The new South Korean bloody masterpiece I Saw the Devil is not for the faint of heart. Those who have a high tolerance for pain will appreciate this graphic mystery/suspense/horror film, while others may need to take a cold shower after seeing it. It will certainly spark conversation.
Many others will tell their friends to go see it—perhaps as a dare—while some will probably revisit the film again and again; it could slowly turn into a cult phenomenon. Director Kim Jee-Woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird and A Tale of Two Sisters) has upped his profile with I Saw the Devil given its shocking violence, gritty storyline, two magnetic lead performances, and dark humor.
Before the film was released in his home country, Jee-Woon had to re-cut the film twice and remove some of the violent scenes before South Korean theaters would screen it. Shortly after the film’s premie at the Toronto Film Festival, American distributor Magnet Releasing picked up the film for distribution and I Saw the Devil will now be presented in Jee Woon’s fully restored original version for U.S. audiences: it opens at the Lagoon Cinema this Friday.
When we first see psychopath Kyung-chul (Oldboy‘s Chou Min-sik) he asks pregnant Ju-yeon, parked on the side of the road if she needs a lift into town; she declines. Afterwards, she calls her fiancé, special agent Soo-hyun (The Good, the Bad, the Weird‘s Lee Byung-hyun), who tells her to wait for a tow truck. Seconds later Kyung-chul beats Ju-yeon to death and pulls her body to his vehicle, a school bus, leaving a trail of blood in the snow—all this before the credits have ended. What follows is an intense cat-and-mouse revenge fantasy as Soo-hyun tracks down Kyung-chul and rather than bringing him into custody, begins to display his own killer instincts on Kyung-chul, punishing him relentlessly, only to let him go again and to start the abuse all over again, leaving no stone unturned. I Saw the Devil goes for the jugular from the start and never lets up as Jee-Woon’s film is startling once the tables are flipped on Soo-hyun. The two men engage in unspeakable acts of violence, forcing audiences to think about their own violent sides and what humans are capable of doing if loved ones are in danger.
I spoke with director Kim Jee-Woon last week by phone, with the help of an interpreter, as he was visiting New York (spoiler alert: critical plot twists are revealed in this interview). Jee-Woon’s film has been getting high praise from audiences and critics alike since Toronto and, more recently, its appearance at the Sundance Film Festival. Knowing that the film has been getting huge notoriety due to its extreme violence, my first question for Mr. Jee-Woon was, is he surprised at the positive response of his film given that it is not the easiest film to watch?
Click on the play button below to hear the interview.
Photo courtesy Magnet Releasing