Korean Thriller Reviews are NSFW

Rating Korean thrillers is difficult, because if you’ve seen one Korean thriller you HAVE NOT SEEN THEM ALL. Ha. Got you right? Thought I was going say one thing, but I said the other. Anyway, Bedevilled is incredibly twisted. It lacks some of the otherworldly depth known in other Korean thrillers, but still does an adequate job at being an unsettling mess.

The story centers on Book Nam, a mother and wife who has only ever known life on her tiny island. A childhood friend reluctantly comes to visit her. She’s not as kind as Book Nam and is hesitant to understand a person with whom she has so little in common. The movie examines their interactions as children, their stark differences as individuals, and reveals an odd relationship central to the story. It’s difficult to interpret common familial interactions in a society where straight men scrub one another’s backs in bathhouses to bond. So, the uneasiness between the two of them ends up playing further into the uncertainty felt while watching the film.

Bedevilled is a hard watch.  The movie is neatly divided into two parts – the buildup, and the execution. The first half consists of Book Nam’s struggle to protect her daughter while being treated like a common dog, or “hussie”, by all of the people who live on the island. She is verbally, mentally, and physically assaulted, but somehow retains her caring demeanor. About halfway through, the film takes a sudden and severe change as Book Nam reaches her boiling point.

The pacing is even and meticulous. The abuse is never gratuitous, with most of the instances showing darkness in a reserved way. Most films take far too much joy in stringing out abuse and laying it on heavily, while treating the audience with contempt like children. Bedevilled does not. It shows what is essential to the plot, then moves on quickly. At least this is true in the first half. The second half more resembles a 17th century painting of the beheading of John the Baptist, with red soaking through every frame. There are a few brilliant and insanely violent things that occur, along with one of the most horrifically uncomfortable and desperate ideas I’ve ever seen. The payoff if you’re a fan of practical thinking in tough situations and gore effects, is satisfactory.

                              

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