One of the best and most unexpected surprises of 2021 has to be KBS’ Sell Your Haunted House (대박부동산/Daebak Real Estate). Jang Nara will leave you in awe as an exorcist who rids wayward spirits from real estate properties to help prospective sellers. The quirky logline, however, does not do justice in describing this thrilling, emotional, thought-provoking and fun series.
Jang Nara is Hong Ji Ah who runs Daebak Real Estate. She specializes in helping sellers take care of wayward spirits haunting properties. Treating this special gift as simply a job that was passed down to her, she soon begins taking a little more care in the cases she takes on after meeting swindler Oh In Bum (Jung Yonghwa).
Oh In Bum and friend Heo Ji Chul (Kang Hong Suk) make money by scamming people into purchasing anti-ghost devices. But they get more than they bargained for when they run into Ji Ah and learn that ghosts are actually very much real and not just the holograms they use to trick their victims.
To perform exorcisms, Ji Ah needs a psychic who the spirits will possess. Only then can she send them off from this world. And unbeknownst to In Bum, he is a psychic himself and a powerful vessel at that.
Tepidly teaming up with each other, Ji Ah and In Bum gain new perspectives on their line of “work” and that in turn helps them try to overcome and understand their painful pasts that may or may not involve each other.
Sell Your Haunted House might give off a certain first impression. Indeed, the series begins by jumping right into an in-progress exorcism where Ji Ah casts away an evil spirit. Though only after a heart-pounding battle.
Just within the first minutes, you are treated to a Jang Nara that audiences may not have ever seen before. In her long, successful career, Jang Nara has starred in everything from fluffy romcoms to heavy dramas. But it appears this is the first time we see Jang Nara be a kickass action heroine. And she absolutely delivers.
It is this first impression, seeing Jang Nara engaging in a rough and tumble battle with a violent spirit on a rooftop, that sets up what becomes an unexpected, but thoroughly welcome surprise.
The basic premise of the series may evoke certain preconceptions, most likely surrounding the horror genre. But Sell Your Haunted House turns out to actually be much more than simply fighting off ghosts. And I think it’s partly because of something Korean dramas are so successful at doing.
Sell Your Haunted House is a heartwarming, character-driven thriller. There are scares, there’s edge of your seat action. But there’s thought-provoking and emotional stories as well. Not just with our main characters, but with the various clients of the week and the earthbound spirits who are unable to cross over and truly rest in peace. This ability to blend genres and include just the right amount of emotional depth is something Korean dramas do so well at.
The series’ ability to effectively lay out Ji Ah and In Bum’s own stories and character development while also giving deserved focus and attention to the various characters we will meet in each episode is a major accomplishment. You care about the spirits, their stories and their loved ones just as much as Ji Ah, In Bum and the rest of our main characters.
The kind of depth given to these characters is not something you regularly see on a drama, especially one that does lean heavily on action. But this series does that and it is deserved. Learning about each earthbound spirit and their living pasts as well as meeting the loved ones they left behind, we are treated to a diverse mix of stories that not only support Ji Ah and In Bum’s characters, but offer up different opportunities for interesting vignettes and thought-provoking discussions.
You will find yourself just as affected by a jumpscare as you are with emotional, heartwarming moments. And by the nature of Ji Ah’s work, the series manages to touch upon a fascinating discussion about death and healing in a refreshing and meaningful way.
With the excellent and well-executed writing of what is an intricate plot with procedural aspects, the cast effortlessly brings it to life and in many instances, even elevates the already strong material.
Jung Yonghwa has had some notable lead roles in the past, but he is able to stretch his wings as Oh In Bum. He delivers not just as a charismatic leading man, but as a truly well-rounded, multi-faceted character that requires a wide range of emotions.
Kang Hong Suk as In Bum’s sidekick Ji Chul and Kang Mal Geum as Ji Ah’s trusted secretary and assistant Joo Hwa Jung give equally effective performances with characters who are absolutely integral to the overall plot of the series as well as the character development for both Ji Ah and In Bum.
They lead a rich, ensemble cast that help immerse you in this world. A world that is more than fully realized.
And right at the forefront, again, is an awe-inspiring performance from Jang Nara. She delivers what has to be one of the best performances of the year. Not only because it is unexpected to see a Jang Nara being an all-black-wearing strong, badass exorcist. But also because of the way that she takes everything that she is known and loved for and brings it into this vastly different world that is established in the series.
Jang Nara is regularly complimented for her youthful appearance and it sometimes makes you forget that she has almost two decades of experience in the industry. But as Hong Ji Ah, she is able to show a different side of her with a different kind of character than most people are used to seeing her in. For anyone who has followed her career, or even just watched a drama (or several) of hers over the years, her performance here might be both familiar and a pleasant surprise.
Seeing Jang Nara kick ass and (at least initially) as a cold, sometimes emotionless character might be very different. Yet, she delivers this sort of cool aura and vibe that just reels you in. It’s hard not be captivated by just how badass she can be here.
But Jang Nara’s always emotionally affecting performance and her charm and likeability are some of the welcome hallmarks of her performances. And those qualities are put to excellent use here. She has an effortless ability to express both strength and vulnerability. And as the series and her character’s story unfolds, it is her talent and experience that brings everything together.
It is her truly amazing performance coupled with everything else that makes Sell Your Haunted House one of the most unexpected and one of the best series of 2021. There’s really more than meets the eye when it comes to this series. A fun and fascinating mix of genres, from action to horror to drama and even comedy and romance; the series is able to present an exciting and affecting character-driven story that will leave you on the edge of your seat while also grabbing a tissue for your tears from both laughing and feeling emotional. A complete package and thoroughly satisfying, Sell Your Haunted House is definitely one of the best of the year.