Friday, October 21, 2011

I Saw The Devil

(2010) *** 3/4
This South Korean rollercoaster-of-a-revenge film opens on a young woman waiting in her car in the snow for a tow truck to pick her up. A friendly-looking man in a yellow van checks in on her, and all seems to go well until you, the viewer, realize that this is supposed to be a Korean horror film and she gets her head beat in with a lead pipe and kidnapped. What follows is an exquisitely-constructed film that never has a dull moment and pushed the level of comfort for me in the areas of kidnapping and dismemberment. 

I enjoyed the psychology that the serial killer and protagonist share as each interaction raises the stakes of their own mortality (really – it was difficult to predict who was ultimately going to live or die, and I'm about 95% accurate in my movie predictions). However, I became increasingly uncomfortable watching scene after scene of women being chased around, screaming and scantily-clad, before being taken advantage of, killed and dismembered (not necessarily in that order). For that it didn't quite make 4 stars and I know that I'm probably cheating by deviating from the whole-or-half star rule of H-Thon – but I insist that an exception be made for my love affair with fractions.
"Don't you know the Harmonic Series?"
 There came a point where I insisted that JSP and I see something else – turn off the film, table it or just mail it back to the Netflix gods. For anyone who's felt victimized or vulnerable it can be pretty tough to watch at times (the screaming is what gets to me but I digress). If he hadn't already seen it in September and reassured me that it gets better I probably wouldn't have gone on. However, not five minutes after I decided to give it another try and we popped it back in, this happened: 
killer down for the count

 Hell to the yeah! I haven't giggled this much since Darryl Hannah's untimely fate in Kill Bill 2.

The redeeming qualities of ISTD are its plot-heavy themes of revenge and seeing the creative extent to which one person can go to make another suffer. Despite my complaints, would I see this movie again? Totally – the fact that the second half of the film had me hooked (but not by the foot) and the final scene was riveting makes me wonder why more movies don't have such a high level of thrill. I love that foreign films will spark debates about a character's intent rather than taking their actions at face value – it creates an exceptional intelligent movie that can be enjoyed on multiple levels.
Bloody well done, old chap.


Johnny Sweatpants said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this! As a big fan of revenge flicks I can't praise this one enough for the unexpected directions it takes once the premise is established. It's my favorite movie of the year!

It's interesting to hear your feminist perspective on horror movies because women getting terrorized is pretty much the norm. I hope to one day hear your take onAudition.

DCD said...

Wow - this sounds intense! I'm intrigued...except I'm a known biddy, so not sure if I could handle it.

JPX said...

I just watched this the other night at JSP's urging and I loved it!

I don't think I could sit through Audition again.

Octopunk said...

Wow! Your favorite movie of the year, JSP? I'll have to check this out.

Another excellent, insightful review but I have to make fun of your sentence structure: "she gets her head beat in with a lead pipe and kidnapped."

He kidnaps her head?

Crystal Math said...

Octo, I've improved my sentence structure since December '07 when I wrote an article about "a three-month old pregnant woman." Obviously I was referring to a grown woman who was rounding up her first trimester of pregnancy, but it didn't quite come out that way. .