Bedevilled review

YOU see a crime being committed. What do you do? Help the police investigation or play ignorant, not wanting your life to be imposed upon.

This is the exact dilemma Hae-Won (Seong-won Ji) faces at the beginning of Chul-soo Yang‘s brutal, thought-provoking thriller.

Hae-Won works in Seoul but when she is asked to pick out two men from a identity parade after a girl is attacked in the city, she decides to take a trip back home to the isolated island of Moo-do.

Upon arrival at the island she is cheerily greeted by her old friend Bok-Nam (Yeong-hie Seo). It’s at this point we are introduced to the rest of the islanders. The elder women. Bok-Nam’s husband Man-Jong (and his brothers) and her daughter Yun Hui (Lee Ji-Eun).

It’s evident from this moment that things on the idyllic island aren’t as they seem.

Through the power of flashbacks we see Hae-Won as a child on Moo-do. However, she made it off and built a life for herself in Seoul.

Bok-Nam’s fascination with the wider world is quickly shot down by the other islanders.

Soon we discover exactly why Bok-Nam wants away. The systematic physical, sexual and mental abuse she suffers at the hands of her husband, his brother – and even the other women, who belittle her every move – is repulsive.

It’s understandable why she wants to be free of the hold everyone has over her.

However, things take a turn for the worse when she eventually builds up the courage to flee her tormentors. Taking her daughter, she almost makes it, only to be caught by Man-Jong.

During the ensuing beating doled out to her, little Yun-Hui tries to intervene but in the madness Man-Jong knocks her over, striking her head on a rock and killing her.

At this point Bok-Nam is now a broken woman. Up until this point she had remained strong for her daughter, in the face of disgusting abuse. Now? Well, she snaps.

All hell breaks loose as Bok-Nam goes on the rampage, gunning for the people who have worn her down and beaten her.

It would be easy to pigeon-hole Bedevilled as just another torture-porn movie, but it’s much more than that.

The first 40 to 50 minutes help set the scene, giving the viewer all the background they need to understanding the ‘situation’. But the final 40 minutes or so are just mental, in the best possible way.

The film asks questions of the viewer. How would you handle witnessing a crime? Could you withhold evidence to give yourself a peaceful life? And, importantly, would you be ready to face the consequences should you bite your tongue?

Yeong-hie Seo is brilliant as the down-trodden, abused Bok-Nam. You feel every kind of negative emotion for her. Sadness, pity, revulsion. And when things go bat-shit insane? You can see exactly why she goes to such extremes.

As for Seong-won Ji as Hae-Won – she plays the innocent bystander very well. At times, she’s Bok-Nam’s rock. At others, she is dismissive and distant.

It’s these two central performances that keep Bedevilled from falling into cliched territory. Overall, what you end up with is a film of two very different halves.

It’s hard to say you’ll ‘enjoy’ Bedevilled given the subject matter, but it’s definitely worthwhile viewing.

4 out of 5.

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