Debuting to Rave Reviews, Chinese Drama ‘The Bad Kids’ Cuts Deep

Directed by a former punk rocker, the wildly popular psychological thriller is driven by complex characters, including three children who inadvertently film a cold-blooded murder.

It’s a pristine day, and substitute math teacher Zhang Dongsheng is out for a hike with his elderly in-laws. As they stop for a rest at a craggy overlook, Zhang whips out a large camera and motions for the couple to pose as they’re seated together on a boulder against the backdrop of a cloudless sky. The soft-spoken younger man moves closer to adjust their posture and suddenly — as if momentarily possessed — shoves them from their perch, sending them tumbling to their deaths.

“Dad! Mom!” Zhang screams in feigned horror before the scene cuts to the series’ eerie opening credits sequence.

So begins “The Bad Kids,” the English title for a wildly popular new series whose Chinese name translates to “Hidden Corners.” The web drama, which concluded with its 12th and final episode Thursday, is the directorial debut of Xin Shuang, a punk rocker-turned-entrepreneur-turned-screen director.

Since its first episodes were released on China’s Netflix-like video platform iQiyi in mid-June, “The Bad Kids” has earned sweeping praise for its plot, cinematography, casting, dialogue, pacing, and soundtrack. It’s also generated wide-ranging online discussion on human nature due to the psychology and complex motivations of its characters.

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” star Zhang Ziyi on Thursday praised the show as one of the first Chinese dramas she’s seen that rivals American and British productions in terms of quality. On IMDb-like review platform Douban, “The Bad Kids” has an impressive aggregate rating of 8.9 out of 10 based on over 440,000 reviews.

“At 12 episodes in length, it’s just right, worth a watch,” she wrote, alluding to the drama being far shorter than the genre’s usual 50 or 60 episodes. “Remember, everyone, to not become a slave to your own emotions — otherwise, the pain you feel in your life will only multiply.”

“The Bad Kids,” which is based on a Chinese novel of the same name, revolves around three children who accidentally record the show’s shocking first scene from afar and the math teacher, Zhang, as their lives intertwine in the coastal city of Zhanjiang in southern China. As the plot progresses, Zhang’s motivations for the murder slowly unravel, more murders take place, and one of the kids — Zhu Chaoyang, a math whiz seventh-grader from a broken family— gradually begins to understand, and even emulate, his homicidal teacher.

“Is there anything you’re terrified of losing?” Zhang asks Chaoyang later in the series. “Sometimes, for the sake of these things, we end up doing things we never wanted to do.”

News of the series spread quickly after its release thanks to the haunting opening sequence, which some online have described as “possibly the most frightening moment in a Chinese drama.” Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.