By Ray Bennett
CANNES – Cheol-soo Jang’s “Bedevilled” tells of two young Korean women raised on a remote island in a brutally uncaring community. One has escaped to the big city but remains wrapped seriously tight and when she returns to visit her friend, whose plight is dire, one of them goes batty and kills everyone.
Not so much bedeviled as demented, the film spends half of its time describing the malevolence of the community and then the horrific and relentless revenge begins. Audiences would be cheering if the family of drooling, cretinous males and bullying old women were not such cardboard cutouts.
The film’s escalating tension is staged well and sequences on the beautiful island are photographed attractively. A vivid portrayal of a descent into madness by Yeong-hie Seo, whose cheery and optimistic smile gives way to the glazed panic of lunacy, and lots of gushing blood, could see some healthy returns from the horror circuit.
Seo plays the woman who stays behind on the island where income derives from beekeeping. That cottage industry is hardly dwelt on, however, as the film concentrates on the beastly ways of the family, with the elder women smiling and forgiving every brutal and sexual indulgence on the part of the men.
Seong-won Ji plays the citified friend who has grown indifferent to the sufferings of others and retreats to the island after declining to testify against three thugs who have assaulted and nearly killed a young woman on the street.
Withdrawn and selfish, she sympathizes with her childhood friend but seems reluctant to become involved. As the men’s behavior gets worse and she also becomes threatened, it’s a toss-up which of the two young women will be the first to crack and start sharpening the gardening implements.
In his first feature, the Korean director shows a good grasp of how to build gradual suspense although he has a worrying appetite for starting scenes with close-ups of anonymous feet and he doesn’t quite know when to bring the violence to an end.
Venue: Festival de Cannes, Critics Week; Cast: Yeong-hee Seo, Seong-won Ji; Director: Cheol-soo Jang; Screenwriter: Kwang-young Choi; Director of photography: Gi-tae Kim; Production designer: Jeom-hui Sihm ; Music: Tae-seong Kim; Editor: Mi-joo Kim; Sales: Finecut; Producer: Kuy-young Park; Production companies: Filma Pictures, Tori Pictures; Not rated; running time, 115 minutes.
This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.