11. I Saw The Devil

Director: Kim Jee-woon
Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Gook-hwan Jeon, Ho-jin Jeon

We’ve seen dozens of serial killer movies before, and it’s become effortless to predict the narrative beats: Psycho murderer offs several innocent people, the hero tracks him down, there’s the inevitable confrontation, and the good guy walks away victorious. I Saw The Devil, however, bucks that trend. Or, rather, rams a butcher’s knife through it, one that’s held by the villain and turned counter-clockwise by the good guy.

South Korean genre master Kim Jee-woon (A Tale Of Two Sisters, The Goof, The Bad, The Weird) goes for broke in I Saw The Devil, orchestrating a series of insanely graphic set-pieces involving, amongst other grotesqueries, severed Achilles tendons, rape, multiple homicide inside a taxi cab (one of Jee-woon’s crowning technical achievements), and a guillotine.

The film’s heightened gore would be cheaply gratifying if not for I Saw The Devil’s role-reversal element; in a refreshing and intriguing change of pace, the killer (Min-sik Choi) becomes the hunted, tormented by a victim’s furious husband (Byung-hun Lee). It’s a cat-and-mouse game that blurs the line between hero and antagonist—that pools of blood are what’s making the line tougher to see only increases I Saw The Devil’s superiority.

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