I SAW THE DEVIL. 2010. DIRECTED BY KIM JI-WOON. STARRING CHOI MIN-SIK AND LEE BYUNG-HUN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Picture the scene. A pretty young Korean woman is stuck on a lonely road in the snow waiting for a truck to come and tow away her broken-down car. Can you picture that? Okay. This guy wanders over and offers to have a look at her tyres for her but she’s nervous and so turns him down politely. Next minute, the guy breaks into the car and bludgeons the woman half to death with a hammer. If you’re still with me, we’ll move on…
The woman wakes up, naked and encased in plastic, on some kind of killing floor in a remote building somewhere. We see the guy choosing from a selection of knives, cleavers, choppers and other assorted sharp instruments. Terrified, the woman tells the guy she’s pregnant and pleads for her life. The guy cold-heartedly kills her anyway. Shortly afterwards, her body parts, including her head, are found scattered on waste ground by the police. The hunt for the killer is on…
This is a psychological horror film from South Korea, and I think I can safely say that it’s the most violent film I’ve ever seen in my whole life. There are literally no holds- or holes, if you’ll excuse the bad pun- barred as the young woman’s handsome boyfriend, who just so happens to be a secret agent, uses his police connections to track down the killer and make him pay for his crime. Not just once, mind you, but many times.
It’s the ultimate revenge film. If you like revenge films, then you’ll bloody love this one. It’s thorough, shockingly thorough, in its portrayal of the vengeance inflicted by Handsome Secret Agent Man on the killer. The killer is played by Choi Min-Sik, the star of cult Korean horror/thriller, OLDBOY.
I must confess to fancying the arse off this guy for his slightly sleazy, seedy, been-there-and-done-that good looks, so while watching this film I was in the rather odd position of rooting for the killer rather than the good guy, which was weird all right but also quite good fun and made for interesting viewing.
OLDBOY is utterly superb as the serial killer-slash-serial rapist-slash-all-round-bad-guy. He drives a school bus for a living, by the way, which is an alarming concept by anyone’s standards. Reviled by his parents and pre-teen son, he seems to have it in for women on the basis that all women seem to have it in for him, or so he feels, anyway. They’re always making things hard for him, and not in the way he’d like either, snigger snigger.
Handsome Secret Agent Guy is pretty good too as the Non-Giving-Up-School-Guy (Fans of THE SIMPSONS will know what I mean by that) who tracks down the killer so early on in the film that the viewers are all like, wtf, man…? It can’t be over this quickly, can it…? But fear not, gentle viewers, for the game is only just beginning.
After administering a ferocious hiding to poor OLDBOY, Handsome Secret Agent Man implants a tracking device inside him that will allow him to follow the killer wherever he goes. He can release him, track him down again and make him pay again. And again, and again, and maybe a couple more times after that…
Ingenious, huh…? It’s a step up from your average revenge flick, anyway. Of course, there’s also the question of whether or not it’s actually morally right for Handsome Secret Agent Guy to take the law into his own hands the way he does, and if he goes ahead with his plans for revenge, is he as bad as the man he’s pursuing and punishing…? Will the process make him into a lesser person, or will it perhaps even destroy him mentally and emotionally? These questions are left up to the viewer to answer for themselves.
Scenes to watch out for include the two attempted rapes by OLDBOY which are frustratingly interrupted by Handsome Secret Agent Man, and we also have the mass stabbing scene in the taxi and the scene where OLDBOY- ahem- expels the transmitter from his own body and implants it in an unfortunate bystander to whom he’s given a fearful walloping.
Watch out also for the Achilles tendon-slitting, something I’ve never seen done in a film before, and for the graphic dénouement and its aftermath. These scenes are all extremely violent, but then so is the entire film, which was well-received, by the way. In fact, it received three SCREAM nominations for best villain, best horror film and best independent film.
OLDBOY‘s character in I SAW THE DEVIL is most assuredly one of the best screen villains I’ve personally ever seen. He’s just so, like, I-don’t-give-a-f**k and super-cool as he drives around the place like a madman with his shades on and a ciggie hanging out of the corner of his mouth. In an unrelated matter, I’m off now to dig out my copy of OLDBOY. I just know it’s around here somewhere…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
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10) VISITING DAY