Mukbang: comedy horror short focus on obsession leading to blackmail and manipulation

Alex Magaña, “Mukbang” (2022)

Originating in South Korea, mukbang is an Internet-based audiovisual broadcast or blog in which the host eats various quantities of food while interacting with his/her audience. In this short horror film, Carly (Becky Bush) hosts her own mukbang blog in which she gobbles huge amounts of food while timing herself on a mobile phone, its screen displayed to the audience. Carly’s roommate (Juliette Cecil) treats Carly’s obsessive hobby with amusement. After one session in which Carly eats 20 packs of Korean fire noodles in ten minutes, thus claiming to have broken the online record of 15 packs, she receives texts from an unknown viewer who accuses her of cheating and who threatens to make public the video evidence. Though Carly discovers the hidden bug, the viewer still threatens to expose her publicly – so Carly is forced to repeat her episode while streaming live.

Astute viewers will guess before the end of the video who it is who blackmails Carly – but too late, Carly has already done too much damage to herself. We never find out exactly what Carly did to herself – we are left to guess it is very gruesome.

The very short minimal style of the video and its sketchy plot imply much more going on in the household than even Carly realises, with a suggestion that Carly’s obsessive self-absorption, as well as being rather shallow, has also stymied her maturation to the extent that she fails to guess who could have put the bug that took the video of her cheating up on the kitchen ceiling light. While the video is slapstick-silly, turning an apparently innocent and light-hearted hobby into a thing of sheer horror, it does raise an interesting question of when a hobby becomes an obsession that makes its hobbyist vulnerable to blackmail and manipulation, and reluctant to go to police even though her privacy has been illegally invaded. The wastage of food, the temptation to cheat and deceive fans, the effect of binge-eating on a person’s health, and the obsessive focus by Carly and her fans alike on competitive eating (while all around us people may be facing food insecurity or are haunted by starvation and malnutrition) that leads to bingeing and health consequences are other issues to consider.