Fantasia 2023: Devils Is a Brutal and Mind-Bending Thriller

Image provided by the Fantasia International Film Festival

A few days ago, I watched a movie called Mother Land, and in my review of it, I said it was the best film I had seen so far at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. Well, that might not be true anymore. I just finished watching Devils, and I think it might’ve taken over the top spot. I need some more time to let the movie sink in before I can be sure, but at the very least, it’s definitely one of the best films I’ve seen at the festival.

Devils was written and directed by Kim Jae-hoon, and it stars Oh Dae-hwan and Jang Dong-yoon. It’s about a detective named Jae-hwan who’s trying to track down a particularly sadistic serial killer named Jin-hyuk, and one day, he manages to find the guy. A chase ensues, and they fall off a cliff and go missing for a while.

Then, out of the blue, they show up again when a car mysteriously crashes near the police station. Jae-hwan and Jin-hyuk both go to the hospital, and when Jae-hwan wakes up, he finds that he and the killer have swapped bodies. He has no idea how it happened, but he knows he has to do whatever it takes to get his body back before Jin-hyuk can harm his family.

Like most body-swap movies, Devils relies heavily on its two lead actors, and thankfully, they totally knock it out of the park. For starters, Oh Dae-hwan plays the killer trapped in the cop’s body, and he’s pretty much perfect. Before he even says a word, his mannerisms and facial expressions give off an aura of evil that feels like it would be right at home in an exorcism film, so you just know this guy is up to no good.

In contrast, Jang Dong-yoon plays the detective trapped in the killer’s body, and he gives off the exact opposite vibe. Jae-hwan is terrified of what Jin-hyuk is going to do to his wife and daughter, and nearly every word he says and every move he makes radiates that desperate concern.

On top of those two great characters, Devils also features some awesome action. To be fair, the film isn’t all action all the time, so don’t go into it expecting something along the lines of, say, Project Wolf Hunting or The Raid. It has a lot of slower, more character- and dialogue-driven moments too, but when the action comes to the fore, it’s a thing of bloody beauty.

Seriously, Devils features some of the most brutal violence I’ve seen all year. You don’t always see it in all its gruesome glory (but you see more than enough!), but you don’t have to. The things these people do to one another are absolutely savage, and there are even a bunch of times when they take their violence to surprising and almost shocking lengths.

The poster for Devils
Image provided by the Fantasia International Film Festival

Next, let’s talk a bit about the story. Likable characters and awesome action are great, but in my opinion, what really takes Devils to the next level is its story. This film had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, so I just couldn’t wait to find out where this twisted tale would go.

Most notably, the mystery of how Jae-hwan and Jin-hyuk swapped bodies is super intriguing. At first, the movie plays its cards really close to the chest, so you have no idea what could’ve happened to these characters. Jae-hwan has a cut that seems to be a result of the swap, but beyond that, you’re completely in the dark.

It’s absolutely fascinating, and when Devils finally pulls back the curtain and lets you in on its secret, the payoff does not disappoint. The big reveal is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, so it caught me completely off guard and basically blew my mind. It’s not at all what I was expecting, but it’s better than anything I could’ve guessed.

That being said, I do have to give a slight caveat here. The explanation for the body swap is pretty far-fetched, so if you really think about it, you can easily poke a ton of holes in it. You have to suspend disbelief and just go with the flow, and for some people, I think that’s going to be a bit too much to ask. But if you’re like me and you can accept this outlandish sci-fi twist, I think you’re really going to enjoy it.

Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the message of Devils. At its core, this is basically a revenge film, but it’s a very specific kind of revenge film. It doesn’t give you the catharsis you normally expect from these movies. Instead, it takes a more thoughtful approach to the topic, much like fellow Korean thrillers I Saw the Devil and Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy. This actually ends up being more of an anti-revenge film, and it uses its brutal violence to show us that we can’t let our fight against evil turn us into bad guys ourselves.

It’s a really important message that our modern world desperately needs to hear, and when you combine it with everything else Devils gets right, you end up with one hell of a movie. Like I said before, this just might be the best film I’ve seen at Fantasia so far, so if it sounds like something you’d enjoy, I highly recommend that you check it out when it gets a general release.

Devils played at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 26.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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