Written by Hoon-jung Park
Directed by Jee-woon Kim
Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. He has committed infernal serial murders in diabolic ways that one cannot even imagine and his victims range from young women to even children. The police have chased him for a long time, but were unable to catch him. One day, Joo-yeon, daughter of a retired police chief becomes his prey and is found dead in a horrific state. Her fiance Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), a top secret agent, decides to track down the murderer himself. He promises himself that he will do everything in his power to take bloody vengeance against the killer, even if it means that he must become a monster himself to get this monstrous and inhumane killer.
Well, kids, if there was ever a time to start an official Fister’s Hall of Fame®, it’s now. When you watch horror movies in such volume, you run across pleasant surprises now and then. It’s bound to happen. Then, there are movies like the 2010 revenge tale, I Saw the Devil. This is the kind of horror movie that painfully reminds you why you love the genre to start with. I don’t have a firm ratings system, but this deserves my highest mark possible.
This film is a Molotov cocktail of emotion. You’re never comfortable as you view it. I switched between anxiety, horror, revulsion, sickening grief, satisfaction, and ultimately a sense of sadness for what Soo-hyun becomes. It would be an understatement to say what happens to his fiance is a tragedy. I’ve seen few films that shroud the viewer in darkness and pain the way I Saw the Devil does.
Kyung-chul is the type of movie villain that sinks to such an unfathomable level of evil that it leaves you forgetting it’s just a movie. He isn’t a man; he’s evil incarnate. His high-pitched laugh sent tremors up my spine. The delight he takes in the sick torture, rape, and murder of his victims is challenging to watch.
A demon in the flesh?
“You can’t become a monster to fight the monsters.”
Soo-hyun takes a vow to make the murderer suffer as much as his beloved fiance. I find it hard to believe he doesn’t succeed. He might even take it farther. While we have no choice to despise the villain, we equally want to cheer for the hero. And, holy shit, if the Korean don’t have an unnatural knack for revenge served up right. As Soo-hyun descends down this dark path, it’s literally impossible to not cheer him on. Being an Asian secret agent has its perks. He is a straight up ninja-level bad ass. The hand-to-hand combat is devastating.
Who dat Ninja?
This really is a contender for the most violent movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not just that it’s violent, it’s also the unnerving way it puts you in the shoes of those suffering. Blurring the line of good and evil, Soo-hyun has to choose how far he’s willing to go to “win”. No one truly wins in I Saw the Devil. I found myself wanting for him to surrender to his morals and let his enemy live. What he eventually does to extract his ultimate revenge is terrible. He transcends hero, anti-hero, or villain in the last moments of the film. All he wanted was revenge, but forces his own hand and makes even more innocents suffer.
If you have strong constitution and feel you can traverse the dark path I Saw the Devil takes – you’ll be rewarded for your iron will. This was a challenge to sit through. I wanted to look away, but couldn’t. There isn’t a single thing I would change; this one is literally perfect. This is your reward for all the shitty horror movies we have to endure.