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Takashi Miike

June 30, 2014

I Saw The Devil

RELENTLESS

I Saw The Devil – Relentless

There are so many things that, for lack of PC sense, the Orient had given us; pasta, dim sum, Akira, Nintendo, “The Interview,” and so much more. Speaking of Korea, the South, not the North variety, they haven’t gotten very good the past decade or so at creating outlandish and truly disturbing cinema. While I still hold Japanese horror (and no, I’m not counting J-horror) in high esteem, it’s Korean horror/revenge fare that continues to give me what I want; horrific violence, creepy characters, and satisfying endings. “I Saw The Devil” is a relentless exercise in how long you can watch without squirming in your sit or questioning why you decided to sit down and watch; and that isn’t a knock at all.
“Devil” is simple enough. The daughter of a secret agent and a police officer is brutally murdered by a nefarious serial killer. As the agent tracks the killer it leads him down a road where he will never be the same. I know it sounds melodramatic, but the since K-drama is so big these days, I thought it appropriate.
While Korean actors might not be household names, by now most people have heard of Min-sik Choi who plays the main antagonist Kyung-chul. Choi most will know from his roles in “Oldboy” “Lady Vengeance” and the upcoming Luc Besson flick “Lucy.” Like he does in “Oldboy” Choi does a balancing act of mania and composure and he might be the most memorable on-screen serial killer since John Doe in “Se7en.”
One complaint many people might bring up is the lack or character development and/or plot. I agree on the way the characters are handled, and I didn’t really figure out that the protagonist Kim Soo-hyeon, played by Byung-hun Lee, was a secret agent until I read the film’s synopsis afterwards. It made sense since he was very good at hand-to-hand combat and had an array of gadgets, but it was still generally vague for the most part. Being this is a foreign film, I’m sure a few things were lost in translation for me.

Another thing that might seem off to most people not familiar with the Korean Revenge Drama genre is the motive of the killer and the relentless violence that is seen throughout the film. The violence is brutal and it does go a little over the top in some scenes. Being a gore-hound, it really doesn’t bother me too much, but even I, a believer in ultra-violence, found myself saying under my breathe “…..jesus.” There is also a lot of violence against women in “Devil,” including an attempted rape, who seems to be an underage girl. That might be enough to make people pump the breaks as well.

However, outside of the violence, and the simplistic narrative, the performances, direction and production design are fantastic. The atmosphere is eerie, and there is a haunted house feel throughout that never quite relents. Along with the atmosphere, the sense of dread is incredible and adds to the unease of “Devil.” Bottom line, it’s a horror film without being a horror film.

“Devil” is a must-see if you’re into either horror films, splatter films, or serial killer films. If you’ve seen “The Vengeance Trilogy” from Chan-wook Park, and can handle the type of blood-letting you might have seen in a Takashi Miike film, “I Saw The Devil” is right up alley.

Fun Fact: The surnames of Kim, Park, and Lee account for nearly 50% of all Korean surname.

October 4, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Audition

Audition – Kiri

Asians, specifically Japanese folk, have given us plenty to be happy about.  Playstation, Nintendo, Karaoke, Anime, Godzilla, and of course giggling Japanese school girls.  But the hell with that!  I’m talking about hardcore, blood-soaked, WTF, mind imprinting moments of sheer horror, and one person has been giving Westerners nightmares for quite sometime; give a round of applause for Mr. Takashi Miike-san and his magnum opus, 1999’s “Audition.”

Apparently love stories in Japan are totally fu*cked, but on the surface “Audition” is a classic, where a lonely widower is looking for love in what ends up to be all the wrong places.  The lesson(s) to be learned from this film would be to never trust an overzealous friend who encourages you to meet women by way of a fake TV/film audition and choosing the one girl who A) was a former dancer B) waits by the phone for your call C) worked in a bar where people go missing and D) has an acupuncture/piano wire fetish and loves to whisper “kiri, kiri, kiri“.  These are the A,B,C (and D’s) of leading a happy, productive, and not-missing-your-feet life in Japan.

“Audition” is well paced, and has a solid narrative throughout, with good acting (I’m sure it would be better if I understood Japanese). The final, grueling, 30 minutes is an exercise in horror, suspense, and mind-fuckery at its very best.  Miike knows how to pull out all the stops and create an atmosphere of dread and hopelessness where the audience doesn’t know where, or when, he will stop and give a breather.  It’s an art that is lost upon the modern horror director and in my opinion hasn’t really been seen since Alfred Hitchcock.

So if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, or maybe are about to go out on the town with your finest Affliction glitter-tee, destroyed denim, and are going to fist-pump your way into the heart of the girl at the bar drinking the cranberry juice who volunteered as the designated driver, think about this;  you might be the one in the burlap sack slurping up vomit from a dog bowl.  Do yourself a favor, check out “Audition.”

Fun Fact:  Takashi Miike made a cameo appearance in torture porn pioneer Eli Roth’s film “Hostel.”  He’s credited as “Miike Takashi.” 

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