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?

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