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[It’s a Shocktober two-fer today!]
I’ve never seen a horror franchise collectively shunned by more horror enthusiasts than the Saw series.
Most people fall into four camps when discussing Saw: the group that swears by the series because of the torture porn, the group that dismisses the whole thing claiming it’s nothing but torture porn, the camp that says only the first one was any good, and the group who follows the awesome story. I’m in the awesome story camp. What Saw does different from the conventional horror excuses to kill teenagers is that it artificially arranges strange quasi-ironic circumstantial tests with every human target, most selections being fairly evil people themselves, addresses the backstory of the target, and lets the situation play out. Like the curiosity of watching a rat in a maze, these ‘jigsaw traps’ as they are called are great suspense devices in short bursts that play with your emotions. The traps are designed to be beatable, and some characters do pass and survive these tests. This leads to results that are mostly unpredictable as almost every imaginable plot twist that could arise from these jigsaw traps has occurred across the franchise. These interesting short stories about each victim are what you can expect from every individual Saw movie.
That’s not all. if you have the stomach to follow the whole series, the real tale of Saw is about the final days of the Jigsaw Killer himself, architect John Kramer. It’s about the new ideals he develops as he lost his child, obtained his cancer diagnoses, how he was treated by everybody he came into contact with, and his intellectual battles with his wife on alternative ways to cure patients of a drug addiction recovery clinic. Unfortunately for those with the short term memory, this tale is broken up into flashbacks filling a third of every Saw movie starting from the beginning. Basically every event that occurs in the Saw movies will have an explanation or reasonable justification one or two movies down the road. The care and attention to detail for something often viewed as throwaway torture porn is thoughtful and intriguing for those willing to take a closer look. The other strong point in the storytelling is how well the writing staff creates twists that play on breaking clichés, tropes, and your general assumptions. They use every selective camera and editing trick in the book, but the results are always neat. I don’t care who you are, for one team to come up with six successful twist endings in a row is an accomplishment for any franchise. The attention to detail in the overall story is impressive and the believability of the saga is limited by how much you retain storylines in prior movies, how feasible you think it is to research, kidnap, and build individual complicated machines to indirectly kill 30+ people in the time it takes for a man to be diagnosed with and die of cancer, how much access to thousands of acres of urban abandoned industrial property can one person have, and what exactly is the speaker power of handheld analog dictaphones that seem to have amplifed playback over the sound of heavy operating machinery?
K, let’s talk about the Saw Six.
Old man Jigsaw has been dead for awhile. However, he has convinced and trained a select group of accomplices. These accomplices are fighting each other to continue Jigsaw’s work, which finally now appears to have a finite length. New target victims selected for traps revolve around predatory loan officers and insurance policy adjusters; great current day choices in this economy…in this economy. In addition, old man Jigsaw left a bunch of backup plans behind to test the validity and loyalty of his own accomplices. Good ol’ cloak ‘n dagger shit as always. The rest of the film follows Detective Hoffman, the new age Jigsaw with his ability to either mimic old man Jigsaw’s work, or leave errors behind that will lead to his eventual arrest.
Saw VI is a great addition to the series that probably adds as many new questions as it answers past ones. It’s too early to tell if the dream team of James Wan, Darren Lynn Bousman, David Hackl, Kevin Greutert, Leigh Whannell, Marcus Dunstan, Thomas Fenton, Patrick Melton, and Tobin Bell are losing their edge or the unjustified trap kills in Saw 5 and 6 will be explained in another sequel? I’m a cynical motherfucker myself, so if Saw 7 has the story fall apart by then, you’ll be the first to know.
The franchise is pre-planned up to Saw 8, so all I can recommend is spend the time catching up. Saw is one of the better things to happen to commercial film in the past decade. It’s a shame so many horror fans reject it in favor of weak sauce creatively bankrupt supernatural teen slashers and/or zombie vampire outbreaks or remakes.