I Saw the Devil is a South Korean horror/thriller directed Kim Jee-woon, releasing in 2010. The film follows secret agent Kim Soo-hyun (Lee), who embarks on a quest of revenge when his fiancée is brutally murdered by the psychopathic serial killer.
A woman named Jang Joo-yun is stranded in a snow storm after her car breaks down. Whilst awaiting a tow truck, an unsuspecting stranger approaches her vehicle and offers to help. After consulting with her fiancé on the phone, she tells the man that she is happy to await the breakdown service. The man insists and attempts to free the car but fails before going back to his own vehicle, a school bus. Joo-yun relaxes for a moment until the crazed man returns and begins to smash his way into her car. Then, he beats her unconscious with a metal pipe and drags her away to his home.
A gruesome scene unfolds as the killer is seen murdering and dismembering Joo-yun but not before she pleads for her life and attempts to appeal to his humanity by telling him she’s pregnant, it makes no difference to him. When a boy discovers one of Joo-yun’s ears, the police arrive to conduct a search. The victim’s fiancé, Kim Soo-hyun, an NIA officer vows to take revenge against the murderer.
Soo-hyun learns of the four suspects from Squad Chief Jang and proceeds to privately torture and interrogate two of them. Upon searching the home of the third suspect, Soo-hyun finds Joo-yun’s engagement ring, proving that a man named Kyung-chul is the perpetrator. A short time later, Kyung-chul brings a schoolgirl home and assaults her. Soo-hyun beats him unconscious. Rather than killing Kyung-chul and being done with it, Soo-hyun decides to shove a GPS tracker down his throat, allowing him to see Kyung-chul’s location in real time and to listen to his conversations.
Thus begins a cat and mouse chase between the two. Kyung-chul is a sadistic killer who can’t control his psychopathic urges and Soo-hyun won’t be far behind to torment and punish him.
I Saw the Devil is a brutal tale of revenge that takes an uncompromising approach in showing the horrific nature of what one sadistic human being is capable of. It doesn’t shy away from the gory details no matter who uncomfortable it gets. This is a high quality concept for a revenge tale, it’s unique and original. I liked that the obvious flaws in Soo-Hyun’s plan are right there for anyone to see but it makes sense because he is that blinded by his desire for vengeance.
I’m not sure if it was intentional but I enjoyed the potential ambiguity of the title. “I Saw the Devil” can obviously refer to the despicable serial killer Kyung-chul. However, I liked the idea of Kyung-chul seeing Soo-hyun as the “Devil” due to him haunting him at every turn. This is a good time to highlight the performances in the film which are very strong indeed. I felt the raw emotion of Soo-hyun and fully invested in his quest. Every time he made Kyung-chul suffer, I was right there alongside him. I have to give a massive amount of credit to Choi-min-sik because he does an amazing job of bringing a truly detestable person to life. By the end, I hated him and had no qualms about being super satisfied by his eventual fate.
Additionally, I must highlight the truly incredible gore effects in the film. It’s disturbingly realistic to witness which is very impressive. While there is some enjoyable action and fight scenes, there isn’t really anything to “enjoy” about this film. This is true horror, the kind that can and has taken place in the real world. There’s no comic relief, it’s relentless in its telling of the grim story.
I will note how you obviously have to suspend your disbelief with certain aspects. For example, just how much Kyung-chul gets away with and how long it all goes on for without anyone intervening etc. Also, I would have liked a bit more backstory with Soo-hyun and his murdered fiancé to feel even more emotionally invested in his plot for revenge.
I Saw the Devil
The Final Score - 8/10