A solid Korean revenge blowout with a feminist slant. Sure, it could
be stronger in many respects, but satisfies as a gory drama (I would say
gory thriller but that would be inaccurate).
An obvious influence on this 2010 production (original
title: KIM BOK-NAM SALINSAGEONUI JEONMAL) is the 1977 Korean mystery
IODO, which like this film took place largely on an undeveloped island.
The greatest influences, however, were the twisted dramas of Korea’s
notorious Kim Di-duk (of THE
ISLE and BAD GUY),
for whom BEDEVILLED’S helmer Chul-soo Jang previously worked as an
assistant. BEDEVILLED is Jang’s first feature as director, and an
auspicious debut by any standard.
After witnessing an assault, Hae-won, a young
businesswoman, identifies the perpetrators to the police. This only
pisses off the scumbags, and nor are her officemates too enamored with
her; after assaulting a colleague she’s given a forced vacation.
Hae-won heads off to a secluded island she once visited
with her grandparents, and where a childhood friend named Bok-nam still
resides. Hae-won finds herself out of place amid the island’s
male-dominated populace, who believe that “a woman’s only happy with a
dick in her mouth.” Rape and incest are the norm here, and the women
don’t like it.
Bok-nam becomes determined to flee the island with her
young daughter, but they’re caught in the act and the girl is killed.
This causes Bok-nam to snap and begin chopping up everyone in sight with
Bok-nam is stopped, unexpectedly enough, by Hae-won,
who inadvertently grinds her friend up in the rotor blades of a motor
boat as she flees the island. But Hae-won is not free of the madness:
upon arriving back on the mainland, and detained in a police station,
she’s attacked by a most unexpected individual…
In common with most modern Korean films, BEDEVILLED is
unerringly slick in every aspect. The cinematography is handsome and
precise, the pacing satisfying (frequent distracting jump cuts aside)
and actress Seong-won Ji quite engaging in the lead role.
The depictions of rape are startling but never
protracted or exploitive. The same, however, cannot be said for the gory
violence of the third act, which in its blood-spurting, head-lopping,
knife-licking nastiness is as gruesome and relentless as can be
expected. Opinions, obviously, will vary on how appropriate the above is
to the overall tone and narrative.
Structurally the film is flawed in the way it switches
from a single-character drama to an ensemble piece that has the heroine
spending a lot of time offscreen (she’s constantly getting knocked
unconscious), only to have her unexpectedly regain center stage in the
last twenty minutes. I’ll also complain about the final scenes, in which
a small woman somehow manages to survive, TERMINATOR-like, multiple
gunshot wounds and a neck stabbing. Such splatter movie silliness only
detracts from the rest of the film, which works as a gory yet thoughtful
drama whose feminist leanings feel genuine and well earned.
BEDEVILLED (KIM BOK-NAM SALINSAGEONUI JEONMAL)
Boston Investments/Filma Pictures/Tori Pictures
Director: Chul-soo Jang
Producer: Kuy-young Park
Screenplay: Kwang-young Choi
Cinematography: Gi-tae Kim
Editing: Mi-Joo Kim
Cast: Yeong-hie Seo, Seong-won Ji, Min-ho Hwang, Min je, Ji-Eun Lee,