Sunday, August 21, 2011

Any paragon of virtue

I was supposed to do it all in one post, my ramblings on watching all seven Saw flicks with my friends, back-to-back (the movie, not me and my friends), but because I ramble way too fuckin' much, I had to break this shit into two separate posts. Problem is, too much time had passed between watching the films and writing about them, hell, I was surprised that I was even able to write as much about the first three movies, since even those ramblings came rather late (I usually need to write about this shit within 3 days, or my alcohol-damaged/pot-resin'd brain forgets about it).

As for the rest of the Saw flicks, well, most of my initial thoughts have faded away, so I can only give you very brief impressions about them (relatively brief, anyway), so sorry about that. Although, considering my opinion of the final Saw film, it's kind of appropriate that I conclude my ramblings on this series in such a manner -- slapdash, thrown together and rushed (and when you consider that my ramblings in general are already slapdash, thrown together and rushed, that really says a lot). As for what my friends and I did between movies -- we snacked, took smoke/bathroom breaks, and drank lots of Cherry Coke. Then it was 9:00 in the morning, and we went our separate ways. So let's wrap this sucker up, shall we?


Saw IV: Jigsaw's dead (long live Jigsaw), but someone's stepped in and is picking up where that guy left off, picking dumb obsessed cops to fuck with, and this time it's one of the SWAT guys who committed the crime of thinking he can be everywhere and save everyone, like he's Dr. Manhattan or somebody. By the way, in addition to abandoned buildings and green-tinted visuals, the Saw series loves it some SWAT guys; damn near all of the Saws have a scene featuring SWAT guys entering a building with their flashlight-attached Heckler & Koch's. It also loves it some scenes of robed people in pig masks snatching people in isolated areas, followed by a quick cut to black.

I'm surprised by how many people dug this one; even though it returns to Saw II's speedy pace of events and includes some pretty nasty surprises, overall I wasn't feeling this one, with the exception of the flashbacks regarding Jigsaw; homeboy actually gets to have quite a bit of dramatic shit to play, this guy should feel blessed to have gotten this role, and not just because of the bank it would make him and the attention it would garner. I'm not as familiar with the roles of Tobin Bell, but I have a feeling he probably had a lot more to play with in the Saw series than he ever did with previous roles in the past 20 years of his career. Well, aside from this.

Also, if you ever doubted director Darren Lynn Bousman's love of transitions, man, you won't be doubting it after watching this one. There must've been lots of blood, sweat and tears on the set trying to pull these mothers off, but they did, and they're pretty sweet, these transitions. Crazy transitions. Transitions up the ass. Transitions transitions transitions. If fades & dissolves were human beings, Bousman would punch 'em in the throat, he has no love for those assholes.

Saw V: Now this one seems to get a lot of hate, but I don't hate on it, I thought it was eh, feh, and a little meh, but it was still better than IV. So what we have here is the new Jigsaw, played by the very Michael Pare-esque Costas Mandylor, and he's trapped 5 people who are as dumb as they are unlikable; Julie Benz is among them, and between Rambo, Punisher: War Zone, The Boondock Saints II, this flick, and the show Dexter, she seems to be the go-to hottie for all things Killing-related (she also appears to be the Lionsgate lucky charm for their violent action flicks, having appeared in most of them, so if they ever make a Crank 3, don't be surprised if she pops up in it somewhere, preferably catfighting with Amy Smart). But yeah, she was in the second Boondock Saints and on a related note, it was pretty awesome to see "Papa Joe" Yakavetta from the first Boondock show up here, speaking in his normally proper English accent. Anyway, I thought it was funny that they killed the characters in order of least to most hateable.

There's cool O.G. Jigsaw backstory here as well, told in flashbacks (the only way one can keep Tobin Bell in this series), and they continue the on-going saga of having the dumbest, most obsessed authority figures march their dumb asses towards inevitable ownage. Yet there's still a sense that these filmmaking motherfuckers are treading water, using water wings made out of the audience's money. Anyway, hooray for Betsy Russell.

