The concept of I Saw the Devil boils down to a revenge tale. Kyung-chul (Oldboy's Min-Sik Choi) is a sadistic, murdering bastard. One night, he encounters a woman with a flat tire and decides to murder her. Why not, right? The woman happened to be the pregnant fiancee of secret agent Soo-hyun (Storm Shadow in the GI Joe movies, Byung-hun Lee). Being a total bad-ass, Soo-hyun decides to take some time off work to grieve...and systematically track down all of the known suspects the police have for the crime and ruin their lives, regardless of their guilt in this particular case. So if you're a known predator that the police haven't been able to pin a case on, Soo-hyun is going to make you hurt. Probably in your balls.
|Hands will work, too|
|L-R: good guy, bad guy (obviously)|
What sets I Saw the Devil apart from all the other revenge-based horror movies out there? There's a lot more depth here than you might initially suspect. On the surface, this movie is borderline torture porn; if you can't bear to watch Hostel, then the intense sick violence in this movie will be a bit much. Unlike Hostel, though, I Saw the Devil makes sure to have a hero on hand to keep the legitimately frightening villain in check. That changes the tone of the movie. Instead of having that weird snuff film vibe, this movie makes you extremely uncomfortable as you watch a killer terrorize his intended victims, but then relives you by having the hero show up and beat the living hell out of the killer. There is a lot of tension-building in this movie, followed by some very satisfying relief by proxy. Soo-hyun keeps letting Kyung-chuland go, though, despite his crimes. It quickly becomes clear that this is a game of cat-and-mouse with two people who both fancy themselves cats. As the film progresses, Soo-hyun's actions become less and less acceptable with more and more collateral damage. What, exactly, makes a monster? That is what makes this movie fascinating.
The acting in I Saw the Devil was top-notch from the two leads. Min-Sik Choi was genuinely disturbing in his role. Normally, serial killers come across as caricatures or stereotypes on film, but he was absolutely frightening.
|I hope he's not a method actor|
|...and yet, his jacket is a popular Google search|
Jee-Woon Kim directed I Saw the Devil, and his next film will be Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to acting. Given the talent he displays in this film, I would have hoped for a better introduction to Hollywood, but whatever. Kim took a story that could have easily been exploitative and all about the gore, and he shaped it into a tightly-wound, intense experience. The violence in this film is jarring and frightening, but it is that effective thanks to the effective atmosphere Kim creates. Sure, the cinematography was nice and the gore was gory, but they are just tools used to create a wonderfully uncomfortable and disturbing movie.
As for the horror elements and violence in I Saw the Devil, they're pretty brutal. There is definitely something in this movie for everyone, as far as squirm-inducing violence goes. The severed Achilles tendon scene was perhaps the hardest for me to watch, but there's a variety of equally tough and realistic bits in the film. The gore isn't what makes this such a scary movie, though. It is the prolonged periods where Kyung-chuland is alone with a victim and is just being intimidating as all hell. It doesn't help that the hero winds up being just as bad as the villain in some respects, either. He could have easily prevented many deaths and his actions in the final scene were awesomely wicked.
|You're damn right!|