *rolls eyes*) and tells the story of a Mudang Real Estate agent who kicks ass while sending spirits to the great beyond (and of course, profiting from real estate listings).
The main character, Hong Ji-ah's strength comes from a mixture of physical prowess, supernatural abilities (such as being able to absorb the memories of the spirit. What an awesome touch!), and modernized mudang gear. Gone are the clunky two handed swords and paper talismans-- instead, we are treated to the amusing sight of mengdu (ritual device) needle shooting nail guns, ritual hair bingyes, and aesthetically pleasing crystal talismans. It's a millennial mudang's pinterest come to life! At the center of it is Jang Na-ra's fine portrayal of an aloof, jaded, but caring mudang ready to use these modernized weapons. Going beyond her impressive acting skills– the physicality and emotional toll needed to be Hong Ji-ah makes it an even more impressive acting feat.
But Jang Na-ra isn't the only reason to watch this series. Sell Your Haunted House's male lead, Jung Yong-hwa, also does not disappoint. A brash smooth-talker, Oh In-Beom balances out Hong Ji-ah's aloof and cold demeanor. They are a perfect combo to insert comedic relief in a dark and moody series such as Sell Your Haunted House. What I really liked was how the producers wove Oh In-Beom and Hong Ji-ah's backstories together. It feels natural (as natural as it can be when ghosts are involved) and engages the curiosity of viewers. His Tom and Jerry like relationship with Hong Ji-ah is both entertaining and endearing at the same time.
While it helps that the two main leads performed well, I was also pleasantly surprised that Sell Your Haunted House had a fleshed-out world and story with interesting supporting characters. Each exorcism is interesting and unique with the added bonus of imparting valuable insights and lessons in life. The vengeful spirits also show us the dark and gritty reality outside of the series-- showing inhumane and unjust actions that humans are capable of.
Just like anything that has to do with ghosts and vengeful spirits, Sell Your Haunted House's core concept is about revenge and forgiveness. Each unrested spirit's story gives a piece of insight into how people get unstuck and move forward. To quote the awesome mengdu craftswoman / supplier "The way to avoid becoming an unrested spirit is to express your gratitude when you're thankful, to apologize when you've done wrong, and to always show affection to those you love." A lesson that becomes more valuable as we continue to move forward in these difficult moments.
STREAM: If you love supernatural/mudang dramas and movies, action packed scenes, and good visual effects. Also stream if you've been waiting for our ladyboss, Jang Na-ra's comeback.
SKIP: If you have a low tolerance for horror (although, this can be classified as Horror Lite) or if you're looking for a darker and grittier series (and if that's the case, let me point you to The Possessed )