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Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Thoughts on The Saw Series

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Note: This post is a slight detour from the usual content, not a change in its mission.

Up until this week, I have avoided the Saw series. I had done so because of it generally being classified as "torture porn". Human beings suffering (real or pretend) for entertainment purposes has never appealed to me.

While I had seen the original, and found it to be an interesting and original concept, I really had no interest in seeing more of it. Quite obviously, multitudes of others felt differently. Their opinions were strong enough to result in *six* sequels.

Why did I finally give in? First, the series, for good or ill, has become embedded in our culture. There have been parodies of it (Scary Movie), frequent references to it in our culture, and it has a regular presence in haunted houses. Secondly, I-V were on Netflix, and I could watch out of the corner of my eye, while doing other things..

I like suspenseful movies, and the first installment of the series fit that description. What can be more suspenseful than one's ability to solve a puzzle being a matter of life or death? Not much.

This series does have plenty of puzzles, in the form of Rube Goldberg-type death machines. Unfortunately, most of them, even if the person is able to solve one, mutilates them irreparably. The alleged reason for people being placed in the "games" is to teach them to place a greater value on their lives, by testing their will to survive, or to "rehabilitate" them.

Rube seems to be a little too happy about the shotgun collar.

Maybe I'm not as smart as I consider myself to be, but I just can't figure out how permanently disabling someone can help them become a better person.

Additionally, even if someone does "win" the game, they seem to die more often than they don't. Many of the games are designed to be unwinnable, with ridiculously short times to solve them, and necessary appendages being rendered unusable for completion. That's just sadistic.

Jigsaw frequently mentions "redemption". How can anyone be redeemed when they die, even after the "win"? It's just damn depressing.

I'm a fairly open-minded person, and had been dubious of critics' hand wringing and clutching of pearls over this series being "torture porn". After watching the series, I have to acknowledge that they have a valid point..

In addition to the mentioned sadism, the supposed offenses of the victims are seriously out of proportion with their challenges/punishment. The popularity of this series, to me anyway, seems to be based on the brutal maiming and killing of characters, and the resulting gore.

Does that make the people who enjoy these movies bad people? No, not necessarily, we all need our escapes, but life can be so depressing anyway, how are they helpful? Besides, I don't recall ever hearing of anyone trying to reenact any of the scenarios from the films.

Is the popularity of these films a sign of the decline of our culture and moral rot? Maybe, I don't know, though I'm pretty doubtful that they're helpful.

Are the movies all bad? No, there's actually quite a bit to like. First, the casting is quite great, including Cary Elwes, Dina Meyer, Michael Emerson, Danny Glover, Shawnee Smith (hubba, hubba), Donnie Wahlerg, Beverly Mitchell, Glenn Plummer, Costas Mandylor, Angus MacFadyen, and Julie Benz, among others. While it does remind me of an episode of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island, loaded with actors who were either still trying to make a name for themselves and those who had already peaked, it's still quite good.

Now, this would've been really interesting casting.

That leaves Tobin Bell, as the titular character. He does a particularly good job in the role, especially in the flashbacks, which show why and how he became Jigsaw, and make up a large part of the films. Not that we need to know a killer's (he insists that he isn't one) motivations, the flashbacks showing them were the most interesting parts to me.

A man who clearly enjoys his work.

Another impressive thing for me is the continuity, if that's the right word. Watching the films back-to-back, like I did, they flow almost seamlessly together. Also, many of the events in different parts of the series happen concurrently, with only one time where I noticed that didn't quite make sense.

Finally, the production was interesting. According to IMDB, most of the films were made in single buildings, and outside of the elaborate death traps, are basically minimalist. As disgusting as the end results were, the design of those machines were quite impressive.

Do not watch these if you are squeamish or eating. There is a lot of gore, some nudity, and a lot of language.

While I can't and won't recommend them, and don't really see any redeeming value, I give them 3 out of 5 ridiculous Rube Goldberg torture devices.

Note: this will be updated if I ever finish the series.

This refers to the first film, but it's pretty typical of the others. 

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