Korean-style Ghostbusters is both fun…and chilling.
Genre: Supernatural, horror, fantasy, romance, comedy, mystery
Synopsis: Park Bong Pal (played by Ok Taecyeon) is a university student and exorcist who uses his ability to see and touch ghosts to earn money for himself. He teams up with the ghost of a young female student, Kim Ji Hyun (played by Kim So Hyun), who has no recollection of her life as a human.
Despite my dislike for horror shows, I started watching Let’s Fight Ghost because I was drawn to the premise. This turned out to be a delightful surprise as I found myself falling in love with all the characters. Nevermind the scary ghosts, I can just close one eye to that (literally)!
What I love – Bong Pal & Hyun Ji couple!
This drama attracted some controversy in the beginning because of the huge age gap of 11 years between the two leads. Taecyeon, being an idol singer in Kpop group 2PM, has also been criticised for his less than stellar acting skills in past projects, which added to my misgivings. Thankfully, Taecyeon and Kim So Hyun proved their detractors and myself wrong with their sizzling chemistry that made me swoon at their budding romance. Bong Pal and Hyun Ji were quick to admit their feelings for each other after the initial stage of denial, and they became a pillar of strength and support for each other. I appreciated the lack of wishy-washy or makjang moments in their romance, and we were instead treated to saccharine sweet scenes and cute and lighthearted bickering. Even if there were objections to them dating, they still handled the matter rationally without resorting to eloping or moping around like what other couples do in makjang dramas.
They also pulled off their roles convincingly, with Taecyeon looking like an actual student even though he’s nearing 30, and Kim So Hyun managing to look like a lady despite being only 17 years old. This really helped in making me root for them as a couple as I totally forgot about their glaring age gap in reality while watching the show. In fact, I can’t get enough of this duo and I would really love to see them back together on screen again!
What I love – Side characters and cameos!
I can safely say that there wasn’t a single character that I disliked in this drama. Even the villain, played by the dandy looking Kwon Yul who often played gentlemanly roles, was a character that I couldn’t help sympathising with despite him being evil. I’ve only seen Kwon Yul in Let’s Eat 2, and I felt that his character there was a major one in the story but not particularly memorable. But Kwon Yul surprised me by his spine-chilling performance as a menacing two-faced person in this drama.
Deserving special mention are Bong Pal’s hilarious school seniors played with much gusto by Kang Ki Young and David Lee (he was only a kid when I first saw him in Iljimae!). I loved how they were so passionate about investigating the supernatural despite being such cowards, and their strong friendship, which made me wonder if they were actually dating. From parodying the shaman in the movie The Wailing to 2PM, they really brought lots of fun and laughter to the drama, which were welcome deviations from the horror scenes.
Besides Kwon Yul, there were also many familiar faces from the Let’s Eat series who made guests appearances here, since both Let’s Eat and Let’s Fight Ghost were directed by PD Park Joon Hwa. Their cameo appearances added on to the fun, since you never know when they are going to pop up, and whether there will be any overlap between the two drama universes.
What I love – The writing and direction
I’ve seen a couple of Korean dramas involving ghosts, such as Master’s Sun and Arang and the Magistrate, but I’ve yet to see one about exorcism. This show reminds me of the American series Ghost Whisperer, where a lady makes use of her ability to see and speak to ghosts to help them crossover. But Let’s Fight Ghost is unique as it combines comedy, romance and crime mystery. I certainly wasn’t expecting detectives to be involved in this drama. Those who are familiar with this genre may find some parts of the story predictable, but I think the mystery is still compelling enough. The initial episodes dealt with separate supernatural cases per episode, which is similar to the format of police procedural dramas, but the characters often learned something about themselves after solving each case, so the show did not seem disjointed. It also helps that there was an overarching mystery to serve as a connecting thread throughout the series. I especially loved episode 15, which was so intense that it felt like a movie.
Maybe because this was aired on cable, the director really beefed up the horror element with creepy music, having the camera creep up on characters, and scary-looking ghosts (the make-up/CGI was so good I had to turn my eyes away from the screen at times). These days, I find myself feeling cautious when walking around my house at night. Although I would love to re-watch this drama for the characters and the mystery, the horrifying ghosts will make me hesitate to do so.
A personal note about Director Park Joon Hwa — he seems to have this uncanny ability in spotting potential in rookie or less popular actors, and helping them develop into better actors. Both Yoon Du Joon (who starred as the lead in the Let’s Eat series) and Taec Yeon are better known for being idol singers, and they do not have much acting experience as compared to other idol-actors like Seo In Guk or Lee Joon. Even casting a young but talented child-actress like Kim So Hyun as the female lead and Kwon Yul as the villain can be considered adventurous decisions. But the director still trusted his own judgement and gave them the opportunity to lead his shows despite misgivings from the public, and both actors eventually won the audience over by proving their acting abilities. Thanks to him, I will now be paying more attention to the future works of Taec Yeon and Du Joon.
What could have been better…
I can’t really think of any major flaws of this drama, other than slight issues with the pacing. The drama slowed down a little towards the middle as the story shifted its focus away from the usual case-of-the-day to character development and the unravelling of the main mystery, but I never felt bored at any point during the drama.
The comedic moments, especially those featuring Bong Pal’s hilarious seniors, tend to be peppered with comedic cartoonish sound effects that might make the show appear childish to certain viewers, but I had no issues with this though. I thought it was cute.
The last episode was a little drawn out as compared to the action-packed penultimate episode, but at least it wrapped up the show conclusively with a nice ribbon. After seeing so many recent dramas with open endings, I appreciated that things weren’t left hanging in the end. I guess a second season is also highly unlikely, though I wouldn’t complain if there is one.
The ghosts may put off those who are not fans of the horror genre, but it might be worth fighting off those fears to tune in for the compelling romance and mystery and endearing characters. Definitely one of the best dramas I’ve seen this year thus far.