‘Like a war zone’: Squid Game reality TV spin-off delivers a real-life freezing nightmare

Squid Game's 456 reality TV contestants are playing for an incredible $6.45 million, much less than the fictitious Korean runaway success.

Squid Game's 456 reality TV contestants are playing for an incredible $6.45 million, much less than the fictitious Korean runaway success. Photo: Netflix

Netflix’s unscripted reality TV game show Squid Game: The Challenge, based on the enormous success of the 2021 Korean thriller series of the same name, has come under fire during the first day of filming in the UK.

In a mild case of life imitating art, up to five contestants reportedly suffered minor injuries including frostbite and had to be treated after filming the infamous Red Light, Green Light sequence with the giant, scary doll with guns for eyes, Young-hee.

British tabloid The Sun, which reported the news, described players collapsing – not being murdered – from frostbite and minor injuries as Britain’s cold snap saw temperatures plummeting to -3°C.

Same as the show, 456 contestants – including Australians – were flown to the UK, put up in London hotels, and secretly bussed to Cardington Studios, a former RAF base near Bedford for the series.

The game changer in this case?

Up for grabs is a whopping $6.45 million.

“Even if hypothermia kicked in, then people were willing to stay for as long as possible because a lot of money was on the line. Too many were determined not to move so they stood there for far too long.

“There were people arriving thinking they were going to be millionaires, but they left in tears.

“It was like a war zone. People were getting carried out by medics, but we couldn’t say anything. If you talk then you’re out,” sources told the tabloid on January 25.

Netflix denied reports anyone was seriously injured, and issued a statement to Variety, saying they cared deeply about the health and safety of the cast and crew.

“[We] … invested in all the appropriate safety procedures.

“While it was very cold on set – and participants were prepared for that – any claims of serious injury are untrue,” it stated.

Everyone gets out alive

The challenge is based on the age-old, children’s game of “statues”, where players try to make it across a finish line to win, and they have to stand completely still when the person playing “it” turns around. If a player moves, then they are out.

In the first R-rated Squid Game episode in 2021, the giant, killer doll – aka “the curator” – swivels her head around and shoots players who were moving.

It was particularly effective as unsuspecting players had no idea they would be killed off if they lost the game.

And so the reality TV contestants, always shocked at what producers ask them to do on set, had to stand inside a disused aircraft hangar for hours on end in freezing temperatures.

They got cold feet, one person hurt their shoulder, another was stretchered off and others had to crawl to the finish line, The Sun reported.

“Some people couldn’t move their feet because it was so cold.

“You could hear someone yell ‘medic’ and the crew would rush on. We ended up standing there for 30 minutes between takes. Some were crawling by the end. At least one was carried out on a stretcher.”

‘All contestants were prepared’

There were no heaters in the shed, and contestants were given two thermals, two socks, a shirt, runners and green tracksuits.

Oh, and “blood vests under clothes which burst automatically” if a player was caught moving to make it look like the contestant was shot.

Hundreds were eliminated in the first round while survivors stayed in bunk beds at the studio.

“Netflix, Studio Lambert and The Garden takes contributor care as one of its highest priorities and regular toilet breaks, water and food are categorically standard practice on production,” Netflix wrote.

“All contestants were prepared by production several weeks ago that they would be playing a game in cold conditions and participated knowing this.

“All precautions were taken to ensure the game was played safely,” Netflix stated.

The reality show continues next month, according to The Sun.

At the time it announced the spin-off series in June, Netflix said: “The stakes are high, but in this game the worst fate is going home empty handed.”

The death doll features again

The scripted drama holds the record as Netflix’s most popular series of all time, breaking records with more than 1.65 billion viewing hours in the first 28 days after its September 2021 premiere.

At its peak, Squid Game was the No.1 show in 94 countries, with 95 per cent of its viewership coming from outside Korea.

On June 12, Squid Game was officially renewed for season 2 as Netflix and director Hwang Dong-hyuk confirmed they were once again joining forces.

At the time, ironically, a 10-second teaser for the new season featured a close-up of Young-hee, and will introduce Young-hee’s boyfriend, Cheol-su.

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