Here’s the next installment of my top 31 horror films since 2000.
#17 I Saw the Devil (2010)
I love Asian genre films, especially those made in
NorthSouth Korea. There’s a naïve elegance and simplicity to them that rips away the fat and gristle that insulates western storytelling and gnaws at the raw nerve. But the beauty is, they just twang it once exposed, plucking at our sensibilities, toying with our emotions and anxieties like a cat to a mouse. They’re often silly and weird, stylish and experimental, but familiar enough for us to get surprised when things go off the rails.
Take I Saw the Devil, where a crazed serial killer of women is hunted by the bad-ass husband of a recent victim who also happened to be pregnant. Now, this in it’s own right would be awesome, but we’ve seen it before with films like Death Wish and Taken. What does writer/director Lee-woon Kim do? He makes the husband take his time with the killer, driving him insane as the husband finds, beats and tortures him, then lets him go only to do it all again a few days later. The viewer, of course, is subject to the same treatment. Kim is just as cruel with us as his killer is to his women, as his hunter is to the killer. He makes us watch as innocence it stripped away from the victims. He doesn’t flinch at showing the ugliness of violence, keeping the camera still and focused while slowly severing the tendon of an Achilles heel with a scalpel.
It’s viscous stuff, but there’s a profound awareness of it being so. Repeatedly the characters denounce the maniacal actions of their counterparts, calling them “sick”, or “crazy”. But really, it’s Kim, critiquing the viewer and the filmmaker alike. He’s acutely aware of the perverse interplay between us and questions its nature. What’s it say when he relishes subjecting us to such graphic brutality? What’s it say knowing we love to watch?
Check out the trailer below and be sure to tune in tomorrow for #16.