I Saw the Devil has been in my queue for a while. I heard long ago that it is brutal, but is still an amazing movie. Last night, the stars aligned and I was subjected to this film. The first thing you should know is that I Saw the Devil was made in South Korea. If you have ever seen films from South Korea, then you know that when I say this sucker is brutal that I am not talking Saw brutal. I am talking Old Boy brutal.
The story is very simple. A serial killer kills a woman who just so happens to be the fiance of a secret agent. The secret agent tracks down the killer, and instead of killing him decides that he is going to give the serial killer as much pain as the serial killer has given him. Then the secret agent will kill him.
What that involves can lead to some incredibly difficult visuals. First off, the secret agent (Lee Byung-hun) wants to cause the serial killer (Choi Min-sik) as much pain and frustration as possible. So he stalks him until the serial killer is about to have his fun. By fun, I of course mean raping and killing women and girls. So we get to see several scenes of the serial killer forcing women to remove their clothing, or beating them or just spouting horrible, hate-filled speech at them.
Compared to what happens next though, that is nothing. The secret agent comes in just as the serial killer is about to get down to business and beats the living crap out of him. Before he leaves the serial killer to start the process all over again he does something to make the serial killer’s life more painful. This could include breaking his wrist, beating him mercilessly all over his body, or in one of the most difficult to watch scenes cutting his Achilles tendon. The secret agent then has someone attend to the serial killers wounds. That way he will be in pain, but he will be able to continue on.
Another interesting thing that I Saw the Devil does is to introduce us to other monsters. First, the secret agent searches for his fiance’s killer by going through a list of likely suspects. We get to watch him brutalize other killers and rapists once he realizes that these people are monsters, but they are not the monster he is looking for.
Also, the serial killer has “followers.” One in particular we get several extended scenes of him “preparing” his favorite meal. Watching the secret agent deal with this zealot is also a rough scene. Pretty much everything that happens around this zealot’s house is not a situation that you would ever want to be in.
What is extremely interesting about this film is that it ends up being a morality tale about revenge. I will not spoil why or how, but suffice it to say seeking an eye for an eye is about the worst choice to make in this film’s universe. There is most definitely an antagonist in I Saw the Devil. But I do not know if I could say there is a protagonist.
All of this being said, I Saw the Devil is still a very good film and proof that South Korea is on the leading edge of pushing where film can take us. You would never see a film like this made in America, and we brought you such beautiful fare as Hostel and Hatchet. On a tangent, I still cannot believe they are trying to remake Old Boy (Starring Choi Min-sik, the serial killer in this film). How on earth could it possibly be anything like the original? This film is dark and truly explores how depraved a human who feels wronged can become. In doing so, it made me question what would I do to a person who did these horrible things to my wife. Some of my answers were surprising. I Saw the Devil was thought provoking and in many instances quite horrifying. If you can handle that, I would highly recommend I Saw the Devil. If you cannot, go see Chronicle.
Have you seen I Saw the Devil? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.