Title: I Saw the Devil
Director: Ji-woon Kim
Starring: Byung-hun Lee, Gook-hwan Jeon and Ho-jin Jeon
Click Here for the latest clips and trailers from “I Saw the Devil”.
With some horror movies, directors aim to feature complex characters and developed stories amidst the gore the genre’s fans have come to expect. Other directors strive to only focus on violence, and don’t care as much about including an important moral or lesson. Kim Jee-Woon, who helmed Magnet’s new horror-thriller movie ‘I Saw The Devil,’ aimed to do the former; he wanted to make a revenge story that would leave his audiences questioning why some people are consumed by the need to brutalize those who have wronged them. Disappointedly, despite his best efforts, the director lost focus on the story he wanted to tell, and instead indulged in the brutality that’s guaranteed to sell in today’s horror market.
‘I Saw The Devil’ follows psychopathic serial killer Kyung-chul (portrayed by Choi Min-sik), who has committed numerous vicious murders on defenseless victims for no reason. He has alluded police until he murders Ju-yeon (played by Oh San-ha), who is stranded at the side of the road with a flat tire. Ju-yeon is the pregnant fiancée of an elite federal agent, Soo-hyun (portrayed by Lee Byung-hun), and the daughter of the retired captain of the violent crimes unit, Capt. Jang (played by Chun Kook-haun).
Filled with the need to seek revenge on Ju-yeon’s murderer, Soo-hyun takes the police file of the suspects from Capt. Jang, and hunts Kyung-chul down. While he knows that he should turn the killer into the police, Soo-hyun instead decides to turn Kyung-chul’s acts of cruelty on him. While the authorities work to capture Kyung-chu to legally prosecute him, Soo-hyun becomes consumed with his need to brutalize Ju-yeon’s killer the way he tortured her.
Of the film, Jee-woon has said he wanted to create “the most violent and elaborate revenge story ever told onscreen.” He also wanted to showcase some of the most explicit, realistic and brutal displays of violence ever seen. Despite Jee-woon’s best efforts to create film’s most unpredictable serial killer who doesn’t have any apparent motives or patterns and the best revenge story ever told, his attempt doesn’t work with ‘I Saw The Devil.’
What makes horror-revenge movies, such as ‘I Spit On Your Grave,’ work is that not only do they focus on the question “what if the victim becomes the criminal,” they also continuously showcase the victims’ emotions. The audience is constantly reminded that the victims’ pain is driving them to take their revenge on their attackers. However, with ‘I Saw The Devil,’ the audience quickly forgets Soo-hyun’s grief over losing Ju-yeon after he begins assaulting Kyung-chul.
Audiences will surely empathize with Soo-hyun’s need for revenge when he first hears of Ju-yeon’s murder. However, Jee-woon quickly loses sight of his goal of focusing on the characters and their emotions. The majority of the rest of the film follows Kyung-chul murdering more victims, and Soo-hyun hunting him down and brutalizing him. Jee-woon seems to only want to glorify Kyung-chul and Soo-hyun’s violent acts. As a result, the audience will become so horrified at what people can do to each other that they will quickly forget why Soo-hyun even went after his fiancée’s murderer in the first place.
Most notably, Jee-woon loses his goal of focusing the story on Soo-hyun’s emotions and taking out his need for vengeance through violent acts. After showing Soo-hyun’s initial grief over his fiancée’s death, the director no longer seems to want his audience to question why some people can continue to live a normal life after their loved ones die, while others turn to violence and revenge. Jee-woon just seems content with showing some of the most gruesome acts of violence ever shown in film.
With ‘I Saw The Devil,’ Jee-woon hoped to create a truly dark and violent serial killer in Kyung-chul, who becomes the victim for the first time in his life. He has finally met his match in Soo-hyun, who can be just as violent as he is. The film strives to have its audience question how far people will go in order to seek revenge on their enemy, and how evil killers can become. However, there isn’t enough character depth for the audience to relate to any of the characters, and as a result, viewers won’t be left questioning any of Jee-woon’s intended life lessons.
Written by: Karen Benardello