Thursday, August 18, 2011

We do not want you here. We do not like you.

“Oh my goodness you like those kinds of movies? I can maybe watch one but that's it.”
                  -- a text message from my sister, referring to either 

                     the Saw movies or girl-on-girl porn

A few years ago -- during a break at either the New Beverly Cinema's All Night Horror Show or the Aero Cinematheque's Horrorthon -- a buddy of mine brought up the idea of having a Saw marathon. I had only seen the first one while he hadn't seen a single one, so we decided to have our back-to-back night of torture porn goodness as soon as the filmmakers and/or Lionsgate called it quits with those shits. Well, as of last October, the Saw machine has stopped -- for now. Because something tells me that much like the Halloween movies and the Friday the 13th movies, the Saw movies will pull a Chev Chelios in that they'll get better after dying.

Like that first-wife-beating, first-child-ignoring, asshole musical genius once said: Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, and that's what kept us from setting up our evening of Saw at first, but eventually the night finally came and I had already acquired the entire series earlier that week from my awesome neighbor, a hard-working family man who not only gives good firearms conversation and hooks me up with free quality bread (rye! sourdough! bagels! I'm super fat!), he evidently also likes to unwind after a hard day's work by watching people scream in pain as they try to get through astonishingly baroque traps left by some sanctimonious asshole, hence his owning all seven Saw films.

After snatching said Saw series, I then rushed off to 7-11 for a couple bottles of Vitamin Water and some chips, then stopped over at Cigar Castle to buy a couple of choice stogies, while my wife LeEtta picked up some pizzas from the local -- oh, wait a minute, that's the other guy, not me. My bad. I get really confused sometimes. Two of my buddies showed up to give me some company, but more importantly, they brought Cherry Coke.


The first film was indeed Saw, about two guys -- a Brit and an Aussie -- trapped in an abandoned bathroom (really?) and trying their absolute fuckin' hardest to speak with convincing American accents without slipping into one of those odd Tim Roth-in-Reservoir Dogs voices. They also each have an ankle chained to the bathroom pipes, there's a bloody dead guy in the middle of the room, and oh yeah, then they find out that one has to kill the other by 6:00, so yeah, there's that too.

Most of the film consists of flashbacks about how they ended up in this predicament, as well as cutting to scenes involving a detective played by Danny Glover, and because he hasn't yet declared that he's approached an age in which he should no longer get involved in stressful/overly demanding situations, he's gathering an increase in heat on the trail of the "Jigsaw Killer"; some asshole who is kidnapping other assholes and placing them in these horrific traps that require these assholes to make some fucked up choices if they want to survive -- the idea being that they'll come out of it as former assholes, if they live through the ordeal. Anyway, turns out that our two wannabe American-speakers are the latest potential victims/survivors of Jigsaw's latest trap.

I've seen Saw once before in 2005, in its R-rated DVD incarnation, and I remember liking it even though the pacing got a tad protracted at times, like the filmmakers forgot the movie's called Saw, not Saaaaaawwwww. But the stuff that works in the film, really fuckin' works and overall it was a decent flick. The performances are pretty good; Danny Glover's got a nice dual mode going on here, first he's kind of an overly-assured dude who thinks he's got it all figured out, and then once he watches the karaoke salesman from Keeping the Faith get multiple-shotgun-blasted, he becomes Mr. Obsessed, and you get the sense that sleeping, eating and bathing are all low-priority for him from here on out.

Then there's Cary Elwes, who's pretty awesome here in that he's kinda like a subtle William Shatner at times, doing this whole ACTING! deal with his character. It's like he's an old fat English theater actor stuck inside a leading man's body (albeit a slightly plump leading man, but fuck that shit, the dude is getting older and a motherfucker's metabolism slows down with age, so give homie a break, don't hate on the motherfucker just because he doesn't look exactly like Westley anymore. Jesus tap-dancin' Christ, people).

The strongest scene for me was actually one that didn't involve any traps, it involved a gun being held to a frightened little girl's head while the sick fuck holding the gun listens to her heartbeat with a stethoscope -- that shit is so brilliantly ill, that if I were to ever meet director James Wan or writer Leigh Whannell, I'll have to buy them a fuckin' drink for coming up with it, even though they probably have more money than I do. I'd also buy the little girl a drink for her way-too-convincing performance in that scene, except that shit would probably get me locked up and/or a visit by that ultra-smug motherfucker who judges son/daughterfuckers with his Beacon Of Moral Purity act on television while cheating on his wife behind closed doors, but I'm not hating because that shit's between consenting adults, not a kid and some creep with fucked-up wiring. Fuck it, it doesn't have to be alcohol, I'll buy her a Yoo-Hoo or something.