Saw VI
: This one's more like it. This is my second favorite after Saw III -- it's goofy, insane, and best of all, fuckin' inspired; the victims here are all motherfuckers who work for a health insurance company and they get the Jigsaw treatment for being smug coverage denying/cancelling motherfuckers. The main dude at this place has to go through a Saw III-style series of tests, only here he doesn't so much have to save the victims as he has to choose which ones will survive, and since he makes his living more or less choosing who lives or dies anyway, this should be a cinch for him, right?

Thankfully/entertainingly, the answer is Fuck No.

The best trap is the one where his staff of assholes who seem to get off on finding discrepancies in past applications of current policy holders and cancelling/fucking them over, well, they're all tied up to this spinning carousel, and Main Smug Asshole has to choose which 2 out of the 6 staff members gets to live. The rest get a close-range shotgun blast to the chest (even poor Eddie Winslow from Family Matters gets no mercy), and it is a glorious sight to see. Shit, this goddamn film in its entirety is a glorious sight to see -- nay -- to behold! And the ending! Oh sweet Jesus, that ending -- the Saw films all have great endings, but this one might be my fave. I feel like Christian Bale in Harsh Times, tripping the fuck out after seeing homeboy turn that vato into a fountain of BLOOD!

The only part I thought was kinda unfair was during one of the tests, when the janitor -- the fuckin' janitor, man, c'mon -- is revealed to be one of the possible victims, and his crime -- get this -- his fuckin' crime is that he's 52 years old and smokes. That's it. It's one thing for some rich asshole to be throwing his health away on those cancer sticks, because that guy's got money, toys, bitches, respect -- why would he want to smoke? But the poor janitor, I'm sure he doesn't make that much money, he's scraping by just to get by, so let the poor guy have his cigarettes, let him have his brief moments of joy, it's all he's got. At this rate, they were probably only a couple sequels away from ripping some motherfucker's spleen out in a trap just because he or she liked cheeseburgers.

Saw: The Final Chapter (or Saw 3D, as it says on-screen): Easily the worst of the series, you can tell this was pretty much a rush job so they could complete the series, since the young gunslinger known as Paranormal Activity came into town and started muscling in on the Halloween action. I suspect that they were originally going to start a new trilogy that was all about Australian Michael Pare, since Saw VI pretty much completed Jigsaw's "grand plan", leaving only one loose end to tie. But then after that lame found-footage bullshit handed their asses to them at the box office, the filmmakers were probably scrambling for a way to save face and wrap this shit up while bullshitting everyone into thinking that it was always meant to end this way.

The opening is pretty awesome, if you discount the fact that it makes absolutely no fuckin' sense in the grand scheme of this whole Jigsaw business; the previous victims were somehow connected/related to Jigsaw's world, even in the loosest of ways, but I don't know how some late teens/early twenties love triangle fits into it. Was this some desperate way to get the younger Final Destination crowd? I mean, all the previous "test subjects" in the Saw movies were refreshingly older, it wasn't the usual Dead Teenager types who were being fucked with. But why would they go that way now? Young kids are the ones who go to see these flicks anyway, these kids today with their Phil Collins and their Melissa Etheridge, I didn't hear them complain about not seeing themselves on-screen during the last 6 Saws. But then again, maybe I'm wrong; it's not like I waste my time talking to young kids, not since that goddamn Sex Offender Registry outed me. 8-year-olds, dude.

Calm down, I was only kidding. Or was I? DUN DUN DUN -- HIDE YO KIDS, HIDE YO WIFE

And as ridiculous as the situations and traps got in the series, they still had a genuine unnerving menace to them as well, but this final chapter? Feels like some straight-up parody. I don't know if they were going for a tone similar to the last 2 Chucky movies, but I can't say they succeeded in their attempt because I laughed WITH those movies, whereas with Saw 3D, I was mostly laughing AT that lame bullshit. Maybe I missed something, but apparently, somewhere during the series, Jigsaw went Full Stansfield and demanded that EEEEVVVVEEEERRRRYYYYOOOONNNNEEE gets got, because it seems like half the population of this vaguely Canadian metropolis has gone through his tests at one time or another. There's even fuckin' support groups for Jigsaw test survivors, like it was some AA shit, complete with free coffee and donuts.

