‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Contestants Allege ‘Inhumane’ and ‘Cruel’ Conditions
More horror stories are emerging from the set of Squid Game: The Challenge, Netflix’s forthcoming reality competition based on its global hit Squid Game.
Previously, The Sun reported that on-set medics had swung into action after contestants had to hold statue-like poses for nearly 30 minutes in a freezing airplane hangar. Now Variety has first-hand accounts from former contestants.
Per Variety, a game of “Red Light, Green Light” filmed in freezing conditions in a former Royal Air Force hangar in Bedford, England, on January 23 and culled around half of the reality competition’s 456 contestants — and the game took some of the contestants nearly seven hours to film. Additionally, Variety reports, some of the contestants collapsed during the filming of that game.
“This is not a Bear Grylls survival show,” one contestant, anonymized with the fake name John, told the magazine. “If they had told us it was going to be that cold, no one would have gone through with it.”
Another contestant, referred to as Marlene, said that she didn’t see anyone carried away via stretcher, as had been previously reported in the media. “But it’s definitely not as minimal as is being conveyed by Netflix,” she added. “It’s not like we signed up for Survivor or Naked and Afraid,” she said. “The conditions were absolutely inhumane and had nothing to do with the game.”
Marlene also said that the contestants were told that they’d have to freeze for two minutes when the music stopped during that game — but later found herself holding the same frozen position for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 26 minutes, by her count.
“The second time the song played, I saw in my left peripheral vision that this girl was swaying. Then she just buckled, and you could hear her head actually hit the ground,” Marlene said. “But then someone came on the [microphone] and said to hold our positions because the game is not paused. After that, people were dropping like flies.” (Marlene also estimated that medics were called to the set 11 times, a figure that sources close to production denied to Variety.)
“I’m infuriated by the narrative that Netflix is putting out there, that only [a few] people were injured…we were all injured just by going through that experience,” said a third contestant, referred to as Jenny, told Variety.
“I’ve never been that cold for that long a period in my life. We couldn’t feel our feet or our toes. It was ridiculous. Take some responsibility for the fact that you were ill-prepared for this kind of thing, with this number of people,” Jenny added, tearfully.
Meanwhile, anonymous contestants told Rolling Stone that the game was rigged. “It was just the cruelest, meanest thing I’ve ever been through,” one said. “We were a human horse race, and they were treating us like horses out in the cold racing and [the race] was fixed.”
In a statement to Variety, Netflix and production companies Studio Lambert and The Garden said, “We care deeply about the health of our cast and crew, and the quality of this show. Any suggestion that the competition is rigged or claims of serious harm to players are simply untrue. We’ve taken all the appropriate safety precautions, including aftercare for contestants — and an independent adjudicator is overseeing each game to ensure it’s fair to everyone.”