Bedevilled (2010)

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Bedevilled (2010)

Cert: 18  Running Time: 115 mins


The latest Korean shocker heads are way in the name of Bedevilled, director Chul-soo Yang’s debut and a tight little nasty tale it is too. What the Korean’s seem to bring to their films is long, drawn out sequences that give you time to think and reflect on what you are witnessing on screen (just look at the films of Kim Ki-Duk). Unfortunately with Bedevilled, what you witness on screen is images you would rather forget. Violence and bullying are never far away in this tale of one woman reaching breaking point and taking action. That woman is Kim Bok-nam (Yeong-hie Seo), she lives on a small island off the Korean coast called Moodo, a quiet place which, according to the regular boatman who brings in supplies and distributes the local honey to the mainland, used to be thriving but has diminished over the years to just nine people living on it. Nine people, some of which have lived there for over fifty years, so it gives an idea of the characters you are about to meet. People who quite literally have NO concept of a normal life in society and instead live by almost vicious values, which are forced on poor Bok-nam with horrific consequences.

Beaten by her husband, bullied and ignored and thought of as a waste of space by the village elders, Bok-nam is unhappy and scared for the wellbeing of her daughter. Her husband constantly either beats her, bullies her or has violent, un-loving sex with her, often in front of their daughter. Bok-nam works bloody hard, but is given no money and no thanks. Her life is shit and she is desperate to reach out to someone, anyone for help. Her child-hood friend, the rather attractive Hae-won (Seong-won Ji) lives in the city of Seoul, not far from the island. Her Grandmother lived on the island, and on visits, her and Bok-nam became friends. Hae-won now works in a busy bank and has no time to respond to Bok-nam’s letters, throwing them out like they don’t mean anything. After witnessing a brutal attack on a girl, Hae-won is called in to identify the attackers and is too scared to do so. Panicking she leaves the police station, only to be threatened by the attackers. This sets off a chain of paranoid events as Hae-won believes one of her co-workers locked her in the toilet to get a job from her. After slapping the girl, Hae-won is told to take a holiday, and decides to head for the island of Moodo.

Moodo is under-developed and has that lost in time feel about it, it is actually a gorgeous setting, and the farming of honey and food all looks rather tempting and friendly. But the dark secrets of  Bok-nam soon come to light after Hae-won has stayed with her for a while. Nothing is ever really witnessed, but it is clear the few men on the island are not nice people at all and suddenly Hae-won realises things are not as happy as she remembers. She is taken in and looked after, but the men just want to sleep with her and a really creepy scene see’s Bok-nam’s husband drug her and climb up her skirt while she is passed out. Disturbing as this scene is, there is a comical element that may sound distasteful, but is done in only the way a Korean movie can. In fact, dark as the subject matter is, comedy runs deep though the film in a non intentional way. There are scenes that you will find funny, but will then feel incredibly awkward at laughing at them. Witness the old lady diving to her death, another old lady crawling over potatoes in fear of her life, the bizarre banter between the locals, Bok-nam and a Police officer who has been called to the island after a tragic ‘accident’. The scene where the husband lifts Hae-won’s skirt and quite literally crawls up her legs is unsettling, but hysterical at the same time in his mannerisms, and is even funnier when Bok-nam catches him!

Comic moments aside, make no mistake Bedevilled needs the comedy to lift the story from its depressing, almost claustrophobic sense of helplessness and loneliness and it works, brilliantly. As the film progresses though, tings do get darker and darker and when Bok-nam starts believing her daughter is being abused, sexually be her husband, it starts to take on an even nastier edge. The beatings are violent and realistic, almost too realistic, and the cold way in which the elders treat Bok-nam starts to really grate at your emotions. We learn some history of an incident between Hae-won and Bok-nam back when they were children which doesn’t bode well for Hae-won, and there are hints that Bok-nam may herself be deranged and obsessive after she ‘touches’ Hae-won in the bath. Basically, Bok-nam needs a friend, a shoulder to cry on and someone to reach out to and she hopes she gets that with Hae-won being there. In all honesty, it would seem the films main driving point is friendship and how you should never ignore a friend’s pleas, no matter how small. It also shows how easy someone can become attached, and then completely detached from reality, and it also shows how everyone has a breaking point and once you reach that point, it can often be hard to go back.

Bok-nam reaches that point in a glorious blaze of violence and cold hearted murder using a scythe as a weapon. You will find yourself cheering the old girl on as she go on a killing spree and takes her revenge after one last incident causes her to lose it. As with all Korean films, the build up to its bitter and twisted end is slow, but involving, concentrating fully on every character and bringing out their full personality before using them to really hit the point home come the end. You feel Bok-nam’s pain, and you also feel her victims pain because, in a way, you have come to know them. Sure, they are stuck in their ways, and they know no different to the way they have been brought up and lived their lives since forever on this strange little island, but justice must be served, and it is served well. Blood flows, and some scenes, even considering what has come before, are slightly hard to watch. Again though, the comedy is still used to keep the level of violence almost tongue n cheek. Bok-nam stabbing someone with a knife in her mouth, or seductively licking the blade of a knife is great stuff to watch, and helps make the film both memorable, and at times haunting. All in all, Bedevilled wasn’t quite the nasty flick I was expecting, maybe it tries a little too hard to get it right, but it is an enjoyable, if at times uncomfortable watch that is well worth your time and effort.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆


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About Matt Wavish 598 Articles
A keen enthusiast and collector of all horror and extreme films. I can be picky as i like quality in my horror. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a classic, but as long as it has something to impress me then i'm a fan. I watch films by the rule that if it doesn't bring out some kind of emotive response then it aint worth watching.

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