When high-powered businesswoman Hae-won is forced to take leave from her job due to being unwillingly involved in an attempted murder case, she decides on the isolated Moo Do island where she once spent a childhood holiday as her vacation spot. Once she arrives she is reunited with her old friend Bok-nam who, Hae-won soon discovers, has been saddled with the unenviable position of community punching bag.
The small backwards population consists of a handful of old women and three men, one of whom is a catatonic grandfather. While the old women debase Bok-nam verbally, the men (her husband and his brother) break her down physically and mentally. After a failed attempt to escape the island with her daughter results in the child’s death, Bok-nam finally snaps, engaging in a frenzied slaughter spree that will dispose of her tormentors once and for all.
Bedevilled is certainly one of the more bleak and harrowing films I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of witnessing this past year. It forces the viewer to experience the lifetime of degradation Bok-nam has been subjected to by beginning slowly and gradually building its momentum until just when you feel you can’t take any more it explodes into a cathartic orgy of violence.
The film also functions as a character study of two very different women: Hae-won being the upper-class city gal thrown headfirst into an atmosphere of violence and control, and Bok-nam the beaten-down backwoods gal who knows no different. Certain aspects of this bring to mind Dennis Yu’s HK shocker The Beasts and visually one also can’t help but be reminded of The Isle.
With its unsettling themes of sexual violence, child abuse & rampant misogyny, Bedevilled is obviously not a film for everyone but if you’re a fan of boundary-pushing or indeed, South Korean, cinema in the vein of I Saw The Devil, The Isle, or Oldboy, this will undoubtedly be up your alley.