Trend > Culture > Devils Review: A Bloody Body-Swap Killer Thriller [Fantasia Fest 2023] – /Film
Devils Review: A Bloody Body-Swap Killer Thriller [Fantasia Fest 2023] – /Film
Devils Review: A Bloody Body-Swap Killer Thriller [Fantasia Fest 2023] - /Film,Kim Jae-Hoon's Devils is like a South Korean remix of Freaky Friday and Face/Off. Read our Fantasia Fest review right here.

Devils Review: A Bloody Body-Swap Killer Thriller [Fantasia Fest 2023] – /Film

Kim Jae-Hoon’s “Devils” is the psychologically twisted South Korean remix of “Freaky Friday” and “Face/Off.” Throw some “Freaky” in there to hit on violent slasher elements where a killer has complete control of an innocent’s body, because why not? The melting pot of subgenres plays sterner than Jae-Hoon’s science-freaky, body-swapping premise might suggest, but that’s not a missed opportunity. “Devils” is a slippery crime thriller that plugs surprises into an albeit ludicrous concept, and while the ending leaves a tad to be desired, it’s still well worth the mind games and manipulation at stake.

Jae-hwan (Oh Dae-hwan) is a homicide detective still grieving the death of his brother-in-law and ex-partner, killed on duty by a serial murderer with a dark web snuff channel. Jin-hyeok (Jang Dong-yoon) is one-fourth of the maniacs behind “Snuff Cinema,” and the psychopath Jae-hwan obsessively hunts. Nearly two years later, Jae-hwan comes face to face with Jin-hyeok, and a chase ensues that ends in a car wreck. Jae-hwan has finally apprehended the man behind his brother-in-law’s death, but during the accident, the unthinkable happens — Jae-hwan and Jin-hyeok regain consciousness in each other’s bodies.

A vengeful switcheroo

Fantasia Film Festival

Jae-Hoon keeps details under wraps concerning how Jae-hwan and Jin-hyeok switcheroo. This isn’t “The Change-Up,” where Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds humorously trade places while peeing into a fountain. “Devils” works backward to unlock memory loss and piece together how two men could plausibly swap bodies, generating suspense based on morbid intrigue and flashbacks. Jae-Hoon takes a more grounded approach to an otherwise bloodsoaked fantasy, and while that means the outrageous premise never reaches its true gonzo potential, that’s confidently intended. “Devils” refuses to become a kooky cartoon or anti-buddy comedy — it’s vengeful, explicitly dire, and running on unstable rage.

Oh Dae-hwan and Jang Dong-yoon are compelling as each other, mimicking earlier performance traits like Nicolas Cage and John Travolta in “Face/Off.” Dong-yoon shines as a lawman stuck in a sadistic butcher’s skin, and thrives as that moral dilemma translates into more bloodshed. Dae-hwan stays menacing and threatening, since Jin-hyeok now has chameleon access to Jae-hwan’s family — selling discomfort with silent gazes at innocent daughters and wives primed for slaughter. There’s a very “I Saw the Devil” relationship between Jae-hwan and Jin-hyeok, except chaotic good can’t triumph over equally chaotic evil until the unthinkable can be reversed.

A grounded body-swap thriller

Fantasia Film Festival

That said, your enjoyment of “Devils” comes down to what we won’t discuss. As Jae-Hoon reveals truths and inches closer to the inevitable mind-messery that explains everything, expectations are shredded to pieces. Where “Devils” veers won’t appease everyone, but Jae-Hoon stays true to his vision throughout. From Jin-hyeok’s blacklight slaughterhouse hideout blaring meh techno to an overarching theme of collateral damage, Jae-Hoon is far more interested in dissecting anger-driven characters than cheaply indulging some out-of-bounds midnighter. Don’t expect “Project Wolf Hunting.” Jae-Hoon stays faithful to police procedurals with grim-as-heck brutality, peppering in harder genre elements as accents, not focuses.

“Devils” is a rare mystery thriller better served in its buildup than finale, but not by much. Jae-Hoon wraps his knuckles in barbed wire and punches moral quandaries pulpy and raw in a screenplay that ponders what happens when decent men have to do bad things. Dae-hwan and Dong-yoon successfully sell embodying one another’s performative cues, embracing the horrific realities inherent in their obscure predicament. “Devils” might not be the tonal configuration that one might predict, but that doesn’t prevent Jae-Hoon from capitalizing on the inevitable shock and awe that awaits.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10