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I Saw The Devil - 2010

Best Asian Horror Movies - I Saw The Devil

Best Asian Horror Movies - I Saw
The Devil


Title : I Saw The Devil
Released : 12 August 2010
Duration : 141 Minutes
Directors : Kim Jee-woon
Cast : Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, In-seo Kim

Plot :
Jang Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) is a dangerous psychopath who kills for human meat. He has committed infernal serial murders in diabolic ways that one cannot even imagine and his victims range from young women to even children. The police have chased him for a long time, but were unable to catch him. One day, Joo-yeon, daughter of a retired police chief becomes his prey and is found dead in a horrific state. Her fiancé Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), a top secret agent, decides to track down the murderer himself. He promises himself that he will do everything in his power to take bloody vengeance against the killer, even if it means that he must become a monster himself to get this monstrous and inhumane killer.

User Review :
This movie is not for the squeamish, or the faint of heart. Censors claimed it was offensive to human dignity. These were the kinds of things they told the audience at the world premiere screening of the Uncut Version of I Saw the Devil at the Toronto International Film Festival last week. I had heard the movie was pretty graphic, but I never expected that it would push any boundaries. I turned out to be only half right.

After finding out his fiancée has been brutally murdered, secret agent Dae-hoon (Byung-hun Lee) is at a loss. With the help of his father-in-law, he sets out on a revenge plot to find the man who did it. He quickly finds the culprit, Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi). He beats him pretty badly, but instead of killing him, he leaves him alive. He wants to stalk his prey, and exact his revenge slowly and increasingly more painfully.

Going in with very few ideas of what I was about to see, I was startled and thrilled at the tenacious audacity on display from the opening scene all the way until the final frames. The film is a gritty, merciless experience that could never be truly recreated in North America. This is the kind of hard-boiled revenge thriller you could only find in Korea. And to hear that even the censors there could not handle Kim Ji-woon's complete vision makes the film all the more uncompromising and astounding. It has taken me well over a week to try and come up with the words to describe and review the film, but never once have I forgotten anything I saw. It is quite simply, unforgettable.

I was right in assuming the film would not push the boundaries of what can be shown in regards to graphic violence and gore. But it comes really close. It makes Park Chan-Wook's entire Vengeance Trilogy look about as violent as the Toy Story Trilogy. Blood sprays, flies, drips, gushes – every verb or way blood can possibly flow out of the human body occurs over the course of the film. It relishes in it no matter if the shot is raw, unflinching and real, or hyper stylized and completely over-the-top. One sequence involving a brutal double murder as the camera swoops around the scene in a circle is simply magnificent to watch, both to see how much blood is spilt and for how wicked and incredible a shot it is.

The revenge tale at the core of I Saw the Devil is not all too original, but it is the story and idea around it that is. Very rarely do we see a film with two characters that start off completely different, but very slowly become all in the same. Dae-hoon and Kyung-chul are both very stubborn individuals, who will not back down from each other. They just keep at each other, and even as Kyung-chul is continually beaten, abused and victimized, he never once lets up. I keep coming back to a comparison with Batman and The Joker in The Dark Knight, and how those two menaces push each other to their physical limits, and that is exactly what happens in this film. While it was easy to pick sides in Dark Knight, Ji-woon makes it increasingly difficult for the audience to figure out who they should sympathize with here. It is a haunting and blatantly moral-defying story, and its raw and emotional undertones are more than difficult to swallow.

But the key problem I found with the film is Ji-woon's lack of ability to know when to cut. There are easily twenty minutes that could be chopped right out of the film, and none of its edge would be lost in the process. I was glued to the screen for the majority of the film, but found myself checking my watch more than once because I was totally baffled as to why it runs over 140 minutes. There is only so much revenge one can take and comprehend, and having the film run so long makes it all too easy to call out as being self-indulgent. I respect the film, and I respect Ji-woon as a filmmaker (I wanted to seek out the rest of his film catalogue immediately after the lights came up), but it just makes such an incredible movie feel a bit sloppy and weakened as a cohesive package.

Another inconsistent element is Lee's Dan-hoon. We never learn much about him outside of his being a secret agent and wanting to inflict as much pain as he can through his revenge scheme. So how are we to assume he was not a sick and twisted individual in the first place? How are we to know this is not his first time inflicting such a painful revenge? He rarely speaks, and his cold, calculating eyes never once give us a hint of any further development. It is a great performance by Lee, but it is one that feels very underdeveloped – outside of some rather obvious sequences.

But then, anyone would look underdeveloped when standing next to Choi. The man gives a performance that is the stuff of legend. He was incredible as the lead in Oldboy as the man who was wronged, and is even better as the wrongdoer here. He brings out the monster in Kyung-chul all too easily, and his riveting performance is unmissable. The transformation into this disgusting, psychopathic creature is nothing short of amazing. He chews up scenery at every turn, and is magnetic on screen. Nothing even comes close to equaling the power, intensity and dare I say authenticity he puts into this character. He is the stuff of nightmares.

