“Hail to Hell” (지옥만세) – 2022 Busan Film Review

Bang Hyo-rin (left) and Oh Woo-ri) wearily trek through life in “Hail to Hell.” (still courtesy of KAFA)

The synopsis for the film “Hail to Hell” (지옥만세) in the official Busan International Film Festival program states that two teenage girls, who have been suffering from bullying and go through a “ridiculous suicide failure,” then embark on a “fascinating adventure story.” This description does not do this film justice. At all. Rather, it is a look at how abuse can be a never ending downward spiral meets M.C. Escher drawing — and the solution may not be to chase gimmicks to find paradise, but simply to accept reality and deal with it.

Na-mi (played by Oh Woo-ri) and Sun-woo (Bang Hyo-rin, often referred to her nickname of “Phony,” not due to her nature but perhaps because of the broken phone she carries with her), are kind of, sort of, friends. They aren’t the brightest bulbs in the block, but their actions — or inactions — are understandable given that they have suffered continuous abuse at the hands of their respective families and school enemies. With this, they share one major perpetrator in common: Chae-rin (Jung Yi-ju), whose family lost the amusement park they used to own and darted out of town to the capital. Thanks to some social media sleuthing, they locate her whereabouts in Seoul and vow to take revenge…and that’s when the weirdness begins.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in his 1944 existentialist play No Exit that “Hell is other people.” Both Na-mi and Sun-woo gradually learn this lesson, albeit through clouded judgment pummeled by years of mistreatment. As they learn about the pain they inflict on themselves, each other, and other human beings familiar and unfamiliar, they wonder if finding a happier place really is worth the uphill battle.

“Hail to Hell” screens at the 2022 Busan International Film Festival on Oct. 9, 11 and 13. For ticket information, go to biff.kr.

trailer courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival