If you like Chan-Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy, you’ll love I Saw the Devil. Director Kim Jee-Woon’s latest thriller doesn’t hold back and doesn’t hesitate to go where you really don’t (but secretly do) want it to go. Everyone endures torture (whether physical, emotional, or psychological) and nobody really comes out on top. But unlike Saw or Hostel, I Saw the Devil is a game of torture you can really get behind. It has all the makings of a classic gore-fest. Its inventively sick and twisted violence builds into a crescendo of mayhem comparable to Old Boy.
Read on for the review.
- Director: Kim Jee-Woon
- Writer: Park Hoon-jung
- Cinematographer: Lee Mogae
- Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik
This is a revenge tail in which a young special agent’s fiancee is brutally murdered by a serial killer/rapist. He takes his revenge on him not by simply killing him, but by implanting a tracking device inside the killer and attacking him every time he tries to take another victim. It turns into a game of terror as he stalks the serial killer, breaking a wrist in one brawl, slicing his tendon in another – and taking him to the hospital to get bandaged up so he can do it again later. Of course, the tables turn on our hero when the killer gets wise to his tracking device. It ends with a gut-wrenching guillotine scene, after which it’s hard to decide the victor.
This film is definitely up to snuff in the Korean horror/thriller genre. It engages and manipulates the audience very insidiously and effectively. The world of the film seems to be peopled with serial killers who know each other– and at one point, it seems to turn into more of a villains versus villains type of story – which bad guy is a worse bad guy? Do we want our central villain to get killed by this new villain? NO! We want to see our hero maim our central villain more! And wait a second, our hero is far more violent than the serial killers; why am I okay with that…?
Every shot from beginning to end flawlessly conformed with the tone and purpose of the film. There were only a few “jump-out-at-you” moments, which can seem cheap if they’re over-numerous. But this film uses them very well, and they were far from the scariest scenes in the film. Kim Jee-Woon is a master craftsman of the well-built horror scene.
One thing to note is that this film is 141 minutes, and generally I have a hard time being exposed to violence for such a prolonged period. However, for the purposes of this film, it really worked. The length itself actually played a large part in the psychological horror of the film, which is the persistence of the hero to drag out his terrorism of the serial killer. It hooked me from the beginning and sustained momentum through the end.
The movie takes everyone’s worst nightmare and then matches it with everyone’s worst revenge fantasy. If you like gore and violence, you have to see this film.