Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saw Franchise

Hello, Space Monkees, I want to play a game.

By the way SPOILER WARNING.  There are going to be spoilers up the wazzoo, so if you want to watch this franchise fresh, just read up to about the first ellipsis.

Living in the 21st century can sometimes be rather difficult.  Oh yes, its nice that the Internet allows a global exchange of ideas like no other before, that cellphones allow for a form of quasi-telepathy, and that visual effects have grown more and more impressive in video games, movies, and TV shows, but still there's something a bit missing in this picture.  That's horror movies.  Frankly, the genre is a walking corpse, breeding silly foreign adaptations, zombie remakes of earlier classics, and just plain old crap ("The Strangers" comes to mind).

Living in this century, you get the feeling that all the great horror has already come and gone.  "Halloween", "Nightmare on Elm Street", "The Shining", "Evil Dead", "Hellraiser", "Night of the Living Dead", etc.  Its like, I come around and then suddenly:  party's over!  Personally I have to blame the "Scream" movies, which despite being actually really fun films, through horror in such a tongue-in-cheek manner that it basically killed the genre.  When you go to a horror movie these days, everybody in the audience is trying to be Tom Servo - its just a bit giant joke.  Nobody is scared, nobody is grossed-out, nobody is enjoying the film for its own merits.  You're laughing at it.  Horror is a bigger comedy genre than Comedy.

(By the way, if you're looking for the force that's doing the most damage to Horror, don't look at Stephanie Myers and "Twilight".  No.  The actual Dark Man is none other than Michael Bay.  Yeah, that Michael Bay.  You would not believe how many terrible horror remakes he has his on as a Producer.)

But its not all bad, let's try to find some last stand fortresses against this rising tide of the World Moving On.  There were indeed a few really good horror movies last decade.  Rob Zombie had a couple of wonderfully disgusting red neck brutality movies ("House of 1000 Corpses", and "Devil's Rejects" - both horrible and awesome)... but then he started raping "Halloween", and now he's mired deep in remaking old classics.  Zombies are far more popular than ever, and there were a few classics made like "28 Days Later" and the surprisingly good remake of "Dawn of the Dead".  But for every living and breathing zombie movie, there's six animated corpses (ex. "Land of the Dead", "28 Weeks Later").

And then there's "Saw", the shiny glorious last holdout of what once was the great Horror civilization.  Its the Byzantine Empire of Horror, the last piece of an ancient and lost culture surviving many years after that culture has ended.  "Saw" is pretty much all that's left.


Yeah, "Saw".


Fuck you, I like "Saw"!  I don't need your friggin' judgment.   Shut up!

Every single year since 2004, there has been a new "Saw" installment.  And every single year, I've been entertained.  I didn't go see the first movie, because it just looked like another cliche supernatural slasher movie (with the puppet being the killer).  Actually the only reason I even rented it was because Danny "I'm too old for this shit" Glover was in it.  And boy was I surprised.  It was the most original horror movie I had seen since "Se7en", these movies' spiritual predecessor.  The basic plot begins with two men trapped in an abandoned bathroom, and they're both tied down by their legs.  In between them is a corpse, and a saw.  What is the saw for?  They have to CUT their own feet off to escape.

The killer, Jigsaw, instead just running around a summer camp ground and shoving his knife into big-breasted sluts in a flurry of Freudian subtext, he would turn their deaths into a moral test of character.  Its never (in his eyes) "murder" because supposedly every victim could survive.  You see, Jigsaw  If you truly wanted to live, you would overcome your vice (symbolically represented by mutilating yourself or another somehow) and survive.  Or if lacked the will to survive, you would be torn to shreds by some maniacal apparatus that was a mixture of black steel and fluid nightmares.  And then the twists started coming in.  And then more twists were thrown in too.  And then it all ended with the mother of twists:  Jigsaw isn't the guy who the movie set up, instead the corpse in the middle of the room was villain all along - and he's very much alive!  But what really pulled the entire movie together was the raspy voice of Tobin Bell as the killer saying the classic line:  "Hello, [Insert Name], I want to play a game."

