DVD Review: Bedevilled aka: Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal (dir. Chul-soo Yang, 2010)

DVD Review: Bedevilled aka: Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal (dir. Chul-soo Yang, 2010)

Bedevilled was one of the films that I didn’t have time to fit in at last year’s Frightfest but with its release on DVD this week I made good on a second chance.

Bedevilled

While American horror and thrillers tend to languish in remakes and torture porn, it’s great to see Korean filmmakers still finding ways to tell engaging and thought-provoking horror stories, as is the case with Bedevilled.

Bedevilled tells the story of city girl Hae-Won who, after an altercation at work, heads on vacation to an island to meet estranged childhood friend Bok-Nam.

It’s here that Hae-Won witnesses the pressure cooker that Bok-Nam calls life. Bok-Nam is belittled by the village elders, abused by her cheating husband and forced to work on the farm.

Director Jang Cheol-Su notches up the tension slowly and brutally as we experience Bok-Nam’s abuse on a daily basis.

Unlike I Spit On Your Grave or Last House on the Left, the brutality here isn’t confined to a single incident; Bok-Nam’s pain starts with sunrise and doesn’t end at sunset. The pain is constant and sharp.

The beatings are tough to watch, but what makes them tougher is the sense of normalcy that the villagers have to witnessing them.

What’s more, Hae-Won’s apathetic “see no evil, hear no evil response” to her friend’s situation implicates her as much as Bok-Nam’s torturers.

Hae-Won isn’t portrayed as vain or arrogant but rather as someone whose life in the city has allowed her to compartmentalise her friend as something less than human.

She’s educated and privileged and yet she doesn’t help her friend – a lazy form of evil.

When events come to head and tragedy strikes, Bok-Nam eventually decides enough is enough and takes arms against her oppressors and her friend.

The film is a slow-boil so that when the violence does erupt and revenge is taken, it’s shocking, cathartic and ultimately sad – reminiscent of the denouement of Old Boy.

The film sees the evaporation of a friendship that could have saved two lives rather than the life of the one person left standing at the end of the film.

And that’s the real horror that stays with you after the credits roll.

Bedevilled is available to buy on DVD from Amazon UK now.

posted by admin at 12:46 am  

A rant against Black Swan (dir. Aronofsky, 2010)

A rant against Black Swan (dir. Aronofsky, 2010)

I heard good things about Black Swan, which made me suspicious.

When I get a lot of people telling me I should like something I tend to avoid it or at least paying for it.
So when I got into Black Swan on someone else’s dollar last week, I was more than happy to give it a fair hearing.

Heading to the cinema foyer you can’t miss the posters that have nothing but praise or five stars on them for the film.

It’s worrying because good films – films with something genuinely new to say – should divide as much as they bring together.

What’s odd about the praise for Black Swan was the general consensus from both critics I admire and critics whose praise you read indirectly as a warning sign.

The plot of Black Swan isn’t anything new and has been explored in The Red Shoes (dir. Michael Powell 1948) and, perhaps more relevantly, Showgirls (dir. Paul Verhoeven 1995).

I mention Showgirls not to be glib but because there are genuine parallels between it and Black Swan. I’m not the only one to have noticed the similarities. Google ‘Black Swan Showgirls mash-up’ and see the results for yourself.

The main difference between the two films is that Showgirls dealt with strippers and Black Swan deals with ballet dancers. The difference in judgement between the two seems predetermined not by the content of the film, but by the class of the audience likely to turn out for each film.

One film is universally panned whereas the other is universally loved despite the unquestionable similarities.

The hypocrisy doesn’t end there, though. For all intents and purposes Black Swan IS a horror film. It uses techniques and set-ups from the staple of horror films made decades ago.

But, once again, Black Swan plays its get out of jail free card because the depicted horror is ‘psychological’ – inferred dream sequences suggesting the disturbed state of mind of its central charecter.

It’s not actual horror, implies Aronofsky to the audience. You don’t have to feel bad about watching THIS kind of horror because it’s not real – it’s psychological. And because it’s ballet and ballet is classy. And you’re still classy if you like this film because all these reviewers like it too. Have your cake and eat it.

Had, at the end of the film, Natalie Portman turned into a giant mutant black swan hell-bent on taking out rival dancers by imprisoning them in a giant nest made of the bones of her former lovers- well, that just would be laughable, wouldn’t it?

No way a classy person could get behind that, eh?

As a postscript to my rant, The Red Shoes’ director Michael Powell later went on to direct the disturbing and yet moving Peeping Tom (1960), which was universally panned and which pretty much ended his career. Decades later Peeping Tom is celebrated as a masterpiece. Aronofsky’s next project is the sequel to Marvel Comics’ Wolverine. I can see the reviews now.

posted by admin at 12:00 am  

Night of the Demon (1957 dir. Jacques Tourneur) Medium Rare Entertainment – DVD Review

Night of the Demon (1957 dir. Jacques Tourneur) Medium Rare Entertainment – DVD Review

A spare weekend has enabled me to catch up on several films – some on DVD and some at the cinema.

In addition to viewing Richard Wenk’s Vamp (1986) I picked up Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957) as part of a double-bill.

Night of the Demon

It’s weird that this film has passed under my radar for so long; I’m a sucker for old British horror films. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) are among my favourites and anytime I chance upon something where the setting is England and something spooky is bumping around in the shadows, I’m in.

Digressing slightly for a moment, there’s a warmth and charm that old British horror films have. You know you’re in good hands and have a better than average chance of watching decent acting and not being bludgeoned with gore at the expense of a plot that makes sense.

In Night of the Demon American professor John Holden visits an English town where his colleague met a grisly fate at the hands of a demon – conjured by the prime suspect and cult leader Dr. Julian Karswell.

As a disbelieving Holden attempts to find out what happened to his colleague he is issued with a hex by Karswell who explains that Holden will meet a similar fate.

What follows is a tense thriller built on an is there a real demon or isn’t there premise. You’re kept off-balance, and even though an actual monster is revealed in the film’s first few scenes, you still feel a Scooby Doo-style explanation could be lurking as part of the film’s climax.

As with Vamp inspiring From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell (2009) is heavily if not entirely indebted to Night of the Demon and to a lesser extent The Last Exorcism (2010).

Night of the Demon doesn’t have nearly the amount of jumps as Drag Me To Hell does – although there are a few – but part of the film’s charm lies in the interchange between the professor and the cult leader. Mysticism vs science, with a possible fire-breathing demon thrown in the shadows for good measure.

To say that Night of The Demon is not nearly as unnerving as the later Wicker Man (1973), misses the point of the film. In the year of the film’s release Sputnik launched into space, IBM built the compiler for the FORTRAN programming language and Cheshire unveiled the first radio telescope – man was reaching out of the shadows.

Night of the Demon serves as a reminder of what could still be lurking in the dark and what science had yet to explain.

posted by admin at 12:00 am  
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