aka Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal (The Whole Story of the Kim Bok-nam Murder Case)
Cast: Yeong-hie Seo, Seong-won Ji (Sung -won Ji) , Jeong-hak Park
Well Go USA / Region A / Unrated / 2.35: 1 widescreen / KOREAN 5.1 & Stereo / ENGLISH subtitles / 115 minutes
Disk Extras: Behind the scenes / Trailer
The most terrifying horror movies are the ones that connect in a personal, real way with the viewer. Monster movies, gore films and other unrealistic horrors are fun but for the most part do not reach that inner core of fear deep inside all of us. It takes that emotional correlation to really make an impact and put you on edge. One subject used in such movies is domestic abuse or to be more blunt, beating women whether it be a girlfriend, wife or any other female “loved one”. The controversial 1986 movie Extremities starring Farrah Fawcett is a prime example of gut-wrentching domestic terror that both horrifies and ultimately gives you a reason to cheer when the tables are turned on the abuser and justice is done. First time Korean filmmaker Jang Cheol-soo’s Bedevilled is along the same lines as the Fawcett flick but with a much more violent climax that will allow you to finally breathe after 2 hours of extreme tension.
Hae-won is an uppity, kind of cunty young business woman who after having a particularly bad day at work and on her way home (where she witnesses a violent crime and refuses to help the authorities) decides to visit an impoverished fishing village where she used to visit her now deceased uncle for a little R&R. She is met with contempt by most of the village headed by her mean-ass auntie (along with her gaggle of elder women) and the village stud appropriately named Man-jong. That “stud” is married to Hae-won’s childhood best friend Bok-nam who is the one happy to see her. At this point the focus of the film turns to Bok-nam as we find out that she is the village outcast who is horrifically abused by Man-jong while everyone looks the other way and mistreated by the rest of them ranging from being made to work like a dog to being violently raped by her brother-in-law. Hae-won sees all of this and aside from asking her friend why she puts up with it, sits idly by (as she did with the violent crime in the city she witnessed) and does nothing because she too looks down her nose at Bok-nam.
The tone of the movie really changes when Bok-nam realizes one evening, after she finds her pre-pubescent daughter wearing whorish make-up, that she is being sexually abused by her husband. She begins to scheme to get her and her daughter out of the village but when something unspeakable happens, she looks directly into the Sun which speaks to her and tells her to kill everyone in town. At the point she becomes a relentless, merciless killing machine bent on revenge. The wonderful part of the whole narrative is that writer Kwang-young Choi keeps everything pretty realistic which doesn’t break that emotional connection you have made with the sympathetic characters. The ensuing massacre is gory and very bloody but it is more a “period” on the end of a sentence built on the empathy you build for Bok-nam as you watch her endure inhumane treatment at the hands of both her abusers and on a different level Hae-won, who is supposed to be her friend. Aside from the obvious conflict you have many layers of terror here that builds unbearable tension and shows the flaws that plague our humanity.
Bedevilled is a brilliant portrayal of gender roles and extreme sexism in societies where it is still often practiced. I was very impressed with the entire cast but Yeong-hie Seo, as the sweet, timid “Bok-nam” who turns into a raging bad-ass seething with acidic hatred by the end of the movie, stood out. She has a wide range of emotions to communicate throughout the run time (from shyness, love, envy, hurt, rage and more) and does so very convincingly. By the end I fully wanted to give her a big hug, after checking behind her back for a scythe of course. This just came out on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA and is available on any of the big websites and probably at some brick and mortar stores as well. Don’t overlook this one because it has a shitty and misspelled name ,which makes it sound like a possession movie of some sort, but give it a try and I can almost guarantee you will be hooked within the first 10 minutes.