When Netflix first announced its reality game show Squid Game: The Challenge, the streamer immediately drew pushback from fans of its source material, the 2021 mega-hit scripted South Korean sci-fi thriller about a group of cash-strapped people enticed to play deadly games in the pursuit of prize money.
Still, touting a hefty $4.56 million in prize money, Netflix managed to find 456 British contestants willing to sign the papers and appear on The Challenge. Netflix was also able to parlay its new competition show to its best audience numbers in two months (also read our Netflix ratings roundup here).
But now, two contestants are threatening legal action over alleged injuries they said they suffered during production, including hypothermia and nerve damage.
Express Solicitors, the ambulance-chasing U.K. law firm representing the two unnamed players, said that it had sent letters to Studio Lambert, the co-producer of Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge.
The contestants’ claims mainly center around the Bedford, England-based production's first challenge, “Red Light, Green Light,” where contestants race to the finish line without being caught by a towering motion-spotting doll. It requires players to run when the robot doll is not looking and abruptly stop when the robot faces them.
David Slade, an accident specialist with Express Solicitors, said at least two contestants felt “unwell” after standing or crouching “motionless for hours in cold temperatures,” which led to one contestant suffering hypothermia.
“It was just the cruelest, meanest thing I’ve ever been through,” one former contestant told Rolling Stone. “We were a human horse race, and they were treating us like horses out in the cold racing and [the race] was fixed.”
The freezing conditions resulted in at least 10 people collapsing during the game, reports say, with medics being called as numerous contestants fell to the ground. At least one participant is said to have begun convulsing. Sources alleged that medics took extra time to reach the players because producers were worried about camera shots being ruined.
“People were beating themselves up, including myself, around the fact that you’ve got a girl convulsing and we’re all stood there like statues. On what planet is that even humane?
“Obviously, you would jump and help — that’s what our human nature is for most of us. But absolutely it’s a social experiment. It played on our morals and it’s sick. It’s absolutely sick,” the source added to Rolling Stone.
“They pushed the boundaries of safety in the name of entertainment,” Slade added. “Production companies need to ensure that health and safety standards on their shows don’t leave people at risk of harm.”
The first round of competition was held at Cardington Studios in Bedford. According to Tudum, Netflix’s fan site, conditions were “very cold” during filming. Tudum added that staff distributed hand warmers and placed heaters in tented areas for contestants.
In a statement to Deadline, a spokesperson for the show said: “No lawsuit has been filed by any of the Squid Game contestants. We take the welfare of our contestants extremely seriously.”
Earlier this year, Netflix confirmed that three people received medical treatment while filming the show, but it denied that any of the injuries were serious.
“We care deeply about the health and safety of our cast and crew, and invested in all the appropriate safety procedures," Netflix said in a January statement to CNN. “While it was very cold on set — and participants were prepared for that -- any claims of serious injury are untrue.”
The reality competition is inspired by the South Korean hit series Squid Game, which is Netflix's most-watched show ever over its first 28 days on the platform.
In the game show spinoff, the deaths are fake, with black ink spewing from a contestant’s vest when they are eliminated. Similar to the fictionalized series, the reality series includes 456 players competing against elimination in children’s games.
The first five episodes of the game show premiered last week. The next four episodes are scheduled to be released this Wednesday.
Express Solicitors says it is currently working to speak to other contestants possibly injured during the games.