This time out, it’s more Korean film goodness, part of my last bountiful mail-order shipment of Asian film goodies from the exotic Far East. This one’s not exactly a horror film…. although it certainly spills a lot of the gooey red stuff…. and it’s not exactly a drama either. It’s sort of an odd bird of a film that manages to be both and neither, falling somewhere right comfortably in between. I’m usually not as fond of movies that like to play so coy, but I’d heard some good stuff about this one and who is this lil’ Catgirl to risk missing out on a good thing, movie wise?
Our synopsis goes as follows: “When beautiful, but socially distant, Hae-Won is forced to take administrative leave from her job, she finds herself drawn to the island of Moodo, where she once spent an idyllic childhood summer. On arrival she’s reunited with her old friend from that time, Bok-Nam. Hae-Won soon realizes that life on the island is far removed from the paradise that she remembers from her childhood. Amidst the beautiful landscape and breathtaking scenery, a vile and spiteful society has always existed. Poor, hapless Bok-Nam is routinely abused by both her abusive husband as well as the male population and completely exploited by her female elders. When an attempt to escape results in the death of her beloved daughter, Bok-Nam finally snaps and decides to take things into her own hands. With nothing left to live for and nothing left to lose, Bok Nam’s gruesome reign of terrible, blood-drenched revenge begins…”
Yep… this one is one of those movies best described as a “Women’s Revenge” film, along the lines of other exploitation gems from the 70’s and early 80’s. The only question remains, “Can the Koreans put a new spin on an old idea?” Neko thinks it’s likely…. otherwise I wouldn’t have taken a chance on it, Hehehehe!!
Of course, if you want all the details, you’ll just have to “Read On” to see for yourself…..
Our story starts in Seoul with a look at what looks to be our main character, Hae-won (played by Seong-won Ji) who works in a bank as a loan officer. She’s cold… distant… and thoroughly unwilling to allow herself to get drawn into the affairs of others, even when she becomes a witness to a gang rape. Unwilling to become too entangled, she fails to identify the culprits and so they walk away unpunished. So tightly wrapped… she’s completely without empathy and is so unable to connect with people that it’s nearly impossible to like her. So much for her as our heroine, right? Eventually her uncaring attitude gets her in hot water at work too and so she gets given a forced “vacation” from her job…. apparently the nice civilized Korean way of showing you the door without actually firing you. What’s a friendless, lone outsider to do when confronted with a situation like that?
Apparently you go on a trip back to the one place you can remember where things were different… where once you might actually have shared a moment with someone… someone who might still remember you as a friend even if you haven’t called or answered her letters in all the years since you saw her last. So… we trade the urban hustle and bustle of cold impersonal Seoul for the rustic charm of a little out of the way island, Moo-do, off the coast where her grandparents once lived and where a quaint group of people still live, scraping out a living from growing potatoes and beekeeping. Hae-won’s childhood companion Kim Bok-nam (played by Seo Yeong-hee) has lived on the island her whole life and now lives with her brutally mean husband Man-jong (played by Park Jeong-hak), and her young daughter Yeon-hee (played by Lee Ji-eun-I).
Here’s where our story turns away from Hae-won, who becomes not much more than an impersonal observer from this point foreward, and we discover that this movie is actually all about Bok-nam and the misery of a life she has here on Moo-do. Basically… she’s a virtual slave to her abusive husband Man-jong, his brothers, and the mean-spirited cadre of elderly women who live on the island with her. Day by day, she is abused and mistreated both mentally as well as physically by the men of the island who use her for sex as well as domestic slave and punching bag when the mood suits them. The other women treat her with open scorn and insist she should be grateful to be taken in by Man-jong along with her “bastard” child. All Bok-nam has lived for all these years is the hope her childhood friend Hae-won would someday return and help her and her daughter to escape this terrible place to the seemly heavenly life Hae-won leads in Seoul. Think that’s gonna happen? Well… Hae-won would actually have to have a heart to feel anything for Bok-nam, and we’ve already seen that she’s about as uncaring and self-absorbed as a human being can be, so you know that isn’t going to be….
