Saturday, October 24, 2009

In Defense of Saw

Yeah, yeah, my last post was about Saw as well, but hey, if it's Halloween, it must be Saw. Here's a lightly extended version of an already lengthy comment I wrote on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily post here about the series.


Man, people really take the term “torture porn” literally. I don’t like it, but the term is simply implying that is as exploitative of horror movie torture/bloodletting as regular porn is of sex. It doesn’t mean that it necessarily has any actual sex or nudity in it, just that people go to get their “torture”-loving rocks off at the sight of some violent death sequences.

That said, like any Saw fan would tell you, the real reason I go each year is to see how the plot develops. It’s like a crappy cop show, just with splatter. People are always derisive of this kind of statement, as if I have to have some sort of high-minded attitude to claim the Saw films have a plot to follow, but usually those are the people who didn’t bother to see the film and don’t like that kind of movie anyway. It’s okay not to like the Saw franchise, but you don’t need to go and decry it as some sort of bane on humanity just because your cinematic sensibilities are different from mine, especially since you haven’t gotten into it and never would, even under the best, most unbiased circumstances. I'll probably never watch The English Patient, but you don't see me hanging around generalizing to the world that it and other Oscar-bait pictures are repulsive.

I also think it’s ridiculous to imply that it’s good that horror is moving in a PG-13 direction. Not everything needs to be a Saw or a Hostel, nor does everything need push the gore envelope farther than the last, but bloodletting is part of the territory. The original A Nightmare on Elm Street is pretty bloody, but it’s a pretty classic genre picture, and the idea that PG-13 is better would stomp all over several of its greatest, creepiest scenes (like Amanda Wyss getting lifted out of the bed and dragged up the wall or Johnny Depp getting sucked into his bed). To say that horror should be less violent as a blanket statement is like saying action movies should have less guns and explosions, or that romances should scale back on the intimacy. Some of these movies that have come out in the last few years probably are torture porn, but you can’t just ball everything up into a category because you don’t like it without examining it. Again, I don't want to sound like I'm overanalyzing this into artsy-fartsy territory, but films like Hostel were made by auteurs trying to create something compelling and interesting to like-minded people, which is the right idea, even if some people can’t stomach it, and series like Saw are too over-the-top, really, to worry about (I mean, come on, someone gets melted in the latest one!). It’s PG-13 films like the Prom Night and Stepfather remakes (which always end up Unrated on DVD, to try to entice in the very same Saw crowds), which are artistically empty, financially motivated and poorly made that deserve to get canned.

Lastly, it’s ridiculous that anyone not interested would be so burdened by the Saw movies anyway. It’s like the inverse of having your cake and eating it too: you don’t like it, so nobody should have it. Just make an effort to stay out of the discussion. Did anyone see the movie’s most recent theatrical trailer? It was only 50 seconds long! The films are playing to the faithful, and the faithful alone, so in the age of TiVo, can’t you just ignore it?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dr. Gordon Factor

I'm betting (but don't want to know for sure -- don't tell me, a friend and I are gonna play it) that the recently-released Saw: The Video Game, at long last, ties off the plot of Dr. Lawrence Gordon, originally played by Cary Elwes in the original Saw.

In 2004, Elwesm supposedly at the prodding of his lawyer, sued Twisted Pictures for some unpaid back end, which caused bad blood between the actor and the films' producers. He eventually retracted the lawsuit, citing the lawyer's insistence and publicly stating he regretted it, but the damage was already done. Despite references to Dr. Gordon in almost all of the subsequent sequels, the actor is never seen or heard from again -- in Saw III brief vocal snippets are voiced by someone else and the character's face is covered when we see his unconscious body in the infamous bathroom, and in all of the other sequels, the character is neither seen or heard, only mentioned by others in passing.

Having just returned from Saw VI, I wonder how different the films would be if Dr. Gordon had made some sort of return appearance. Would they dispatched him in just a few minutes, or taken the time to weave Dr. Gordon into the plotline of each new film? Admittedly, he looks pretty boned at the end of Saw, but the franchise has begun to make a point of overturning every rock the camera even glanced at in order to add more strands to an ever-growing web of connections and plot twists.

In the event that the book, shockingly, is not closed by the video game, I wonder if the producers will ever let bygones be bygones and allow Dr. Gordon to make a reappearance. Historically, he seemed to be at the front of fans' minds when it came to the series, and the producers are kicking over the last few rocks. If there's only one more Saw movie (something I wouldn't bet on), I'd like it to go out with a bang -- or perhaps, more fittingly, put its best foot forward.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I feel the $10 leaving my wallet already.

2012 has a really stupid premise. It's head-punchingly stupid. Before I saw the trailer, I only had a vague peripheral awareness of the "2012 Mayan calendar conspiracy", so I asked a friend of mine who is far more knowledgeable than me more about it, and he made a point so simple that it really f---ing blows my mind that anything less than everybody in the entire world doesn't realize this right off the bat: The Mayan calendar has to end somewhere. It cannot go on forever.

Now that this incredibly obvious statement has been made to me, every trailer and line of dialogue referencing the fact that the "Mayan calendar proclaims" the world will end in 2012 makes me want to stab myself in the head with a sharpened pencil.

I also know that this movie, by the director of The Day After Tomorrow and the 1998 American Godzilla, cannot possibly be good. It just can't.

All that said, this is 5 solid minutes of the most destructive money-shot images ever put on film, and it is amazing. I saw what was essentially this clip in a slightly more trailerized version before Zombieland (which is a blast, by the way) and I was in helpless, slightly ashamed awe. F--- you, Sony. F--- you, Roland Emmerich. You win. You win.

Also, John Cusack yells "Donut!".