I Saw the Devil is a beautifully malevolent masterpiece from South Korea. It is rich in cinematography and it is superbly directed by Jee-woon Kim. It is both a spectacle for your eyes as much as it is a heart-wrenching journey into the depths of evil. I Saw the Devil is the first true horror gem of the year and it will end up on my best of 2011 list at year's end.
The film opens rather serenely as we observe a vehicle driving through the dark rural roads on a snowy night through the windshield as if we are right there inside the vehicle.. Even the music chosen for the ride puts you at ease while you begin your brutal journey. It's a nice choice to start the film this way...as it doesn't give any indication what-so-ever what you will be in store for. And make no mistake....this car ride is shortened once the driver descends upon a broken down vehicle with a female occupant talking on the phone with her husband, Kim Soo-hyuen (played by the talented Byung-hun Lee....you might remember him as Storm Shadow from the unfortunate G.I.Joe film--he really had no business being in that shitastrophe). It's a sweet moment as we see Soo-hyuen tenderly singing to Joo-yeon over the phone in an attempt to soothe her while she waits for a tow truck. Then..before you can yell..."Jesus Christ, woman, watch out!" The scene shifts abruptly from serene to savage as the poor girl is beaten unconscience with a fucking hammer by the serial killer of the film, Kyung-Chul (played by Oldboy himself, Min-sik Choi!). He brings her back to his lair where he coldly dispatches her...here's where the fun begins.
You see....Soo-hyuen is a special agent in Korea's version of the secret service and once he learns of his sweet Joo-yeon's untimely demise by way of a clumsily handled severed head, he promises a most painful vengeance upon her assailant. Thus begins the cat and mouse revenge portion of the film. Lee fits the role of the broken Soo-hyuen perfectly as a man struggling to become the monster that his pregnant wife's killer obviously is in which to hunt him down and seek his merciless revenge on him. And because the monster of the film is Choi...the film becomes a perfect study in character exposition with both actors playing off each other seamlessly. It's Spacey vs. Mills/Somerset from Se7en for a new generation. And while this mostly seems like a crime drama...there are plenty of horror elements that will satisfy any genre fan.
I won't talk about the film too much anymore in detail...as to avoid spoiling it for you...but, as Soo-hyuen continues his catch/release game of vengeance...he releases Chul one too many times unleashing a series of consequences that ultimately takes the film to a more ominous territory...setting up the eventual hopeless conclusion that made films like the aforementioned Se7en such a powerful classic. Trust me when I tell you that there are so many elements within this film that whatever I spoke about earlier is just surface material...it definitely gets much deeper as the long running time advances.
I Saw the Devil will move you in many different ways. It will make you squirm in gory delight and the film will leave its mark deep inside of you. It is unequivocally the best horror film of 2011 yet...and will be hard to match in content and quality. Jee-woon Kim does an unbelievable job of telling the simple revenge story utilizing the talents of two of the best actors of our time. And the rich cinematography is stunning. A marvel for all the senses.
Here's the trailer...
Thanks for reading,