Friday, 22 September 2017

Bedevilled (2010)

Hae-won is an over-stressed, confrontation-averse bank officer.  When the pressure finally overwhelms her, she's forcibly instructed to take a vacation.

Initially, Hae-won follows this instruction by moping around her apartment and drinking heavily, but then she decides to spend a week visiting the isolated Mudo Island, where she spent holidays as a child.  Given some of the things we later learn about those holidays, you might wonder what would prompt her to return at all, but nothing can really prepare her for what she finds on arrival.  The island has fewer than ten inhabitants, and her childhood friend Bok-nam, who is the only young, able-bodied woman, is more or less treated as a slave by the men and older women.  About the only two things that make Bok-nam's terrible existence bearable are her love for her daughter and her hope that her old friend Hae-won will help her, and so this visit may ignite events that Hae-won never could have imagined.

This is an ugly film.  Most characters are outright evil and even those that aren't are rather broken.  The film rarely flinches from depicting the full ugliness of Bok-nam's life, and the few times it does show circumspection, you'll be glad of it.  It's not quite a "video nasty" in the style of say I Spit On Your Grave in that it doesn't generally have the skeevy titillating atmosphere of those films, but it's certainly every bit as graphic.  And it does occasionally overplay its hand into unintentional absurdity, especially during the final act.

Ultimately I feel like Bedevilled falls a little uncomfortably between two different camps.  It's much too grim and stark to fit into the sensationalised sex and violence oeuvre so successfully adopted by shows like Game of Thrones, but at the same time it veers in that direction often enough that it doesn't quite gel as the harrowing, impactful experience it might otherwise have been.

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