Friday, October 31, 2014

Game Over! Ranking The Saw Franchise

Here's a fun fact I'm gonna reveal at the end of this.  I only went to the theater (twice) for the first movie in this series.  While I am a fan of them, when Saw II came out and my job at the time got screeners from from Lionsgate (Lion's Gate at that time) for their theatrical releases the same day they came out in theaters.  So, I'd get to see it for free and in our biggest DVD testing room with the biggest and best TV and surround equipment at that time.  So I kind of had a the next best thing, and I was on the clock getting paid to watch it.  This also was the case for III and IV.  When V came out I just didn't make it as I was out of town on a trip...then I saw V and it was bad enough for me to wait for VI on home video.  I have no idea why I didn't go see 3-D.  BUT, I did have a running gag with my friends and employees back in the day and I was sort of sticking to it.  I had said that "When they get to Saw VIII, I will return to the theater".  And I thought it was going to happen.  Then, anticlimatically, it was over JUST before it got to that.

Although, I have no doubt in my mind we'll see another Saw film.  It has risen to the rankings of its bretheren like Friday the 13th and Halloween.  It has an iconic villain, imagery, tropes and even down to that super awesome and memorable theme music that gives you that special feeling every time you hear it (Seriously, its an awesome piece of music).  There will always be another.  Its just a matter of when.  It'll never be every year for 7 years again, but we'll see it get a late sequel, remake reboot, the whole gamut. 

And if we...hang on a sec.  There's a note to turn the TV on here...

Hello Brandon.  Your whole blog, you've been critical and judging movies in a film series.  You pick favorites and toss others to a curve, putting them in a list from worst to what you call the best.  Now, I post to you the challenge of putting my movies in the correct lineup in order to move on to the next retrospective.  Will you get them in an order your readers accept or will they tell you how wrong your thoughts are.  RANK OR DIE, MAKE YOUR CHOICE.

Oh snap!  I better get to it then. 

Saw 3-D (2010)

Believe it or not...the bottom of the barrel was hardest to choose in this rank.  I admittedly thought this film was much better than my first viewing.  Its sort of easy to watch in a dumb way.  But, this is the "FINAL", to use Brian Whites terminology, film in the series and everything just went to hell.  If this was just a bad entry, there's the possibility of another film to make up for it, like VI was to V.  Instead we get this silly, stupid movie that just sort of feels like a slap in the face to everyone going in expecting a great finale in typical Saw fashion.  This one every felt like a betrayal to the series, having things like that gatling gun "trap" and just going after people for lazy ass reasons. 

Saw V (2008)

It was close between the two.  Overall, I chose the more competently made film and one that is more true to the series.  Although, 3-D might be an easier one to just sit back and watch.  Saw V is incredibly boring and exists primarily to sit and try to explain stuff away and fill in blanks.  Remember the tag line for this movie?  "You won't believe how it ends", which is quite the tag line to put on the film with the worst ending twist in the entire series.  However, this one is a Saw movie through and through and does have some cool violence in it.  Its just really dull, boring and feels like a bridge movie that's more of a reference explanation than a good movie.

Saw IV (2007)

Compared to what came before it, this movie is merely "Ok" which in turn feels like a drop in quality if you're a fan of the series because its not really good, its just ok.  This movie does have a twist that I love an packs a bit of a wallup when you realize what's happening.  Saw IV had this benefit too of being clouded in mystery as to how they were going to possibly do another Saw movie WITH Tobin Bell coming back, that wasn't a prequel, after how the third one ended.  I was had by the twist and really respect that. 

Saw II (2005)

This movie should actually be given the credit for being the most influential film of the franchise.  The first film feels like a separate entity in comparison to all the rest when you go back and look at it.  It was this sequel that actually started giving us the concepts and structure that would be reused throughout. There are some things that, yes, the first movie did start, but I think Saw II actually capitalized on it a bit better.  Its a better made film than the original, however, my beef is with how impatient the movie is and how the character of Xavier takes all the fun out of the things I like about a Saw film.  I want to sit and try to figure out traps, and I want to sit in suspense as someone risks themselves to accomplish a task.  I really don't appreciate the "fuck it, let's get straight to the death" attitude the film carries.

Saw (2004)

Ah, remember those days when it was just two guys and a "dead body" chained up in a filthy bathroom?  Yeah, those were simpler times.  I still enjoy this movie quite a bit, but as time has moved on the cracks have shown and some of the enjoyment is lost on me.  At the time in 2004, it was exactly the kind of movie I had been waiting years and years for and it totally delivered.  As I've grown up though, I still am very fond of it, but I can see this as a kind of poor production that wasn't entirely thought through as much as it could have been.  Its a little smarter than a turn your brain off film, but its a cozy comfortable thinking horror film.

Saw VI (2009)

This came SUPER close to being #1 this time around.  There's a formula to a lot of these Saw movies and this one nailed it.  The film also made some social commentary and tied the stakes into being personal giving it something to actually Saw beyond its normal series' measures.  The film is well paced and contains a lot of Jigsaw and Amanda which I think is a strength of this entire series.  Its also the film that seems to utilize Detective Hoffman best between the present day and flashbacks.  In addition, Betsy Russell actually becomes one of my favorite characters because she's given more to do in this film than be "Woah is me" Jigsaw wife.  Also, a lot of set ups are cashed in and paid off in this film.  I really liked the film back when I first saw it 4 years ago (On video) and I enjoyed it even more this second time around.  Maybe next time it might take over #1.  But for now...

Saw III (2006)

Saw III basically gives you sort of what is the best of the original 3 films and the best of the next 3.  It ramps up the gore and gross out a little more, but doesn't go crazy with it.  It also introduces the "challenge" or maze type storyline where it challenges not only the morality play of the character but also it gets the audience thinking "Gee, what would I do in that situation".  I'm also drawn to the Jigsaw/Amanda/Lynn story that plays parallel.  The end also features a layer by layer twist scenario and really feels that its going all out with the finale as opposed to what the VIIth film would fall flat on many films later.  I mentioned a formula before, and I think this film just absolutely nails it and gives me pretty much everything I'd come to enjoy most about the series.

Here's a first.  I picked my guest writer, Brian White for his ranking of the series from best to worst and it goes a little like this:

I > III > II > VI > V > IV > 3-D

I know last October was huge with 31 Days Of Halloween, but I hope you all enjoyed the Hammer Dracula and Saw Retrospectives.  Don't worry though, just because Halloween has come and gone doesn't mean we're done with franchise horror...nope.  We have a very special month upon us next...somebody is having a birthday and hitting the dirty 30!  I'm excited that we're FINALLY here at this one!  One of my absolute favorites!  Cannot wait!

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