Jee-woon Kim has an impressive back catalogue of films, the most famous being A Tale of Two Sisters and the ‘Memories’ segment from Three…Extremes. After this, however, he moved away from brutality a little and directed two obscure (but still fantastic) films (A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, The Weird). Horror fans will be pleased to see Kim return to his comfort zone with I Saw the Devil. They’ll also be pleased to know that with this he is more brutal than ever before.
A secret agent’s pregnant fiancée becomes the next victim of a serial killer. When he begins to track him down, the lines between good and evil are blurred.
I Saw the Devil relies heavily on antithesis and irony both visually and thematically. The use of well lit and well decorated sets give the film an extra touch of ironic amusement for the more aware cinema fan. By rights, the film shouldn’t be wholly watchable because of its grotesque and visceral violence, but the entrancing cinematography draws its audience in with his hypnotic beauty.
There’s something quite strange at the heart of I Saw the Devil – although it can be quite clichéd in places, somehow the scares remain truly frightening. Impressively, it doesn’t feel as tired as other films that rely on the use of clichés. A lot of aspects work together to save the film from becoming just another slasher film – the directional style perhaps being the single most impressive aspect. In fact the film works so well that Western film-makers might be able to learn a thing or two from Kim’s remarkable mix of clichés, violence, substance and cinematography.
With its subtle use of black comedy I Saw the Devil seems to try and make its audience feel guilty for laughing at some of its scenes which, although unorthodox, is quite an amusing technique. Perhaps just another ironic and satirical touch by Kim, the addition of black humour allows the film to highlight the silliness of adding humour to a film of this nature. If you really wanted to delve into I Saw the Devil you could find a lot of similar little titbits like this, but for most film fans, just watching these aspects work well together will be enough to satisfy.
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