Friday, 17 October 2008

On the Saw Series...

So, another Halloween another Saw movie. I've got a love/hate relationship with the series. On one hand they are excruciatingly dumb and unbelievable. On the other hand I appreciate the grand guignol simplicity of it. Victim wakes up in horrific torture device, victim is forced to commit some act of self-mutilation to escape (but usually dies). Unfortunately they also seem intent to tack on a winding story that starts out stupid and only gets more ridiculous as the series goes on.

When I saw the first one I thought it was okay. The gritty, David-Fincher-for-Dummies aesthetic was cool at first but got cornier and more annoying as the film goes on. It just tries to hard to be grimy and unsettling. It's like a Tool music video that runs for 90 minutes. It's also got that annoying music video editing where every time there is a change in scene there's a whip-cut and a metal-on-metal screech. Cameras zipping to and fro, smoke machines, squealing electric guitars. I don't know why filmmakers do this stuff because it's going to timestamp the film as effectively as synthesizers, drum machines and that noodly saxophone music that was in every cop film after Lethal Weapon came out.

But the thing that really hurt the film for me was the hammy acting. Usually I don't mind cornball acting in horror films, it's part of the charm, but when Wesley was sawing off his foot I started laughing out loud. I couldn't help it, the film just took itself so damn seriously. I thought the whole theater was going to erupt into laughter, but I was the only one. This annoyed me because I'm sure people thought I was one of those douchebags who laughs during every tense moment just to show how jaded and cynical they are.

Anyway, the film (and every subsequent sequel) ends with a patented Shyamalan twist that includes a gratuitous recap of every goddamn line of dialogue in the film, spelling it all out for you like you're a moron. What's more, the films flash forward and backward in time, several plot threads run concurrently, and all the while you've got to keep track of about fifteen different cops and FBI agents, who they are after and why. It's ridiculous. In some ways all this stuff it's kind of novel. It's not often that you find a horror film that has too much story. Somebody give me a flowchart or a time-line or something. I never thought a horror film could make me feel so stupid.

By the time I got around the fourth film I had no fuckin' clue what was going on. I didn't even know who was being tortured or why, let alone care about their situation. That kind of works against you in a horror film. What's more, they don't expend one drop of effort to make the victims believable or interesting characters. They are needlessly cryptic and act like obnoxious jerks even when their lives are on the line. I can't believe for a second that these people would continue to keep secrets about themselves, especially since they all know about the "Jigsaw killer" and that they are pretty much fucked if they don't find a way out.

One thing that I like about the films is just how ridiculously complicated Jigsaw's plans and contraptions are. I mean, in Saw 3 he had a machine that transported and dropped rotting pig carcasses into an industrial grinder (I counted five but who knows how many he had tucked away) and poured the resulting slurry over the unfortunate victim until he drowns. Seems like too much work. What's wrong with just dropping the guy into a big tank of liquefied pig guts? Plus if you think about the plot for more than five seconds (not recommended) you'll realise just how complicated Jigsaw's plan is and how much of it hinges on ridiculous coincidence.

Yeah, I'll probably still see Saw V, but I'll feel guilty about it.

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