Mar 5, 2011

Bedevilled


Forget what you heard. Bedevilled (2010) isn't the post-revival Korean horror/thriller that it has so endearingly been heralded. Thank you for allowing me to issue that statement before starting, as if you had a choice. I had long sought out Bedevilled as similar tastes beckoned me. Hell, I find it a struggle to not enjoy a Korean thriller, the likes of which have been completely Westernized and easily appease whatever hunger my tastes crave on these late, lonely nights. What is bleak about this scenario is that originally, Bedevilled held so much promise and integrity, but at the hands of a novice director, was a spoiled effort. I don't blame Chul-soo Yang personally as this is an admirable debut attempt at what could of been a South Korean masterpiece. I won't hold his name in high esteem, at least, until he redeems the talent he hinted at briefly in Bedevilled. Much fortune was squandered with this failed attempt at storytelling, so I find it hard to commit spelling out the turbulence encountered by Bedevilled and its misapplied approach to conventional misandry.



To perfectly sum up Bedevilled, allow me to quote one of the elder wenches - "A woman's most happy with a dick in her mouth". I'd be hard-pressed to dispute this given my experience with women; such a cantankerous, rivalry-obsessed sex, hardly fairer, teeming with unbridled hostility disguised as angelic ignorance. The plot is relayed like so; an upper-class woman gets forced unto a vacation period and decides to visit her childhood friend on a secluded island. What becomes of her is all-too similar to the entrapping situation she encountered on the mainland of Seoul - witnessing a crime but keeping hush. Hae-won beholds the aggravated abuse suffered at the hands of friend Bok-nam which includes, but is not limited to: rape, objectification, abuse of both physical and emotional degrees, and extreme degradation at the hands of her peers. This all changes when a life is taken and you will watch, slowly, as a feral vengeance of forms is released out of the mousy Bok-nam. Try not to take my synopsis too close to heart as I dramatized much of the alleged impact. Bedevilled toys about with its apocalyptic battle of the sexes, so much that the intended thrilling sensation is lost due to expiration. Yes, Bedevilled is one of those offenders who is so pleased with itself that, due to its own carelessness, loses much of the intended effect.


Bedevilled is an experience I wanted to turn back on and muster kind thoughts towards. I longed to think of the episode and relive the tragedy and violence that I foresaw coming, before even viewing the trailer or hearing of the finale. The simple recommendation for die hard horror fans sold me enough because their words didn't fail me with I Saw the Devil. That, however, is an entirely different beast as Kim Jee-woon is a skilled and masterful director of suspense. Odds are, Jee-woon will deliver what the picture promises and he has done so accordingly. Bedevilled also features much of that first grade symbolism of color choices, as in the virginal lead Hae-won dons a soft white dress whereas Bok-nam wears dirty flannel. This is repeated quite often in Bedevilled, peaking when Hae-won returns to finish something she should have so long ago, wearing darker colors. This can also be noted in Aronofsky's Black Swan but exempt from backlash as the film encompasses a palette or colors and moods while Bedevilled is just a lazy rape/revenge film with ample atmosphere.


Bok-nam is a strange creature. No doubt is Seo Yeong-hie an exceptional actress, as she appeared in the superior The Chaser, but the role she is given within is so lifeless without her extended torture. What Bedevilled excels at, quite fittingly, is a rampant and erotic form of disturbing (yet arousing) sexuality. Simply watching Bok-nam's brother-in-law rape her while her husband fishes is an act of which words cannot begin to describe the enticing set-up and feminine defeat. Bok-nam had quite a good time, it would appear. Color this a similar experience as to Peckinpah's Straw Dogs in which consent can be argued. As Major Charles Rane lectured in Rolling Thunder with a philosophical line "You learn to love the rope. That's how you beat them" - Bok-nam surely applied the same strategy to regulatory bouts of rape, rape, pass. Simply replace the "o" with an "a" and this can very well be a universal mantra of survival. This is where the fun ends, sadly, as Bedevilled soon builds into a once shocking, now derivative slasher film. Once the initial falling out occurs, one cannot help but to be unmoved by the second, third, fourth slaying as it is anticipated. The events prior tease and hint towards the final solution of Bedevilled but is unable to keep its promise of excellent standards. I wouldn't call Bedevilled a terrible picture, merely of plight. It is surely a contemptuous bitch of cinema but only for the first hour of screen time, then it drips into slow-stalk hack and slash territory and never looks back. Bedevilled is different tonally, though, so much can be negated as it does feature a grassland aesthetic which boasts rich cultural properties. Much to my chagrin, however, this isn't enough to save Bedevilled from an early grave. It might display a pivotal "moral of the story" cue card by the end of the film but that won't replenish the lack of nihilism to support it throughout.


-mAQ

4 comments:

Fox said...

mAQ-

Thank you for taking this movie to task. I saw it at last year's Fantastic Fest and was frustrated that my peers voted it as the best film.

What we have here is a very average vengeance film cloaked in Asian art-house facade. That combination typically leads modern amateur film viewers to think they've just witnessed something of value. Heck, the half-good Last House on the Left remake is far superior to Bedevilled, but with the people we have writing tomorrow's history books, such a discussion will never welcomed past those snotty gate keepers of cultural discussion.

I can't say that I found Bedevilled to be boring, but I didn't think, say, the awful The Collector was either. They were just superfluous and unremarkable cinema. Instantly forgettable. Like 99% of TV.

I swear that Bedevilled is getting praise simply because it is Korean. It's the same "Western guilt" phenomenon that makes half-conscious film watchers think A Time for Drunken Horses is a masterpiece simply because it's from Iran.

Keep waking people up, mAQ!

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Fox, agreed, the only 1% of TV that wasn`t instantly forgettable was "Lost in Space" and "My so-called Life". mAQ, have you seen the Indonesian movie "The Spirit World" ?, i saw it on a pirate DVD that didn`t have any subtitles and even though i didn`t understand what was going on i was still transfixed for the entire 105 minutes.

Nicole✗✗ said...

It kind of sucks that this wasn't necessarily good. It sounded like it had all the potential.

Mark said...

I couldn't go along with Fox's feeling that Bedevilled has been praised just because it's Korean. I liked it more than mAQ, but agree with mAQ that the one hour build-up was its strength. The climax, as noted in my own review, was messy and problematic. Still, the tone of the first hour got my engine humming. Since I saw it directly after the disgracefully awful UNCLE BONMEE, I was ready for anything with a bit of bite.

If you haven't seen it, I'd still recommend it for sure. The depiction of the villains and the sex act/molestation reference by mAQ is a selling point.