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Bedevilled (2010)
#1

There’s something about the languid, slow paced, opening acts of this film which transform it from being a mere revenge film into something far more interesting and complex. I had a friend describe it to me as a Korean ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ and without any more information I girded my loins for transcendental violence.  As it is the film is a kind of fascinating debut picture which has far more on its mind than simple blood and guts.

Set on a remote island on Korea, seemingly just off the mainland, the film follows a young career-woman (Hae-Woon) as she returns to her childhood home following a run in with some rapists in Seoul. There’s something rotten going on in this idyllic community, with its small populace split between five families. At the centre of the community is Kim Bok-nam a young woman, Hae-Woon’s childhood friend, who along with her daughter experiences both physical and emotional abuse from every male resident of the island and veiled contempt from every female resident.  For the first hour or so of the movie we essentially watch as Bok-nam is systematically abused by everyone on the island and is ostracised by even her friend. Despite a few key moments of connection Hae-Woon is largely dissociated from her friends suffering, caught up in the crowd and incapable of action. It’s a film that is designed to make you broil with anger, tinged with a fatalistic view on society. Bak-run deserves none of the abuses she receive and none of the scorn she receives for simply being the subject of abuse.

I'm going to talk in vague SPOILERS from this point onwards

As such when the tension is wound to its tightest point and Bok-nam is reduced to her lowest ebb we understand the sudden descent into violence. This is a film which views not only the abusers, but the people who turn away, as parts of the overall problem and it at times seems to be a polemic against wider society. I can understand a lot of people being turned off by the film, largely because how much focus is put on the abuse and how fatalistic the entire movie seems, but I think that focus allows us to understand a little of the humanity in Bok-nam even she becomes monstrously terrifying towards the end.

Whilst the turn to slasher film right at the end is a little awkward, it’s easy to understand the initial flashes of violence but Bok-nam’s full on turn into disassociated bringer of mallet based destruction feels a little off, isn’t handled particularly gracefully I think the film does a great job of building suspense and tension. There's a primal rage that inhabits the character in the final act, but I think it comes from a natural, and developed place. The anger is literally repaying thirty years of abuse, and I think when framed by her final scene with Hae-woon it comes across as something that had been building in her since she was a child. She's essentially an innocent pushed too far, just desperate to make any sort of connection.

It’s definitely one of the more interesting, and rewarding, films I’ve seen this year. Well worth checking out.

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#2

Watching this right now.  I just feel dirty all over.

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#3

YES.

BLOODLUST.

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#4

The Story of Kim Bok-nam's Murder Incident!  (literal title as best as I can translate it)

Knowing nothing about the film going into it, I thought I was in for something along the lines of Drag Me to Hell.  It even starts with Hae-Woon as a banker that denies an old woman a loan.  Right down to the taking of a button while she's in the car!

But I was thrown for a loop when the film revealed that it really wasn't about her at all.  It was almost off-putting the way Hae-Woon never seemed to be present when the ugly shit went down.  I kept thinking,  "Why did we spend that time with her in Seoul?  Why is she in this movie beyond thematic reasons!?"  There seemed to be very little to her character other than (sorry to use the term), 'icy bitch.'

The film brings it all together by the end.  I'm not sure how 'tight' it was, but Hae-Woon's flaky presence in the film did serve its purpose.

I've never seen "I Spit On Your Grave" (either version), but from what I've heard about it, it seems like a pretty close film to compare this one to.  Having read your post before starting the film, I had an idea of where it was going, so the sudden transition into 'slasher mode' didn't feel as awkward to me.  Plus, the film had me fully prepared to firebomb the entire island.

Loved the 'slow burn' of her staring into the sun.

Innocent bystander, my ass.

EDIT: Seo Yeong-hee was fantastic as Bok-nam.  She gives me strong vibes of Emily Watson or Samantha Morton.

Also, the moment where Bok-nam finds her daughter smudging piles of make-up on her face was one of the more disturbing scenes I've seen this year.

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#5

I was really impressed with how the film sort of juggled Hae-won into and out of the plotline. Considering this is a debut film, the director really seemed to have a lot of control over the story he was trying to tell. There were so many creepy moments in that first hour, every male interaction with Bok-nam's daughter made my skin crawl and really added to the oppresively hostile feel of the whole thing. There were so many great little shots, and great little moments, I was surprised how well the film manipulated me and how cool I was with it doing so. Normally I'd find a bit like the boat captain purposefully fucking with Bok-nam to be a might much, but it sort of added to the whole bleak tone.

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#6

Did you ever wonder if a lot of the skin-crawling reaction you (and I) had more to do with the fact that the film dealt with women in a sickening amount of physical and emotional peril?

It's just such an easy button to push at times that I wondered about that myself.  Especially when that one mongoloid brother was basically a raping zombie that can't be reasoned with.  I think I reacted even worse to the tension in this film because I absolutely detest the bumpkin types that the film made full use of.

The brainwashing-level of indoctrinated misogyny on that island reminded me of The Wicker Man.

I wonder just how much I was supposed to enjoy Bok-nam's vengeance.  Because I enjoyed it.  A lot.

The way Hae-won was juggled... I'm not sure how I feel about that.  It was definitely intentional.  I kept wondering, "Where the hell is she when her friend needs her?"  Then came the scene where she brushes off Bok-nam's pleas even after she reveals her horrible suspicions.  It's really scary stuff.

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#7

And of course it all builds to head in that final scene where it flashes back to Bok-nam and her dead daughter and we realise the one thing she is focused on is Hae-woon, who promptly turns her back. There's definitely a lot of anger in this film about people turning a blind eye, and it's one of the reasons I found the turn to slasher movie a little hard to deal with. Because the absence of action is terrible, but the film's central thesis seems to be that Hae-woon was even worse than the villagers because she failed to do anything. It's all there in how over-the-top those last ten minutes are.

I got a real Summerisle feel off that island as well. I half expected them to go off and lock up Hae-woon in some gigantic straw statue because she knew too much.

I think part of the skin crawlingness was the fact that this was all happening right under 'civilizations' nose with no attempt to stop it or provide aid.

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#8


Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike Marshall View Post

I think part of the skin crawlingness was the fact that this was all happening right under 'civilizations' nose with no attempt to stop it or provide aid.


That really comes through with the police officer.  He clearly had his suspicions.  But give him some honey and cash, and he was all smiles.

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#9

This and I Saw The Devil came out near each other in the UK and both are absolutely fantastic. I love Bedevilled with all my heart because it is just a brutal look at a woman pushed too far. I'm sure we've all wanted to snap at some point and while the main character goes through hell, she deals with a lot more than most of us have to before breaking.

Great stuff... give me moar!!!

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