I am doing the 31 Days of Horror Challenge. Every day in October, I will watch a different horror film I have never seen before and write about it here on the blog.
I think I’m over serial killer movies. Too many modern serial killer films take on the traits of the dreaded torture porn genre. The increasing rarity of genuinely chilling and unique serial killer films like A Horrible Way to Die and the proliferation of torture fests like I Saw the Devil is a sad comment on the state of the genre.
Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi) is a sick bastard. He abducts, rapes, and kills young women, seemingly at will. Despite his carelessness in carrying out his crimes, he seems to act with impunity. But when he kills Joo-yeon (San-ha Oh), he brings the full wrath of her fiancé Soo-hyun (Byung-hun Lee) down on his head. It turns out that Soo-hyun is a secret agent for the government with the training and resources to make Kyung-chul pay for his crimes.
But Soo-hyun doesn’t just want to kill Kyung-chul; he wants him to suffer over and over again. It doesn’t take him long to catch up with the killer and beat the hell out of him before snapping his wrist. Soo-hyun then knocks him out and plants an experimental tracking device down his throat. Done for the moment, he releases the killer so that he can repeat the process of catching and torturing him over and over again. If that description makes the film sound repetitive, that’s because it is.
The worst thing about I Saw the Devil is that it’s technically a well-made film. The acting is great, the cinematography by Mo-gae Lee is simultaneously grimy and lush, and there are impressively directed action and suspense sequences between the torture sessions. But these merits only highlight the main problem with the film: its unpleasant and repetitive story.
It’s not hard to understand what director Kim Jee-Woon is trying to accomplish. But the moral that revenge will only make monsters out of otherwise good people is hardly original. The fact that this theme is stated explicitly in several dialogue exchanges only makes the characters insufferable.
I truly have nothing else to say about I Saw the Devil. At nearly two and a half hours, it’s far too long to support the slight story. No amount of surface polish can cover up how obvious and clichéd the story is. It ends up being the worst thing a horror film can be: boring.
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