Prior to Well Go USA's release of Bedevilled on Blu-Ray, I had heard of the film through various websites touting its sensitive subject matter and brutal revenge style plot developments. Being a huge fan of taboo topics and all things vindictive in life, I was eager to watch this film once it came in the mail. Cheol-Soo Jang's directorial debut definitely did not disappoint with producing an edgy, challenging film to stomach, but the way in which the plot unfolds at times stalled and left me wanting for decisive action to take place.
The film starts off in Seoul, Korea, where Hae-won (Sung-Won Ji) witnesses a brutal beating of a woman from her car. The surrounding crowds of city go-ers pay no mind to the screaming victim and Hae-won is no different, showing apathy towards the badly beaten lady. Cut to Hae-won's work, where she puts in her time as a loan officer in a very busy banking establishment. After a brief, but heated argument with an older woman regarding the refusal of a loan, Hae-won excuses herself and heads off to the police station, where she attempts to finger the two men responsible for the beating she witnessed the night before. Unfortunately, Hae-won has no spine and backs out of any commitment to identifying the alleyway bullies. Even as she is leaving the station, Hae-won displays her meekness as she is confronted and threatened by the two men responsible for the beating.
Once she returns to work, Hae-won sees the same old woman she argued with getting approved for a loan through her rival co-worker. Angry that her authority has been usurped, Hae-won takes the co-worker outside and tosses out an idle threat. Her nerves frayed, the days events have gotten to Hae-won and she explodes when she is mistakenly locked in the employee restroom. Her boss is ashamed at her attitude and actions and demands that she take a vacation, effective immediately. After a couple of days performing monotonous chores, Hae-won decides to visit her childhood friend, Bok-nam, on isolated Moo-do Island, where the two grew up.
Far removed from the convenient and quite evolved life of Seoul, Hae-woo quickly realizes that Moo-do is stuck in an old world mentality, where women are beneath the men on the island, and Bok-nam is the whipping post for both the men and the elder women. Waiting on her newly arrived friend hand and foot, all seems fine on the surface for the hard working Bok-nam, but the viewer quickly realizes how fucked up Moo-do Island is once night falls. With her husband and daughter heading down to the shore to do some night fishing, Bok-man is visited by her husband's brother in the family's shanty. High on some "bozo leaf", the half-wit brother in law unceremoniously flips Bok-man on to her stomach and pumps away at her with little to no resistance. Upon her husband's arrival home, Bok-man is walking a bit funny and the leafy remnants of the brother in law's chaw litter her sleeping blanket. Furious at her adulterous ways, the husband lays a fierce beating on Bok-man as her daughter sits outside and pretends like nothing is going on.
In addition to the numerous amounts of sexual assault Bok-man suffers from both the brother in law and her husband, she is constantly berated by her mother in-law and trio of old crow sisters. If shit registered on the class scale here on Moo-do Island, Bok-man would be seated about 2 or 3 slots below it. However, despite the harsh treatment and frequent rape sessions, Bok-man floats along in the quiet countryside of the island. That is, until she discovers a pair of her daughter's underpants in her husband's possession. It is at this point that Bok-man FINALLY realizes that she and her daughter need to get off Moo-do Island as soon as possible. Bok-man turns to her friend Hae-won and pleads with her to bring her daughter back to Seoul upon her departure. Of course, being the spineless, apathetic bitch, Hae-won shrugs off the cries of abuse and possible child molestation, citing her childhood friend as being a storyteller. On her scheduled day of departure, though, Hae-won witnesses a sickening tragedy that changes the landscape of Moo-do Island, and ultimately the face of film.
Bedevilled does a wonderful job of presenting a landscape that contradicts the lifestyle of its inhabitants perfectly. Almost so perfect it creates a flaw in the storyline. How much abuse could one person take before they decide to remove themselves from a sitaution entirely? What Bok-man endures over the course of the first hour and fifteen minutes of the film makes the viewer both empathetic to her cause and angry that she just sits idly while her surroundings destroy everything she holds dear. I found myself often clenching my fists in anger and even yelling at the television for someone to do something to rectify the situation. By the time the vengeful acts of redemption came around, it was too late for me to be any more emotionally vested in the film. Director Cheol-Soo Jang did a fantastic job of building up the tension and disgust within the viewer, but rode it out a little too far where the payoff had much less meaning than it could have if action was taken a little bit earlier in the film. Towards the end of the film I felt like George C. Scott in Hardcore, screaming "Turn it off!" repeatedly not because I was disgusted with the content, but because I just didn't want to sit through any more of the drawn out sequences.
Accompanying the main film on the Well Go USA Blu-Ray release were a couple of extras - the behind the scenes featurette and theatrical trailer for the film. Neither one really grabbed my attention, possibly because I was mentally exhausted from the main feature itself. With the intricacies of Moo-do Island and its old world feel, I would have liked to have seen more of an in depth look at the set design and construction of the isolated area.
I don't want it to seem like Bedevilled was a disappointing experience, because it wasn't The film presented an array of incredible visuals, characters and scenarios that make the film worth watching. I personally felt a bit exhausted from the material, and as mentioned before, the lack of decisiveness in the main character that seemed to drag the results of the storyline out way too long. I would highly recommend this film to fans of Ki-Duk Kim's The Isle and Samaritan Man, as it presents a familiar set of content but with a great deal more dialogue and less depressing atmosphere.