I Saw the Devil

I Saw the Devil is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I Saw the Devil (2010) – Not rated

“Secret agent Kim Soo-hyeon learns how far he’ll go for revenge after his fiancĂ©e is brutally slain by a serial killer. With police baffled, Soo-hyeon decides to catch the murderer, but his growing violence makes him wonder who the monster really is.”

“Is this a recent picture? Why does he look so scary?”

Writer/director Jee-woon Kim made a modest little horror movie called A Tale of Two Sisters. He then went on to write and direct the fantastic The Good, The Bad, The Weird. At the time it was the most expensive film ever made in Korea and the gamble paid off. He followed this up with directing I Saw the Devil.

I Saw the Devil is quite good but be aware that it is a tough slog for many reasons. First, you will be reading subtitles – a lot of them. Second, the movie is almost two and a half hours long. Third, and perhaps most important, I Saw the Devil is very, very brutal.

The film opens with a drive in the snow while melancholy music plays in the background and credits roll. The opening scene is harrowing as our hero’s fiancee is broken down in the snow with a flat tire. While she is on the phone with her fiancee, a secret agent, a man stops to help.

The Bad in The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Byung-hun Lee) plays Kim Soo-hyeon, our secret agent out for revenge. Lee is excellent as our obsessed protagonist. He is given four possible suspects and hunts each one in turn – regardless of their guilt. Min-sik Choi plays Kyung-chul. Choi was Dae-su Oh in Oldboy (if you have not seen it, you should). Choi certainly portrays a convincingly clever serial killer. Moo-seong Choi plays a secondary serial killer and cannibal Tae-joo.

As you might guess with a serial killer film, I Saw the Devil is not only disturbing but contains a disturbing amount of violence. That it is so realistic only adds to the horror. Be aware that there are things you cannot unsee. Objectionable material includes realistic violence including castration by pipe wrench, bodily dismemberment, nudity, sexual situations, and attempted rape.

Cinematography by Mo-gae Lee is excellent, particularly a panning shot outside Kim’s apartment. Strangely while the level of violence should be entirely revolting, the grounding in reality, the cinematography, the acting and the emotional depth of the film help to ameliorate the damage.

People Watch: Director Jee-woon Kim has finished Doomsday Book in Korea and is working on Schwarzenegger’s comeback in The Last Stand.