October 7, 2012

Filthy Review - 'Bedevilled'

Bedevilled (2010)

Review by Jude Felton

If I wanted to describe the Korean flick Bedevilled in a short and simple manner, I would just say that it is a revenge flick. That would really be a disservice to this incredibly bleak and brutal exercise in terror. It is a horror film, yet it is also a drama, in fact it doesn’t fit neatly into any category, suffice to say that it is a slow-burning and at times harrowing film, which shifts your focus quite cleverly during its running time.

Bedevilled starts off with us joining Hae-won, who works in a bank and is having a rough time of it. She’s snapping at customers and colleagues, and is a witness in an attempted murder case. Eventually her boss has had enough and tells her to take a vacation, in order to get her shit together. It is whilst she is on her enforced vacation that she receives a call from a childhood friend, who asks her to come visit her.

Hae-won’s friend, Kim Bok-nam, lives on a remote island, and it becomes quite apparent as soon as she arrives there that something is not quite right. The island’s matriarchal figure looks down with disdain on all the younger woman there, and the few men that are there seem to have free reign to do as they please.

It soon becomes quite clear that Kim Bok-nam’s husband is a low-life piece of trash, and he treats his wife with nothing but disrespect. This filters down to Kim Bok-nam’s young daughter, who will try anything to get some love from her adoptive father. This is because it is eventually revealed that Kim Bok-nam’s daughter is not her husband’s natural daughter due to events earlier in her life, and the resentment is clear to see.

What Bedeveilled manages to do, quite cleverly, is make you think that the film is about Hae-won, and it is to a certain degree, although the focus turns to Kim Bok-nam without you really noticing it, and it is with Kim Bok-nam in which the gritty meat and bones of the story eventually explodes on screen.

Patience is very much the key to enjoying, or appreciating, this film, as it spends the majority of the first half building up the story without too much really happening. There are incidents here and there, that hint at what is to come but for the most part it plays out as a family drama. When Bedevilled does finally snap, and snap is the right word, it comes at you with sudden fury and copious amounts of claret. Events get very brutal, very quickly, and on more than one occasion I was surprised at what came at me off the screen.

There is a raw savagery about this film that is truly unrelenting once it hits, and from here on in you know that there is no going back. Bedevelled is a film of contrasts; the almost sedate early pacing of the film, coupled with the gorgeous cinematography, through to the unbridled savagery of the latter half. It is a film that will drain you, and although it is fairly bleak, and at times shocking, it isn’t the sort of film that will leave you hating life.

The key to your enjoyment though, as I mentioned, is really having the patience to appreciate the build-up of events. It’s not in the vein of something like I Spit on Your Grave, where the crime and punishment is obvious to see; instead it plays with you as a viewer, leading you in this direction and that, before finally going in for the kill.

Director Cheol-soo Jang has delivered, in his debut feature, a beautiful and harrowing film that works well for the majority of its running time. There is the odd occasion where I questioned certain actions, which I won’t spoil here, but on the strength of this film I am eager to see what he delivers next.

Bedevilled is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Well Go USA on October 9th.

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