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 a scythe.
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, Jeong-hak Park