The climactic plot twist in 2003's Oldboy is still one of the most disturbing movie plot twists ever, but behind-the-scenes footage proves one scene is actually worse. Oldboy is the second movie in South Korean director Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy and is also an adaptation loosely based on the Japanese manga Old Boy written by Garon Tsuchiya. Oldboy is considered a modern neo-noir classic and is perhaps known best for both its grueling one-shot hallway fight scene and a truly disturbing plot twist in the movie's third act.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
Oldboy stars Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su, a man who gets ambushed and imprisoned in a seedy room for 15 years before being released with no explanation. His subsequent pursuit for answers - and vengeance - takes him to a sushi restaurant and sushi chef Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), countless dumpling tastings, and an exhausting, gritty, one-shot hallway scuffle that has influenced everything from the video game Sifu to fight scenes in the CW's Superman & Lois. Oh Dae-su's journey eventually leads him to an old classmate named Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae), and ultimately it is revealed that Woo-jin has orchestrated an incestuous relationship between Dae-su and Mi-do, who turns out to be Dae-su's biological daughter, in the name of revenge.
Related: Every M. Night Shyamalan Movie Plot Twist Explained
The shocking reveal that Oh Dae-su is Mi-do's father has disgusted Oldboy viewers for two decades now, but the scene in the sushi restaurant where Oh Dae-su eats a live octopus is more disturbing because behind-the-scenes footage reveals Choi Min-sik actually ate an octopus (several, actually). The incestuous twist is objectively horrifying – there’s no getting around that – but it’s also fictional just like Jon Snow's incest story on Game of Thrones. The only consolation for the octopus being eaten at all in that particular scene is that it does serve several purposes in Oldboy's broader context like foreshadowing Lee Woo-jin’s puppet master role.
The BTS Reason Why Oldboy's Octopus Scene Was The Worst
Behind-the-scenes footage shows Oldboy didn't use any CGI or special effects for the octopus-eating scene. Choi Min-sik, who is a Buddhist and vegetarian according to director Park Chan-wook, ended up eating four live octopuses in order to get the take right. Before each attempt, Choi offered a brief prayer before gobbling down on an octopus, and the cast and crew treated it with a seriousness and intensity seen in something like behind-the-scenes footage from Squid Game. The scene is already grotesque, but it's much worse when the realization hits that the octopus is real.
Thankfully, Oldboy's octopus-eating scene isn't gratuitous. Octopus is considered an aphrodisiac in Korean culture, and it foreshadows Oldboy's Oedipal themes by hinting at Oh Dae-su and Mi-do's relationship. Also, the relationship between the octopus and Dae-su parallels the relationship between Dae-su and Lee Woo-jin; both the octopus and Oh Dae-su are at the mercy of someone above them, and they don’t fully comprehend it until it’s too late.
Oldboy is usually contextualized by its intense graphic violence and subject matter, but it's a movie with a lot of depth too. The entire Vengeance Trilogy has both violence and depth; one of the most stunning symbolic elements of 2005's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is the gradual desaturation of the movie until it ends in black and white. Meanwhile, Oldboy's 2013 Spike Lee remake had lots of differences compared to the South Korean original, but the remake's biggest mistake might be failing to recognize that even Oldboy’s most disturbing scenes have more to offer than shock value.