Movie Review: I Saw the Devil

Title: I Saw the Devil
Released: 2010
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Writer: Hoon-jung Park (screenplay)
Stars: Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi

There’s no doubt I’m a horror fan; I definitely enjoy watching a campy horror movie villain creatively kill that asshole jock who was making off-color comments throughout the entire movie. But there are certain kinds of horror movies I just can’t stomach, and those are usually the ones that, unlike their campy counterparts, are aimed at a realism that often hits too close to the mark for me to enjoy. “I Saw the Devil” definitely falls into the latter category.

“I Saw the Devil” is a Korean horror movie starring the brilliant Choi Min-sik (the star of “Old Boy,” a gratuitously violent Korean thriller I would highly recommend), who plays a deranged psychopath who rapes and dismembers a special agent’s (Byung-hun Lee) girlfriend. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game between killer and cop as the special agent seeks revenge by catching, torturing, and releasing the killer, promising each time that the next meeting will be far worse than the last.

The opportunity to watch a serial rapist/killer get what he deserves makes for a great premise, but the twists and turns leading to a predictably gruesome ending become harder and harder to watch. It’s also surprising to discover the special agent is not necessarily likable. I expected to be cheering for him the entire way as he avenges his girlfriend, but I found myself growing angrier and angrier with him as he takes longer and longer to intervene as the killer sexually assaults more women.

The movie was recommended to me by my former coworker Will “Movie Man” Pfeifer, who writes the Movie Man blog. In his review of “I Saw the Devil” (it’s after the review of A Clockwork Orange), Will describes it as a movie “you don’t shake off easily,” and I would say that’s an exceptionally accurate assessment. “I Saw the Devil” is disturbing, darkly violent, and frustrating to watch. As the end credits began to roll, my only reaction was to stare at the screen, slack-jawed.

I don’t think I formed a coherent sentence until at least 20 minutes later.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: I Saw the Devil

  1. Will says:

    Nice review, Mika. You brought up a point that I’ve considered and re-considered over the years. Though I like all sorts of horror movies, sometimes it seems like the ones that really put you through the ringer and show you things you’d rather not see (which this movie does) or feature a “hero” who does some pretty horrible things (again, which this movie does) are more, I don’t know — true? (whatever that word means). I mean, if it’s a horror movie, shouldn’t it deliver some genuinely unsettling content?

    I don’t know — just something I ponder when watching horror movies. It’s the film geek inside me. And don’t get me wrong — I like a good, cheesy slasher flick, too.

    On a semi-related topic, have you seen either “House of the Devil” or “The Strangers”? They’re both American horror movies that, I think, generate some real tension and suspense long before any blood is spilled. Worth a look.

    • The Slasher Chick says:

      Thanks, Will! “True” is a good word for horror movies like this one. I definitely think there are different categories of horror, and I agree really good horror does leave you with that unsettled feeling in your gut. However, I tend to enjoy horror that’s so far from reality that there’s no “danger” in suspending my disbelief.

      I have not seen “House of the Devil,” but I have seen “The Strangers.” I remember in the middle of the movie when things really start to pick up, I looked at my friend and said, “I really don’t think I can watch this movie.” It terrified me (I seem to remember that one being based on true events, too). To this day, I still find myself occasionally peeking out my windows looking for masked psychopaths. I don’t even think it was the violence that bothered me but the realism. For example, I was disappointed with the Friday the 13th remake because all of the “creative” kills were in the intro of the movie, but movies like “I Saw the Devil” or “Hostel” or “The Human Centipede” just make me feel ill. I really think it’s realism in a horror movie that turns me off, not violence.

      But going back to “The Strangers,” it’s a great example of a horror movie that leaves you really unsettled and even a little scared after it’s all over. I recommend it to people all the time but always tell them they’ll have to watch it without me because I don’t think I can sit through it again. I’ll have to check out “House of the Devil,” though. It sounds interesting.

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