I Saw the Devil is a great revenge thriller, but is far from perfect. Choi's electric performance alone should become required viewing for anyone with any interest in film, 8/10. - DonFishies (Canada)

Best Asian Horror Movies - I Saw The Devil
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Dark Water - 2002

Best Asian Horror Movies - Dark Water

Best Asian Horror Movies - Dark Water


Title : Dark Water
Released : 19 January 2002
Duration : 101 Minutes
Directors : Hideo Nakata
Cast : Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi

Plot :
After winning a custody battle for her daughter, Yoshimi tries to make a new start. The apartment she moves into seems perfect at first. Soon though, strange things begin happening. Huge water stains appear on the ceiling and drip constantly, more liquid oozing into the rooms every day. She calls the landlord in but he refuses to do anything about it. A child's red bag shows up in odd places and soon the child herself starts appearing. Yoshimi then discovers the origin of the ghost.

User Review :
A story very similar in certain areas to another story by Hideo Nakata, but different enough to stand apart. Using similar techniques to the Ring series, Nakata employs askew camera angles, wide shots and the mixing of foreground and background, showing normality in one and abnormality in the other, often with the horrors in the background, unnoticed by the foreground characters. The use of audio, and indeed lack of in parts, heightens the tension and the feeling of unease even more. Throughout the film a nervousness grows, beginning with a slight niggle of something wrong, building to the final shocking realisations. Despite understanding the story before the end is reached, Nakato manages to pull you on through the story, in fact, even past where other films would have ended. Acting from the child is stunningly good, as is with the mother, with much of the story played out in the emotions of their faces rather than their actual words. This is perhaps what succeeds so well, the realism of the dialogue and the slow brooding story, with a distinct lack of action. Something Hollywood attempts to recreate in their unoriginal remakes. - Richard Brunton (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Best Asian Horror Movies - Dark Water
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A Tale of Two Sisters - 2003

Best Asian Horror Movies - A Tale of Two Sisters

Best Asian Horror Movies - A Tale of
Two Sisters


Title : A Tale of Two Sisters
Released : 13 June 2003
Duration : 115 Minutes
Directors : Kim Jee-woon
Cast : Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum, Su-jeong Lim

Plot :
Two sisters who, after spending time in a mental institution, return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother. Once there, in addition to dealing with their stepmother's obsessive and unbalanced ways, an interfering ghost also affects their recovery.

User Review :
The recent history of Hollywood remakes of ghost/horror films from the East has been dismal. This film will inevitably suffer the same fate, so get a copy on e-bay or similar.

It is well photographed and the sound is superb. Viewing on a good screen and with a good 5.1 or DTS enabled sound system is recommended. Obviously it is subtitled, so if that puts you off, then I wouldn't bother with this. Dubbing rarely works and simply would not do here.

It is also genuinely frightening, with excellent performances from a cast who will be unfamiliar to Western audiences. I would particularly single out the stepmother character, who was utterly brilliant. The ending will have you wanting to watch it again, if you can cope. The plot is relentless, and offers no comforting moments of release along the way.

If I do have a small criticism, there is perhaps a detectable influence in certain scenes from the Japanese version of The Ring. We have, however, accepted straight copies of other peoples' ideas for Western films for years, and so my point is a limited one which did not prevent me from giving it 10/10. I believe most fans of this genre will derive huge "pleasure" from this film which I for one hope goes down as a classic. - simonmills47 (Chester, England)

Best Asian Horror Movies - A Tale of Two Sisters
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Three Extremes - 2004

Best Asian Horror Movies - Three Extremes

Best Asian Horror Movies - Three Extremes


Title : Three... Extremes
Released : 20 August 2004
Duration : 125 Minutes
Directors : Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike
Cast : Bai Ling, Byung-hun Lee, Kyoko Hasegawa

Plot :
An Asian cross-cultural trilogy of horror films from accomplished indie directors.

User Review :
This movie is incredibly cruel and unrelenting. It plays as a single feature divided into three sections: "Dumplings", directed by Fruit Chan of Hong Kong, "Cut" directed by Park Chan-Wook of Korea and "Box" directed by Miike Takashi of Japan. Each section is like a dissertation in horror, although "Dumplings" could also be classified as an exploitation film.

All of them are beautifully produced and directed, and I especially found "Box" to be quite lavish in sets, costumes and atmosphere. They each show a lot about the culture of the respective countries they were made in and also provide new takes on the terrifying and the appalling. They are each original in their own right, although "Cut" could be compared to the "Saw" or Hannibal Lecter franchises in that there's a psycho who's trying to get a message across by way of murder and mayhem.

I don't want to give details on the plots of any of them because I think that viewers need to experience them for themselves with no preconceptions going in, but what I can say is that "Dumplings" has the most plot and is probably the one with the highest "squeam" factor, "Cut" covers a rather familiar premise but with lots of fun moments (you'll see) and "Box" is more of an artistic endeavour with not much of a plot, but for some reason I was enthralled and couldn't look away; it's the one I liked the most.

A solid 8 out of 10 for the efforts of these genius Asian directors. - bonnie91 (Ventura, California)

Best Asian Horror Movies - Three Extremes
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