All the events of this movie appear to take place in the same shitty 2-block radius somewhere in downtown Los Angeles, and aside from the now-iconic bathroom set, most of this movie looks fuckin' El Cheapo; the doctor's office in this flick, shit man, it looks like the set probably still reeked of semen and sweaty asses from the previous film that was shot there.I guess most of the budget went to scoring Danny Glover, Cary Elwes, and the chick who got blasted by a shotgun-wielding psycho in the family comedy Patch Adams and they didn't have much left for sets that didn't look like some rejected shit from a circa 1991 Don "The Dragon" Wilson joint.

Let me Tarantino this shit back to shortly after the first film's theatrical release, when I spoke to a guy who worked on Saw Uno and potentially could've hooked me up with some work, had I not slipped on a banana peel and fell straight into a pool of laziness and alcoholism. I remember two things from our conversation: first, he was very amused at the sight of the young Asian director speaking with a straight-up Fosters Beer/shrimp on the barbie accent (I guess he didn't know about the large Asian population Down Under) and second, the crew worked for very little money and put in some serious fuckin' overtime, yet he Just Fucking Knew that rather than reward said crew by keeping the sequel local, the producers were going to take that shit to Canada in order to minimize costs and maximize wallet girth. Sure enough, the motherfucker was right because the rest of the series was shot in Toronto -- they didn't even try to pull a Police Academy and take that shit back to L.A. for a couple sequels and throw a couple bones to some locals, they just fuckin' stayed up north, makin' that money, eatin' Tim Hortons, sippin' Purple Chango.

Back to our movie night; Saw II was next and in this one, Donnie Wahlberg plays one of those hardcore tough-guy detectives, and he's so grizzled and beaten-by-life that he doesn't even have time to get his clothes pressed and I think he must've lost a lot of weight recently because he's a baggy outfit-wearing motherfucker. But then again, he probably buys his shit from one of those places where you can get 3 suits for $100, and the off-the-rack joints tend to not be the best fitting, but hey, what can you do, the funeral's tomorrow and you can't show up in your 1989 Saturday night party borderline-Cosby sweater, just 'cause it's the closest thing to respectable in your closet, and surely you can't show up wearing one of your ironic hipster unicorn tees, nobody's that big of an asshole.

Anyway, he has one of those douchebag teenage sons who's always getting into trouble, and rather than break out the fuckin' Boone's Farm wine and celebrate after his son ditches him to run to Mommy's, he's all fucked up because he loves his son and all of that bullshit. But because this shit's called Saw II and not How To Make Your Douchebag Son Understand You, Plot Point #1 peeks its ugly head and it turns out Jigsaw's behind the little brat's disappearance, and even though Donnie has that fine Dizzy Flores and a crew of hardcore SWAT motherfuckers from the Vaguely-Canadian Police Department backing him up, Mr. Saw's holding all the cards in that warehouse hideout of his. You see, J. Saw has a bunch of monitors displaying a video feed from some unknown location, where a group of strangers have just woken up to find out they're J-Sizzy's latest "test subjects", and Probably Still A Virgin is among them.

This flick's a little flashier than the last one (which was mostly flashy with the edits as a way to disguise some low-budget shit), but I didn't mind; I remember reading lots of hate online at the time, regarding what they considered to be unnecessarily flamboyant camera moves & seizure-inducing editing during some of the trap scenes, and I'd have to disagree with them. See, I think the point of doing that was to get you into the mindset of the victim as he or she becomes increasingly panicked/frustrated/anguish as they try to get out of the trap, which is made worse by the victims knowing that they don't have forever to be careful about this shit, because they're on the clock, bitch, and midnight is coming.

I'd say overall, this one's about even with the first and it could've been better except this shit has it's own flaws to keep it from surpassing the original, like the raza with big arms who's just mean & evil because you need someone mean & evil to fuck shit up. But I did like that the sequel had a way fuckin' faster pace to it, and I preferred the interactions between Jigsaw & Marky Mark's brother in this flick over Cary Elwes & Leigh Whannell's slightly accented shenanigans in the previous joint.

All kidding about being Marky Mark's brother aside, I gotta give it up to Donnie Wahlberg for playing his character in the first third of the film as some generic hardass, and then spending the rest of the film with increasingly watery eyeballs after discovering about his son's current situation, while still trying to put the fear of having a motherfucker feel the vibrations into Jigsaw (and failing miserably, because Jigsaw knows what the fuck is up, now that Donny Don's revealed some serious vulnerabilities).

