M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved starting with the year I began reviewing the genre officially October 1, 2010 through October 1, 2011. I have posted my best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2010 and September 30, 2011 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on March 4, 2011. Available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!

#4 – I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)

Directed by Jee-woon Kim
Written by Hoon-jung Park
Starring Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Gook-hwan Jeon

What if the final scene of SE7EN ended with Kevin Spacey’s John Doe escaping and Brad Pitt’s character goes on a relentless quest to track him down at all costs and they filmed a movie about that? That pretty much sums up I SAW THE DEVIL. Though that comparison is somewhat simplistic, it fits. There were a few scenes in I SAW THE DEVIL that reminded me of SE7EN, but besides that, it’s probably one of the best serial killer films to grace the screen since David Fincher’s masterpiece.

South Korea’s Jee-woon Kim constructs a technically dynamic dance between a monster and a man who can’t help but become one. Byung-hun Lee plays Kim Soo-hyeon, a young government agent whose fiancée is the latest victim of a serial killer. Broken and fueled by revenge, he vows to track down the killer and destroy him utterly and completely. Kyung-Chul (played by OLDBOY’s Min-sik Choi) is the serial killer and he plays one of the best cinematic villains I’ve ever seen. Jee-woon Kim allows us to get to know both characters and fills them with details and scenes that made me sympathize, understand and loathe them all at once. Jee-woon Kim makes this an uneasy film to watch because of the moral ambiguity of the hero and the troubling humanity of the villain.

He also fills this film with violence and gore of the highest caliber. But this isn’t a gorefest highlighting the red stuff. The carnage these two inflict upon one another serves a purpose and that purpose is to show how easy it is for someone to lose what makes one human and become capable of despicable acts of violence. And believe me, these two characters tear each other apart.

I could go on about the awesomeness of the cab scene or the garden scene or the hotel scene, but I don’t want to ruin a bit of I SAW THE DEVIL for folks. I will say that it is a tense and gritty drama that hits you where it hurts. The complete character arc Min-sik Choi’s character Kyung-Chul goes through is amazing. Though both lead actors are strong, Chul’s story is the most fascinating as he goes from hunter, to befuddled prey, and then back to manipulating hunter once again while Byung-hun Lee’s Kim Soo-hyeon character is a cold tool of revenge for most of the film, growing more and more inhuman as time passes. Seeing Chul realize that, despite the horrific torture Soo-hyeon is inflicting on him, makes this game of cat and mouse fun for him. This revelation is what makes this film shine above all others of its kind. Then again, Byung-hun Lee saves his character from becoming completely unlikable by reminding the audience that he has lost everything. Lee does a great job of conveying pain in his cold stare, even when he isn’t speaking. Choi, on the other hand is a force of nature; relying on unstoppable animal impulse swayed by no rules. Seeing these two extremes bash into each other is a thing of gory, action-packed beauty.

Holy shit, do they kick the snot out of each other!

Though the events that appear at about the hour twenty mark are somewhat distractingly similar to SE7EN and the beating these two characters enact upon each other would have killed a normal man a thousand times over, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a phenomenal dramatic, technical, and kinetic work of cinema. Though it may strike the ire of purists, it is a film that screams for American adaptation. Though the OLDBOY remake didn’t fare well, I can only hope if and when this is remade, it’s handled with as much character care as this film achieves. As it is, I SAW THE DEVIL is an instant classic with scenes you will be talking about long after the film is over and performances that burn into your soul with power and complexity.

THE 2010-2011 COUNTDOWN!

#8 – LET ME IN
#10 – RED, WHITE, & BLUE
#22 – RUBBER
#27 – HUSK
#30 – LA HORDE

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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