Director: Jang Chul-Soo
Writer: Choi Kwang-young
Cast: Seo Young-hee, Ji Seong-won, Park Jeong-hak, Baek Su-ryun, Lee Ji-Eun, Je-Min, Bae Sung-Woo, Jo Duk-Je
Running Time: 115 min.
Well Go USA’s cover art for “Bedevilled” features a quote proclaiming ‘A must-see for anyone brave enough!’ For once, the implication that viewers must steel their nerves for a movie is not empty hype. This 2010 Korean revenge film might just become the next litmus test for fans of extreme Asian cinema. Although “Bedevilled” isn’t as graphic or gore-soaked as some of its contemporaries like “Oldboy” or “I Saw the Devil,” the film’s relentless violence against women and suggested pedophilia should test even the most jaded viewers.
The first 10 minutes of “Bedevilled” are actually most reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell,” with our blank clerk protagonist (played by Seong-won Ji) denying an elderly woman a loan. Before a supernatural gypsy curse can be placed on her, Seong-won receives some much-needed time off. She decides to take a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Seoul, back to the small island community where her grandfather lived. It’s there she reunites with her childhood friend, played by Yeong-hie Seo (“The Chaser“) in the film’s breakout performance.
Before long, Seong-won learns that her friend has spent the past 15 years enduring hell on the island, as her and her daughter are mistreated and abused by the locals on a daily basis. Seong-won will ultimately come to realize that it was her indifference, in part, that prolonged Yeong-hie’s pain…but not before Yeong-hie decides to have revenge against her tormentors. After a slow start, the film settles in to become something like “The Wicker Man,” with its claustrophobic island setting and demented locals, crossed with the feminine revenge of “I Spit on Your Grave.”
It’s up to the viewer to decide if “Bedevilled” is a simple horror movie or a commentary on women’s roles in South Korean society. At its core, the film tackles issues of personal responsibility. It’s easy to become so absorbed in our own day-to-day struggles that we overlook or ignore the tragedies of others. At what point, then, does our inaction make us a complicit in someone else’s suffering?
The disc from Well Go USA is light on Special Features but does include a trailer and behind the scenes video. The behind the scenes footage isn’t narrated or edited in a linear manner, but it features subtitles and offers an intimate look at the how some of the film’s crucial scenes were shot. It’s interesting to note how the island’s uneven topography appears to have made camera placement difficult at times for the crew.
“Bedevilled’s” story is a bit too grueling to call the movie ‘entertainment,’ but it will likely qualify as a must-see for viewers who prefer their Asian films to be pitch dark. There’s no denying the filmmakers effectively turn the movie’s island setting into an absurd, misogynistic nightmare. There are moments in the film that create an almost physical reaction in the viewer, ensuring that we want revenge just as much as Yeong-hie Seo. And the fact that “Bedevilled” ends on one of the most visually striking dissolve shots in years means that the film is, if nothing else, a memorable experience.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 7/10