Bedevilled centres around the theme of selfishness and how people are seemingly unwilling to help their fellow man unless it directly affects them somehow. Be warned; Bedevilled is not a nice film – it has a lot to say and some of its audience might find it hard to accept the points it raises.
Hae-won (Seong-won Ji) is an average woman who leads a busy life working at a bank in Seoul City until she witnesses an attempted murder. When the case gets out of hand she retreats to the small island of Moodo for a vacation, where she once used to visit her grandparents and where she befriended Kim Bok-nam (Yeong-hie Seo), an inhabitant of the island. When she arrives she is shocked to find that everyone treats Bok-nam like a slave. Fed up of the way she is being treated she tries to help her escape.
Bedevilled is, simplistically, a revenge movie but a more in-depth analysis reveals that it is so much more. The themes are what stand out most of all and it’s not just the idea of selfishness – this is combined with the idea that the human race is capable of a lot darker things than the general public would like to admit. Such things, much like the film itself, go unnoticed and slip underneath the radar somehow. There is also a parallel drawn between Seoul (a civilised society) and Moodo (an uncivilised society) and the links between the two feel like a social commentary on how, just because a city calls itself civilised, it doesn’t mean that they actually are.
Although many Southern Korean films could be interpreted as such, one could assume that director Chul-soo Yang and screenwriter Kwang-young Choi are commenting on North Korea and the situation there. Choi’s previous film, Secret Reunion, was a film that explored a partnership between a North Korean spy and a former South Korean agent and possessing this knowledge might well add some weight to the idea.
Bedevilled is brutal in its execution – not so much in a violence sense (that’s not to say that it doesn’t possess any) but in an emotional sense. At times the audience may well find themselves out of breath considering the amount of heavy punches the film provides.
For those who can’t watch a slow paced film, this isn’t the film for you and it will undoubtedly test your patience. Those who like a more sophisticated approach to film-making, however, will relish in the fact that it is worth every single ounce of atmosphere produced. The build up is simply sublime, especially when it comes to the pay off. It doesn’t turn back or become cowardly, instead going all the way forward, delivering a brutal and quite shocking final act that fans of horror and violence will love.
Bedevilled is a thoroughly well acted and genuinely great piece of Southern Korean cinema that exudes such a slick atmosphere and a well executed idea that not all is what is seems. If you find yourself wanting an intelligent and robust horror/thriller, this is the film that will clench your thirst in a seemingly dry genre.