'Bedevilled', directed by Jang Cheol-so (S. Korea)

Everyone gets fed up sometimes. Hae-won (Ji Sung-won) is a curt young woman, bullied by thugs on the street when she's not denying loan applications at her bank. A series of incidents and one lost temper later, she has plenty of time with which to take a much-needed vacation to her childhood home on Moo-do Island. For Hae-won, it's a rural locale devoid of modern conveniences; for Bok-nam (a terrific Seo Yeong-hee), her friend's arrival is a welcome respite from the constant chores and sexual assaults that make up her day-to-day life. Bok-nam is curious about the mainland, and just as desperate to flee Moo-do with her daughter in tow. A series of incidents and one lost temper later, though, the island's population begins to be whittled down with ruthless efficiency...

Making his directorial debut, Jang Cheol-so slowly shifts focus from one frustrated female to the other, piling on injustices with a heavy hand for the better part of an hour before finally letting loose with his protagonist's righteous fury. The set-up may not be subtle -- the local elders are a constantly nagging lot, and a transparent button-pushing device so far as audience sympathies are concerned -- but the ultimate pay-off is certainly, viscerally satisfying.
'A Horrible Way to Die', directed by Adam Wingard (United States)

Sarah (Amy Seimetz) mostly keeps to herself at her AA meetings, shy but at least sober. Kevin (Joe Swanberg) tries to warm up to her anyway, generally awkward yet seemingly sincere once they finally do make a date. What Kevin doesn't know is that Sarah turned in her last boyfriend, Garrick (A.J. Bowen), after finding out that he was a serial killer. What Sarah doesn't know is that Garrick has escaped from his prison transport and is currently heading her way...

Pulpy title aside, 'Horrible' is a fairly subdued thriller, capably acted all around and cleverly structured by Simon Barrett's screenplay so as to jump between Sarah's cautious romance, Garrick's creepy determination and their once-happy romance. However, director Adam Wingard opts for frustratingly opaque camerawork and ragged editing in an attempt to bolster a sense of murky mood and growing menace when banality and a tripod would've served the story just fine and the performances even better.

'Undocumented', directed by Chris Peckover (United States)

What is it with grad students and the cameras they can't put down? Travis (Scott Mechlowicz) is making a documentary about illegal immigration with the help of four friends, and they commit to following a group of Mexicans as they cross into America. Wouldn't you know it, everyone makes it across, only to end up captured by border-patrolling radicals led by "Z" (a masked Peter Stormare) and forced to chronicle their grisly methods of dissuasion.

At the risk of marginalizing it, 'Undocumented' is essentially a Stateside answer to 'Hostel,' fusing together a very real sense of xenophobia with very gruesome torture scenarios. The political points are thuddingly obvious (is "Z" short for "Zealot"?), and even for a piece of survival horror, the violence grows somewhat tiresome after a while, but the cast is convincingly frantic throughout, their escape attempts make for genuinely tense moments, and the cutting by Glenn Garland and Jim May is slyly effective given the overly convenient first-person approach employed for the majority of the film.
categories Cinematical