4. I Saw the Devil
Has your car ever broken down late at night in the snow? Even with a cell phone handy, it’s not a pleasant feeling.
Jee-Woon Kim’s 2010 winter horror revenge film I Saw the Devil begins in just such a way. The stranded driver is a young woman. She’s safe and warm in her car, that is until another vehicle rolls to a stop just in front of hers.
The man in the car is Jang Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), a psychopath with murder on his mind, and this young woman, all alone in the snow, is the perfect target.
The next morning the woman’s fiancé Kim Soo-hyun (Byung-Hun Lee) is told the terrible news, his fiancé hasn’t just been killed–she’s been torn to shreds.
What follows is an extremely dark tale that uses the traditional revenge film tropes, but only to a point. Just when you think you understand what the film has in store, Kim takes a hard left turn dragging his characters, and the audience, in a new direction. Instead of simply pitting Soo-hyun and Kyung-chul against one another, Director Kim uses his characters to explores how revenge can deteriorate the soul. You see, after Soo-hyun gets his first taste of retribution, he starts to like it.
Watch for the opening alone, which features long shots of a car driving slowly through the snow at night. Although there isn’t anything overtly menacing at first, the atmosphere created by the snow falling through headlights and surrounded by darkness will work its way into your psyche. Before any action has even taken place, you’ll be wound tight with worry.
Before we move on, a word of warning. This is a brutally violent film, and that’s coming from a seasoned horror fan. If you’re not comfortable with senseless cruelty, mutilation, cannibalism, and sexual assault on screen, this film is not for you.
Climax is a movie that redefines what madness looks like on screen.
This is a movie that focuses on image and feeling over traditional storytelling beats, so it’s worth noting that while the story may seem simple, the execution is anything but.
In Climax, a dance company has come together for an extended rehearsal in a closed-down school compound. One can assume they’ve been practicing since early that morning, and now, as the day draws to a close, the group runs through their big number (in an extremely impressive 5-minute one-shot).
As a vicious winter storm rages outside, the dancers give it their all. Voguing, acrobatic splits and high kicks, even a ribbon dancer gets into the mix. It’s the kind of performance more often seen on a stage in an underground club or theater space, and it’s refreshing to watch such a spectacle on film.
The number goes off without a hitch, and the rehearsal quickly turns into a celebration complete with homemade sangria. But what starts as a well-deserved release spiral into chaos when it’s revealed that someone has spiked that sangria with LSD.
Now the entire group must contend with the effects of psychedelics they didn’t consent to take. And since this is a Gaspar Noé film, you can expect the fallout to be brutal.
Vicious, stylish, and insane, Climax is a wholly original film in the winter horror sub-genre. Guess at the outcome all you want, but you ain’t seen nothing like this.