They get into Jigsaw's medical condition (he's got the big Casino) and how he's taking it out on people who aren't fully appreciating their lives in various ways; he'd probably disagree, though, saying that he's not on some vengeful wrath deal, but rather, he's giving them an opportunity to be "reborn". By the way, if I'm mixing any of this shit up, please forgive me, I watched all 7 flicks in a row and it gets to a point that with enough time, enough lack-of-sleep, and enough marijuana, one can easily confuse-o-blend these movies into one bloody, rusty, green-tinted slurpee of cheap sets, awesome gore and B & C-level actors.

I'm not a fan of the term "torture porn" -- even though I had no problem using it like 2 or 3 times already -- and I didn't consider the first Saw an example of T.P., because you're with the characters and you're feeling their pain and you don't want a motherfucker to saw his foot off, even though the titular tool hangs over the entire film like a threat that will eventually be carried out. But hey, that's not torture porn, that's good filmmaking.

And that's the main problem with Saw II -- there's a slight lack of said good filmmaking, causing this shit to feel rather torture porny at times because I didn't give a shit about most of the victims, I'm really just watching these people get owned for the fun of watching them get owned, rather than getting emotionally involved in their plight. I only cared for two people: Shawnee Smith's character, because she had already gone through this shit in the last movie (and because she's cute) and homeboy from South Central (or as some of you might know him as, Tuneman from Speed and Speed 2: Cruise Control).

It was interesting watching this movie with a friend who does not like anything remotely scary; when I heard she was coming over, I didn't believe it. This is the same girl who would not go to the horror movie marathons at the Aero and New Bev, and here she was watching her some Saw. Turns out the hardest part of watching the Saw movies for her was the music, particularly with the first one, because that really creeped her out. The music is definitely The Most, particularly that track called "Hello Zepp", because by the third film, my buddies and I realized that whenever that tune came on, it meant the movie was about to drop some heavy fuckin' science on the viewer (not to mention the unsuspecting on-screen characters). 

Saw III was next, and I want to bring up that the extended director's cut wasn't available, so instead we watched the unrated cut of the theatrical edit, which I found out later wasn't missing anything worth not missing, aside from a catfight that would've been cool to watch because two chicks fighting is always a good thing because, you know, they might get it on or something -- but hey, a rough version of that scene is on the unrated DVD extras; it's awesome in a watching-women's-tennis-with-your-eyes-closed kinda way because one chick pushes the other against the wall and there's a lot of groaning/moaning/panting going on and now I have to take a break to watch it again. 

Speaking of chicks getting physical, there's a scene involving Shawnee Smith getting the absolute shit beat out of her by Donny Don -- beaten with a large pipe! punched in the face! slammed repeatedly against a wall! -- and rather than keel over and piss herself like Kurt Russell's not-really daughter in that movie The Chris Brown Inside Me or whatever that shit was called, she takes her lumps like a fuckin' champ and gives just as good as she gets.

Sheeeeeiiiiiiit, I couldn't take nearly as much of a beating as she did, probably because I'm not a fictional character in a movie that stretches credibility tighter than a drum set made out of Joan Rivers' skin, but whatever, she looks pretty badass with her crazy hair and leather coat and blood dripping from her face, looking like some punky female Parker in a movie no one would ever make, on account of Hollywood being run by pussies (or Jews, if you're Mel Gibson). Sure, there's Anna Karina in Made in U.S.A., but that was made by Jean-Luc Godard, back when he was beginning to dabble in his now-permanent I Like Being An Antagonizing Contrarian Dickwad Who Thinks He's Better Than Everything phase, so I don't count that shit.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the unrated cut. It's the longest of the series at 113 minutes, while the director's cut is just a shade over two hours and while I'm usually all about the director's vision, c'mon man -- it's Saw III, not The Bridge on the River Kwai, so trim that bitch down, chief. Save the indulgences for your cult rock operas. Anyway, we watched the unrated 113-minute cut, that's what I was trying to say.

So in this one, it looks like that fine Dizzy Flores is gonna be the Main Dude/Obsessed Cop here, taking over for Danny Glover and Come On Come On Feel The Vib-- Oh I'm Sorry, That's My Brother You're Thinking Of. But goddammit, they tricked me because poor Dizzy can't catch a break in these goddamn movies, she's always meat wagon material, but at least she always goes out hard: she's either getting eaten or impaled or power-drilled through the eyeball, and in this flick she gets her fuckin' ribcage torn open, causing her guts to plop down on the ground, plus she's barefoot, so she's probably really cold too. Anyway, she and Michelle Rodriguez need to do a buddy cop movie or something where it ends with everyone BUT their characters getting killed, leaving our dynamic duo as the only ones left alive, because that would be a change for them, you see.