Cary Elwes finally returns, having gone full Shatner with his role as Dr. Gordon; he pops up about 3 times, and his is a welcome sight to see. Plus it was cool to see Lionsgate continue to hook up Boondock Saints alumni by having Powder McManus himself as the lead (more-or-less), playing some douche who has been passing himself off as a Jigsaw survivor, even writing a best-seller about his experience. Well, he's the dumbest motherfucker in the world to be pulling that shit in Jigsaw City, where as I said before, it's like 2 out of every 3 citizens have been tortured by the motherfucker, so guess what happens to his ass. I'll give you a hint: it's the same fuckin' shit the lead assholes had to do in Saw III and VI.

I'll give it this, though; it sure felt like the goriest Saw of the bunch -- there's a fantastic sequence involving a group of racist skinheads (and their racist groupie) getting owned by one of Jigsaw's traps, and the final test in the movie is genuinely fuckin' disturbing in how it plays out. But see, that's all this one has going for it, the gore, and even then, the power of that shit is diluted from being surrounded by a shitty thrown-together story.

Hell, even one of the traps pulls a Necrobutcher by sucking a fat dick; it's a self-activated machine gun that works when a couple of dumbasses stand in front of it and don't move a muscle as it aims and fires at them. I'm sure that's not the effect it's supposed to have, I'm sure it sounded awesome on paper, but it sure didn't translate well in front of that HD camera. Even for a Saw joint, this movie has a super-cheap look to it, both production design-wise -- big surprise there -- and Fuck Film Let's Shoot This On Digital-wise, which is odd since I think this was the most expensive one.

You'd think it wouldn't look like a direct-to-video Saw sequel, but it does -- come to think of it, that's what these sequels have always felt/looked like, DTV-sequels given a theatrical release -- but still, this shit was pushing $20 million, budget-wise, so either someone was pocketing the cash or the entire cast & crew was eating lobsters and truffles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, washed down with bottles of Cristal and grenades packed full with the finest, uncut Bolivian flake. Then they remembered there was still a movie to be filmed.

They didn't have enough money to get decent secondary actors, so they hired rejects who auditioned for Gran Torino and DIDN'T get the part, that's how bad they are in this movie; the latest Dumb Obsessed Cops are really....really....not good. I guess all the other good Canadian actors were working on other movies while this one was being made, Atom Egoyan and Don McKellar probably snaked all the good ones.

Anyway, this last chapter kinda sucked, but at least they gave it an ending that did just that -- ended all this shit -- while still leaving enough room for a new beginning, which I'm sure they'll do in a few years. They'll take a break, get their shit together, wait for that Paranormal Activity bullshit to lose it's luster, and then guess who's back, back again? Yup, it's Saw -- only they'll do something fucked up like call it The Saw or go back and reset the title to just plain Saw again (to confuse us) or maybe they'll continue numbering the sequels, only next time they'll change it from Roman numerals to good ol' Western Arabic (to fuck with us).

But first, they're gonna bleed every green drop of potential money from the original series, maybe even pull some special Godfather Saga-style re-edit of the movies, so the events can play in chronological order, and  they'll release it on Blu-ray and everyone's gonna get excited -- until the complaints start pouring in that the transfers have been tinted blue or red for some reason and it's not even 1080p, it's in 1080i, and everyone's gonna get pissed about it and bitch on the message boards that Harry Knowles is a sellout for lavishing praise on this new boxed set, because that's what we're good at, that's what we do! GAME OVER

Order of preference (if that shit matters to you):


SAW 3D or THE FINAL CHAPTER or whatever you want to fuckin' call it