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.