Guest post featuring Richard Mead
Every Halloween, the average movie goer seeks out fun and scary movies to fill their wait for whatever acts of immaturity they will commit that night.
But the films they tend to flock to are the Para-nauseating Activities and anything with a bloody pumpkin on the cover of the DVD case. These types of movies have almost systematically gutted (get it?) the horror genre with their insipid take on what they think people are scared of.
Jump scares are not scary…so stop it.
As you look for a film to re-sensitize your adult self looking for an adult movie to watch this Halloween, don’t look any further than Kim Jee-woon’s “I Saw the Devil.”
This 2011 Korean-language film sits in the category of crime thrillers, but is less David Fincher (“Zodiac”) and more Mary Harron (“American Psycho”). “I Saw the Devil” follows a trained secret agent, played by Byung-hun Lee, as he searches for the psychopathic taxi driver who murdered his fiancé while she was broken down on the side of the road during a winter night.
If this sounds as fun to you as it did to me, does that make us bad people? Probably.
What ensues is a perfect representation of thriller meets filler, as the film uses immaculate cinematography to present hard-to-watch, bloody confrontations. Each scene is set up beautifully, with the fantastic use of nighttime a noteworthy attribute. Unlike many films where someone walking around in the dead of night has their face perfectly lit for some reason, “I Saw the Devil” injects you into the scene as nighttime is actually as dark and foreboding as you would imagine it.
The performances are also perfect for the film, with Min-sik Choi (“Old Boy” — the good one) putting to screen one of the most unsettling antagonists ever. He comes across as the dirtiest person in a very dirty place, with his facial expressions telling you exactly what you need to know about his murderous tendencies. Lee’s portrayal is equal parts heartbreaking and enthralling as he flips his entire world upside down to hunt down the one who widowed him.
“I Saw the Devil” is presented whole-heartedly as an unflinching film, not shying away from axing any character at any time. People die, and they die often and in the worst ways, but it never becomes campy or cliché in the slightest. In short, blood is spilled in an honest fashion.
It’s also much more action packed than most horror films, which is fun without becoming ridiculous. It presents its action in the same manner as “Old Boy” does, with fighting tweaked just enough to be stylized without becoming phony.
If all of the aforementioned hasn’t made it apparent, this is not a film for light of heart or for any child. Like, at all. “I Saw the Devil” was released without an MPAA rating, so it’s safe to assume if you can’t buy cigarettes, you shouldn’t watch this movie.
But if you can buy Big Tobacco’s Taquitos, then please seek out this visceral experience as I did. It’s available in almost all rental stores and can even be viewed in full — with English subtitles — on YouTube. On an ending note, this film also has one of my favorite trailers of all time. So if you like what the trailer shows, then you will like “I Saw the Devil.”
Richard Mead is a Michigan-based journalist and columnist who has accumulated over 300 published articles in the greater Big Rapids area. He has spent most of his young-adult life studying film and seeking out independent and over-looked movies to dissect. In short: Part-time pseudo critic, full-time film aficionado.