Like most films, "Saw" was never intended to be a franchise.  But the ever-seductive smell of money made Lion's Gate demand more, and then more, and more, and more, and more.  We're up to six now.  From this comes the basic formula of the films.  There's always a central character or characters stuck in an abandoned building.  They must go through a series of tests involving other people, typically a choice between their own maiming and the person's life.  Finally when they reach the end of the "game", they mother of all twists hits them, and they almost never survive in the end.  (The main character of the first movie is still MIA, and the main guy of the third movie lasts about five minutes into the fourth before being filled with bullets.)  Even with Jigsaw himself being dead for now half the franchise, it still lives on with through his apprentices, one was a victim from the first movie (now dead), and the other is the totally badass detective Hoffman, who now holds some kind of record for longest-running character in the series.  At the very least this horror franchise is a franchise, instead of the same movie being made over and over again just with different casts.

Yeah, "Friday the 13th", I'm talking about you!  Suck it!

I'm not going to call any of these movies Shakespeare - Jigsaw's philosophy is completely insane and yet nobody ever calls him out on it.  Numerous victims actually are not bad people at all, and some just seem to die from random chance.  In one movie, I swear to God, a guy was picked for a test because he was a smoker.  Come on, Jigsaw!  You can find much bigger assholes than that!  Also, ever since "Saw III", the franchise really has not been nearly as good.  I actually stopped going to the theatre to see these last year.  At that point it looked like thing were never going to be settled, and everything would continue like another 80s horror franchise.  Some people I know refuse to believe that any more movies were made after "Saw II".  I, however, still enjoy these movies.  Not because there's anything to learn or understand, but because this is all just a lot of fun!  And that's what a movie should be.

Then I watched "Saw VI".  It was the best movie the franchise had done in at least four years.  Hoffman went from a side-character, to a fully fledged badass, surviving impossible situation after impossible situation.  He even lived through a "game" that was purposefully designed to be unwinnable -a first from Jigsaw.  Not to mention that the kills were nice and gruesome, the tension was back up, and finally it seems like things might be moving towards a conclusion.

So I'll be watching "Saw VII" when it inevitably comes out next October.  With "Saw VI" ironically being the least profitable of the entire franchise, it seems that perhaps this newest movie might be the end.  I know Lion's Gate is just making it all up as they go along, but I'll follow them down into the pits of Hell until there comes a final conclusion to this storyline.  I might still be watching if they make a "Saw XII".  This plane might be in a nose dive straight down to Earth, but I aint putting my parachute on.  If need by, I'll go down in a glorious rain of fire when the franchise finally smashes into the ground.  And you can be sure, the Q? will have something to say about it.

Oh yes, there will be blood.


  1. I like the Saw series, but I feel as if the series has become over saturated. I mean, SIX movies! Pixar is the only other company I can think of that does annually movies, but they are backed up by Disney.

  2. I've never watched Saw, nor, indeed, any of the other classic horror movies you mentioned. I'm not a film person in general, and horror less so. What's the appeal for you?

  3. Trying to describe why I like film would equal a justification for why I enjoy fiction at all. Its such a huge part of my life that its equal or surpasses video games or literature. But if you want something succinct, I'll just leave it with I like popcorn.

    Horror in general has no good explanation. I don't like being afraid (honestly if I'm watching a scary movie I yell at myself for being so stupid as to even step into the theatre), but its still fun. Its bloody and disgusting and awful and great. Lowest common denominator glory! There are limits of course, straight-up torture and sheer brutality leaves me ultimately more depressed and sad for the victim than scared ("Hostel" did not work for this reason).

    Though honestly, even if you don't like horror, I recommend "The Shining". Its a really good movie worth seeing purely for Jack Nicholson's performance alone.

  4. Yeah, see I can't do that to myself. I find no benefit in forcing myself to witness these movies. I don't mind a bit of gore, in fact somethimes i even enjoy it, but I can't stand full-fleged horror movies.

    Although I did like the "Evil Dead" series, but then that was more horror comedy

  5. I like psychological horrors more than slasher flicks. I want to be scared by the story, not the fact that people are getting their arms cut off.

  6. BlueHighwind, a couple of years ago on the Final Fantasy Wiki you vowed to be the first one to walkthrough Final Fantasy XIII. With XIII coming out in the U.S. in just two months, are you having any thoughts of returning to the Wiki and writing one last walkthrough, or is your departure permanent?

  7. Drake, if I do anything for FFXIII, it would be a playthrough. Those walkthroughs are a thing of the past.

  8. (This is Drake, I forgot I had a Blogger account):

    A playthrough, huh? That would be interesting.

  9. So another Dissidia thing is in store? Cuz that would be kool.