First up – I don’t think ‘Bedevilled’ is a good name for this film as it instantly makes me think it is going to star Elizabeth Hurley and Brendan Fraser which it doesn’t, for better or worse. The original Korean title is ‘Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal’ which unfortunately I can’t translate but I am guessing it means something like ‘Kim Bok-nam goes nuts with a machete’ – this would be a better title.
The film is about a Korean lady from Seoul who goes on holiday to a tiny island populated by whatever the Korean equivalent of rednecks are – mostly old women that have never really left their tiny island and who highly value the two young males that are the only ones physically able to do the repair work even if they are highly repugnant individuals. The timing of her holiday is especially unfortunate because her childhood friend Kim Bok-nam is about to reach one of those pivotal moments in life where someone has had all they can take and decides it is time for revenge. People should know better than to give a Korean cause for revenge, if I ever go to Korea and don’t end up being murdered by someone with blood plastering their hair to their face I shall be very disappointed. Korean cinema is pretty notorious for it’s sub-genre of revenge horror films (some of which are excellent like The Vengeance Trilogy or the recent I Saw The Devil) and Bedevilled needed to do something to stand out from the crowd. I have to admit I was impressed, far from a typical slick Korean revenge film Bedevilled actually feels much more like a Western horror film like I Spit on Your Grave.
The revenge is not some elaborate and stylish affair, it’s not some perfectly conceived plan carried out with clinical precision – it’s messy, like a slasher movie with blood and dirt and bean paste. Revenge cinema is often morally awkward – you get the set up where the protagonist basically gets given a good reason for wanting revenge, and then you get to cheer them on with a clear conscious as they carry it out. That’s the idea and it’s usually fun and effective, sometimes maybe you question just how much you ought to be cheering these protagonists on, but generally speaking we cheer as Oldboy brings out the claw hammer. Bedevilled however is not like that, moral absolutes get confused pretty quickly and we are left without any obvious black and whites, just shades of grey. That is definitely Bedevilled’s best feature and sets it apart from the rest of the revenge crowd.
Along with I Saw The Devil and The Yellow Sea, Bedevilled is my favourite Korean film of recent times and good evidence of a revival of Korean horror/revenge, or at least a move away from the tropes that were rapidly becoming cliche.