So…. why does Bok-nam even think it’s possible? Seems when they were kids, they became close… really, really close…. (although the film never carries that idea beyond the most fleeting of suggestions of lesbian love… you certainly get that vibe) and Bok-nam has carried the treasured memory of that till this very day. Unfortunately… it seems that the whole thing was nothing more than childish experimental teasing on Hae-won’s part and really never meant anything to her at all as we come to find out. So… while Hae-won spends her “vacation” days resting and playing with little Yeon-hee, the nasty, ugly abuse continues. It’s hard to watch…. and the more and more that happens…. especially the stuff Hae-won goes out of her way to ignore… the more your Favorite Catgirl began to seethe with anger. Carolyn found it hard to take too, and she could tell just how much it was upsetting me…. even though she knew I’d keep watching. If the film has any single flaw… it’s the way such ideas are constantly rammed down a viewers throat. It’s all really a bit excessive…. I got the idea that most of these people needed killing pretty quickly, so the level to which Bok-nam endures it all before snapping is almost ridiculous. A little less of it would have worked just fine to sell the story, especially once the most terrible thing possible happens….
Bok-nam discovers that her precious Yeon-hee is close to being sexually abused by Man-jong…. and when Hae-won basically refuses to help her leave the island with her daughter, she plans her own desperate escape. One that goes tragically wrong… ending in the accidental death of Yeon-hee at the brutal hands of her husband. The police come to the island to investigate the death, but the locals… who all witnessed the killing… close ranks and flat out lie, blaming “crazy Bok-nam” for causing the girl’s death. Desperately Bok-nam tries to prove her story by offering Hae-won as witness… but even though she saw everything, Hae -won betrays her friend by claiming not even to have been present when the “accident” happened. It’s the final straw…. It’s only after the police leave, satisfied by the local’s story and her own lies, that Hae-won realizes too late she’s not going to leave the island alive…. she just knows too much. She holes up in her rooms waiting for the ferry to return… really, really stupid considering Man-jong’s brother runs the ferry, but hey… she’s not thinking too clearly at this point. Man-jong tries for a clumsy attempt at rape, but is defeated by Bok-nam… still torn between her memories of childhood love and her new-found hatred for her “friend”.
Then…. while the men are away to the mainland, poor Bok-nam finally goes completely bat-shit crazy. Armed with a wickedly sharp sickle, she begins her one woman killing spree, wasting the women of the island and then pursuing a terrified Hae-won until the return of the ferry brings back the men for her to get her just revenge upon. Peasant life is hard… and it’s made Bok-nam one tough, strong maniac. She takes care of the men in bloody fashion before missing the chance to sort things out with Hae-won who escapes on the ferry… seemingly leaving Bok-nam dead and drowned… her revenge over….. But that wouldn’t be much of an ending now would it?
Let’s just say, somebody has to be locked up for these grisly murders, and as the only survivor, Hae-won’s as good a choice as any. Bok-nam? Hmmmm? Tough… resilient… strong…. and apparently she’s one heck of a strong swimmer too. Jail-house reunion anyone? Yep…. it’s a given. So…. will Hae-won survive? Will she learn to regret her cold and unemphatic ways and become a newer, better person for it all? Guess you’ll just have to watch this one if you want to find out, cause Neko’s not going to spoil it for you.
Although this one is a hard film to watch, with some particularly nasty themes… at least for me anyway… it certainly was a powerful film. Still, it’s not a perfect one either… taking far too long to really get going and dwelling far to long on the more unsavory elements of the plot. The last 45 minutes or so…. now those will stick with you for a while. Brutal, mean, and cold though it may be, “Bedevilled” is a very good drama… with one very bloody, violent climax that will leave most splatter fans fairly happy. Not the sort of film your Favorite Catgirl would want to watch every Movie Nite, I still give it good marks and can recommend it with 3 solid “Meows” out of 5. I’m thinking that if Hae-won’s character had been portrayed as a bit less “cold” and a bit more “human” I might have liked it more, but overall the story works. As always, the Korean DVD is top notch with excellent Region 3 NTSC letter-boxed format and perfect English subtitles on hand to make it an easily watched film.
Naturally… I’ve got the Trailer here, just to make things complete for you, o’ Gentle Visitors…. Enjoy!!