Bedevilled Seo Young-hee, Ji Sung-won Director: Jang Cheol-soo As South Korean filmmakers look set to become, yet again, the dominant Asian force at this year's Cannes Film Festival - three features and four shorts will premiere on the Croisette in the next fortnight - it's timely to cast a glance at the most talked-about entry from the country at last year's proceedings. Bedevilled attracted much attention after taking its bow at the Critics' Week programme: taking its cue from many of its extremely violent predecessors - Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, maybe, or Kim Ki-duk's The Isle - Jang Cheol-soo's film is at once brutal and intelligent in its portrayal of suppression and exploitation in Korean society. Jang's spell as Kim's assistant has certainly been influential on the 37-year-old director. Just like most of Kim's films, Bedevilled is marked by its untrammelled depiction of how women react to unfettered primitive behaviour in a patriarchical universe. Interestingly, the film doesn't begin with the victim/protagonist. It opens with Hae-won (Ji Sung-won), a bank employee whose cynicism stops her from helping a woman facing certain death at the hands of thugs and to deny a loan to a pensioner facing eviction. After a bust-up with a colleague, she goes on a forced sabbatical and travels to a remote island where she holidayed as a child. There she finds a bizarre social set-up in which her friend, Bok-nam (Seo Young-hee), is a slave to all. As Hae-won takes her usual path by ignoring the evil around her, Bok-nam takes over both her life and the film. Subjected to a crescendo of violent acts, the helpless woman's implosion into madness is near certain, but her revenge is still a shock. While Jang has laid the groundwork with a narrative laden with increasingly emotionally manipulative twists, it's Seo who provides the drive to bring this premise vividly to life. She conveys Bok-nam's desperation well, and is equally convincing when the character lurches into lunacy in the showdown with her tormentors. Bedevilled is complex because nobody exits the story with their hands or conscience clean. Responsibility for Bok-nam's tragedy lies with men and women, villagers and urbanites, thugs and cops. An unnecessary final sequence aside, Jang's film is an unremittingly scary and scathing exploration of human nature. Extras: making-of scenes, trailer.