Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik), is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. One snowy night, his latest victim is the beautiful Ju-yeon, the pregnant fiancée of elite special agent Dae-hoon (Lee Byung-hyun). Obsessed with revenge, Dae-hoon decides to track down the murderer, even if doing so means becoming a monster himself. And when he finds Kyung-chul, turning him in to the authorities is the last thing on his mind.
Director Kim Ji-woon’s I SAW THE DEVIL (2011) is a psychological thriller that weaves a disturbing theme on violence and revenge, that it eventually passes as a horror film. Using vengeance as it’s core, its characters go beyond the limit of imaginable violence, and presents a dreadful realisation that getting one’s payback is already a tragedy in itself. Ji-woon carefully handles each scene, however violent, and masterfully executes his characters’ emotions for the screen. Byung-hyun as the vengeful Dae-hoon, depicts a strong character of subtle violence overpowered by his hunger for payback. Min-sik’s psychotic Kyung-chul, on the other, with his unapologetic, killer-mania stance, tops our ranks of villains in the serial killer genre.
At face value, I SAW THE DEVIL is gory, unthinkable, and extremely violent, but at the heart of its core is a much horrifying form of revenge. You may want to think of your worst enemy, while journeying with Dae-hoon as he goes on a cat-and-mouse chase, and silently swear and feel his remorse, and eventual regret.
This horror film presents a separatist’s perspective to the horror that we know. I SAW THE DEVIL doesn’t need white ghosts and long black hairs to give us that run-of-the-mill cinema thrills. It’s demons are in the heart of its characters, horrifyingly devouring their souls and transforming their spirits. It’s the kind of horror that can believably happen, even to us. Reminiscent of OLDBOY (2003), I SAW THE DEVIL argues that retribution is a fulfilling, yet dangerously self-destructing, cycle; an inevitable price at the end of the journey we wouldn’t want to have.
4.5 STARS OUT OF 5!