The filmmakers cruelly decided not to make Saw III about an attractive detective, and instead made it about Low-Budget Russell Crowe looking all bloated and assed-out because his dumbass son rode his bike onto oncoming traffic. He ends up getting Jigsaw'd into yet another abandoned building (because a Saw movie without an abandoned building is like a day without sunshine), only instead of getting thrown into some elaborate trap and being forced make the decision to live or die, he's thrown into a series of traps, and it's not his life he's playing with, it's the lives of the people who were somehow involved with his son's first-and-only-date with 4 Firestone tires: the witness to the accident (she ran away from the scene), the judge (he gave the driver a light sentence), and the vehicular manslaughter himself (the recipient of said light sentence -- but why did it have to be a brotha? Movie's racist, yo, racist, call Al Sharpton). Oh yeah, there's also some doctor chick who's being forced to delay Jigsaw's inevitable death-by-Cancer, or else the armed shotgun-shell collar she's wearing will go off and give her face a 12-gauge bukkake.

Because this one wasn't nearly as freight train-paced as Saw Dos, it took a bit getting used to at first, but eventually my patience paid off because this ended up being the best of the first 3 flicks; it has the most fucked-up traps, it has some great shit between all the characters (particularly anything involving Evil Chick getting physical with Victim Chick), and acting-wise these motherfuckers Brought It. Visually there's a lot of cool transitions between scenes where the camera moves from one location to another in the same shot; they're very reminiscent of a film directed by actor Saul Rubinek called Jerry and Tom, so it must be a Canadian thing, these awesome scene transitions. There's titties in this movie too -- the only titties in the entire series, I believe -- but it's during a torture trap scene and I don't know about you pervs but it's hard for me to get hard watching a woman screaming bloody murder as she freezes to death.

Also, I heard that part II was originally written as a stand-alone movie (which was then rewritten to fit the Saw universe), but I think this flick could easily have been it's own thing as well, because what you have here is a solid entry in the Revenge Ain't What It's Cracked Up To Be sub-genre of vengeance flicks: you have this dude, this Low-Budget Russell Crowe, who has so much anger and anguish (his drinking certainly doesn't help that shit) and suddenly he has the people he holds responsible for his current residence in Sucks To Be Me-ville handed to him on a rusty silver platter, about to die painful, horrible deaths, and all he has to do is....absolutely nothing.

But because Man is a complex beast, it turns out that letting them die is far easier said than done and now this fuckin' guy actually finds himself considering not only saving them from their plight, but considering making the necessary sacrifices that are required in order to save them (one trap involves him having to incinerate his dead son's stuffed animals and pictures in order to find a key that will save someone's life) -- and while he's racking his brain on this whole forgive/not forgive angle, his victims are currently being frozen/drowned/twisted to death in the slowest way possible.

I don't know how, but in this one I actually fuckin' cared for all the characters, even the assholes, even Jigsaw. Life is a motherfucker, is what this movie seems to be saying (because everyone in this movie has been motherfucked by Life), but goddammit, it's sure as fuck better than Death (especially Death by Freezing) and you only make things worse when trying to add Revenge into the mix. You gotta let that shit go, folks; I don't wanna be the one to tell you how it's gotta be, but livin' is the only way you're ever really gonna see. That's right, motherfuckers, I just invoked the Joe Public rule on all your asses.

It's kind of telling, I think, that while the rest of the Saws average about 90+ minutes, this one was a lot longer. I mean, considering all the shit that gets touched upon in this particular entry, and consider how this particular entry ends, and while you're still considering on those two things, consider this shit too: this was the last Saw that Leigh Whannell & James Wan were involved with writing-wise. They were probably hedging their bets with this one, wrapping it up in such a manner that this could also work as the last Saw movie ever made -- that is, if the grosses don't meet expectations.

Except the grosses DID meet expectations, not only that, they fuckin' surpassed said expectations, leaving the filmmakers to consider whether to leave on a high note, or bleed this motherfucker dry -- and it's safe to say that we all know which direction they took with it, right? Anyway, I can see that I've been writing quite a bit and I've only touched on the first three movies. Fuck, there's still four more Saws to ramble about, though, so I think I'm gonna have to Part 2 this shit by ending it here for now. Or perhaps I should do what the Saw guys didn't do, and quit while I'm ahead. I don't know, man. I don't know much of anything, but I do know that the Double Stacks at Wendy's cost more and taste shittier nowadays. Fuck that shit. You did me wrong, Wendy's, you did me real wrong. I'd go on a diet to spite you if it wasn't for the plain & simple fact that I'd have to put in an effort. Fuck THAT shit.

Click here for my shitty conclusion to my shitty ramblings.