13 January 2012

I saw the Devil - review

I say leave it to the South Korean film directors when it comes to making insane revenge movies. No one makes those kinds of movies more messed up, original and disturbing. "I saw the devil" is a Horror/Thriller that leans more towards the thriller with amped up brutality and horrific elements. This is not a movie for those with weak stomachs, but the movie is so much more than a brutal revenge flick playing on the brutality alone.

The movie is about a special agent who has his wife murdered by a serial killer who prowls the deserted roads at night in search of victims (using a minibus that he also drives at his job as a school bus driver...). The serial killer is played by the fantastic actor Min-Sik Choi who also starred in the awesome and twisted "OldBoy" movie which is my all time favorite movie and a sick revenge movie as well.

After having kidnapped the agent's wife the killer chops her up and dumps the remains - the body parts are found by some kids playing near a river shortly thereafter. The Police investigating the brutal chain of murders narrow the number of suspects down to 4 known killers who are known for similar acts of depraved brutality.

Special agent Kim Soo who has connections at the Police station and the current investigation sets out on a personal vendetta to track down the killer and extract his revenge for the loss of his wife - making the killer pay and suffer as much as his victims. I won't spoil more of the plot because it is a fresh take on the Policeman hunting the killer movie. The whole movie is very violent during the violent scenes, creepy as hell when it needs to be and disturbing and tickling your gag reflex more than on one occasion. It also includes a few laughs, just like OldBoy did, showing that you can mix extreme darkness with humor from time to time.

The humor comes not from slapstick jokes or exchange of funny dialogue but rather from small twists in the plot - I was so winded up that I burst into laughter twice to relieve tension because it was just so surreal when certain things happened.

While the movie is not the masterpiece that "OldBoy" was "I saw the Devil" is still a very good horror/thriller movie that beats most if not all of its contemporary competition (mostly made up of superficial remakes like I spit on your grave and Straw Dogs). It is very interesting to see how the two main characters, the serial killer and the special agent, evolve as during the brutal cat and mouse chase. The story itself is not revolutionary but it is as I said a fresh take on the whole thing.

Now the real question some of you might ask is - "is it torture porn"? I would have to say that it's not. The violence fills a purpose other than to gross out the audience, so you can't compare it to crap like the Hostel movies. The violence also feels more realistic, which may be a weird thing to say because much of the brutality happening on screen to the characters would have left you dead in the real life. It is not, however, cartoony or played for gags. And even if some scenes are meant to be sick-funny it is still a very dark and serious movie.

I think that if you like revenge movies in general, and if you liked "Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance/OldBoy, then you will most likely enjoy this movie as well. I think this one is a worthy addition to anyone's "Asian movie corner" of your DVD/BlueRay collection.

Final score, 8/10
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And speaking of Asian movies, I also recently saw the Japanese "13 Assassins" which turned out to be a pretty damn cool Samurai movie. Roughly 1 hour of buildup and 1 hour of awesomeness where the heroes take on their suicide mission, being outnumbered roughly 20:1 and fighting in a village that they have turned into a labyrinth of death. The movie is more a display of excellent sword fighting skills than people dancing around in the air with the help of wires (hate that shit). Highly recommended to fans of this genre!

9/10 Katana's

3 comments:

  1. Need to check it out as I've heard good things about it and I did like Oldboy, 13 Assassins was very good too.....

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  2. Liked Oldboy, will probably check this one out too.

    Would very much like to see the Assassins and as for the wire-fu, don't worry; I'd wager Miike was much more inspired by Kurosawa, than by Wuxia filmography ...

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  3. Oldboy was a classic (see the entire "Vengeance" trilogy of Park Chan-Wook by adding Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). The other two are not quite Oldboy level, but very good in their own right.

    I Saw the Devil definitely left me thinking about it long and hard after it was over. Certainly NOT for the squeamish, but it's a roller coaster ride of a slasher film (hopefully you like roller coasters). I give it a 9 out of 10 (and a + for the slickly brutal ending of the film). Again, not for the squeamish.

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