6 September 2010 | Bloodwank
Harsh, compelling and effective, if unsubtle savage drama
As manipulative as a lot of Hollywood fodder, Bedevilled should be a sinker. That it isn't is testament to its beauty, committed performances and a fine feel for harshness, though overlong its powerful and occasionally savage stuff. We follow Hae-won, returning to her childhood home to visit old friend Bok-nam. High strung, frigid and apparently callous Hae Won isn't especially likable, but as things go on we see why she might be this way, for the small island where she grew up is a pretty terrible place. Her reunion may be sweet, but Bok-nam is in a bad situation, and things are building to a head
The plot summary on this page tells more than is strictly needed about the skimpy plot of this one, it's predictable stuff but I still recommend not knowing to much beforehand, all the better to get emotionally wrecked. Director Jang Cheol-so plays the audience like an instrument, highlighting the natural beauty of the location to better emphasise the nastiness, keeping the harsher moments just enough in the frame to be viciously effective but keeping the worst of it just out of view, conjuring jangling tension and a dash of sinister sexual menace, its taut stuff building effectively with tar black humour in its climatic release. Ji Sung-wong puts on a decent if distant show as Hae-won, implacable to the point of being a frustration, while Seo Yeong-hee is the more attractive as Bok-nam, lively façade in desperate conflict with her terrible treatment, a pleasant soul who doesn't want to face things but wrenched to a place where she can't hide. The notion of denial and the need to face up to things is what underlies events, unsubtly presented perhaps but a worthy message presented in jolting style, fortunately the film works as grim drama. There are problems though, none of the villains of the piece are well rounded, from crudely brutal and sex hungry men to cruel old ladies revelling in the status quo, everyone is so hissable that things are in constant danger of being overdone, and indeed sometimes are. Documented cases of similar isolated communities show that there is a bleak truthfulness to the pattern of events, but the characters of the villains generally lack psychological truth, hence they become less effective. The other trouble here is that the film draws out its finale with more climaxes than necessary, it doesn't lack for exciting or interesting events in its final stages but it becomes bumpy and feels overlong, it also hammers home the less subtle aspects of the film. Still, all in all this one had the required effect for me, I was gripped, appalled, dazzled and saddened, a veritable emotional roller-coaster. Worth a look for slow burning dark drama fans then, but be warned that things are a bit obvious.