Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Halloween Is Just Not The Same Without A SAW Film (Guest Article)

Hey everybody!  My bossman at Why So Blu? and Blu-ray Jesus himself, Brian White has done me a solid and delivered us a great piece for the Saw Retrospective.  I think its the perfect capper to follow all the individual movie articles and really gives you a great feel for how every October was for this franchise from 2004-2010.  I hope you all enjoy and I'll be back with Ranking The Franchise.

If youre holding a loaded gun to my head and I have seen firsthand that it is indeed loaded, then Ill admitOctober just hasnt been the same ever since the final chapter of the Saw films concluded in 2010.  I have many fond memories and even unpleasant ones of watching this franchise attempt to reinvent itself in the theater every October.  Like candy on Halloween, the Saw films just became the norm in my life, and like my youth, I dearly miss them no matter how atrocious the final flick in the franchise was.  No matter what, I knew that each Halloween season I would get to see the creative juices flow in which the writers would go full-circle in the ways they would attempt to include, infuse and interject Jigsaw, the main villain of the series that died in the third installment, into each picture as much as possible.  Whats even more impressive is that these talented pool of writers were always under the gun with an extreme time crunch because of the fact that these films, starting with the first one way back in 2004, were released annually.  As crappy as they got, even the Paranormal Activity films couldnt uphold and keep up the annual release cycle past their fourth installment film.
Lets make no mistake, what I have always loved about the Saw films was the way they rejuvenated themselves with each entry in how they interconnect with each other whether the scenes played out as a flashback or in real-time.  Its a vicious circle of lies and deceit that by each films end always adds up and eventually makes sense no matter how far fetched things get.  While thats nothing new in the movie business, I think the Saw films were some of the best in that regard.  Like 24 was to serial television shows Saw was to horror films.  Look no further (no pun intended) to that of the events that transpired in Insidious: Chapter 2 as that film went back full circle to fill in the gaps of everything that transpired in the first outing.  All Saw films followed that basic formula, and were very successful because of that in my opinion.  However, lets face it.  When it comes to the Halloween horror movie season in the 2000s decade what else was there to really choose from?  Sure there were the Paranormal Activity films later on in the decade but gone are the iconic characters of Freddy, Jason or even Chucky.  Dont get me wrong.  Filmmakers attempted to reboot the classic slashers, but in my opinion only Rob Zombie came the closest despite the naysayers who have spoken, they want something new and fresh.  Even Rob Zombie cant argue with that.

So lets be honest with ourselves here.  Ill play devils advocate here and say how much I loved Saw VI, but I dont think anyone can argue that the magic of the franchise kind of lost its zeal and appeal after the third film, which could have easily ended there and I would have been satisfied.  However, like AC/DC sings Money Talks.  Make no mistake again that the Saw films were extremely profitable, hence the annual release cycle despite the diminished quality of each entry.  At the time, Saw became the most profitable horror film after Scream in 1996.  In terms of legacy, and adjusted for inflation, the Saw franchise is the fifth highest grossing horror franchise in the United States.  Thats not too shabby considering the iconic horror franchises that thrived during my childhood in the magical 1980s.  The Saw films also went on to inspire video games, a comic book and even amusement park attractions and rides.  And while we havent seen a new entry in the series in over four years now, I truly believe that deep down inside every horror movie fanatic they secretly miss the Saw films and crush for more.

In my opinion, despite the fresh and innovative ways 2004s Saw redefined the horror genre, it also served as the birth of torture porn in mainstream horror films.  Saw films are notoriously gruesome.  The first two Saw films are tame, again in my opinion, as to what the third and latter films conjure up in the gore department.  It almost felt like each subsequent entry just tried to outdo one another in terms of gore, extreme levels and depictions of torture and the inventive ways people were killed.  I remember Saw IV the most for this.  You see, I can watch a person get killed, chopped up and/or mutilated in any number of ways in a film without having any issues or becoming physically disgusted, but you put medical or surgical sequences in a picture and I absolutely lose my stomach.  Saw III was grotesque enough when the kidnapped doctor was forced to drill into Jigsaws skull, but my God that autopsy scene in the fourth film where they find the iconic tape recorder way down in Jigsaws stomach absolutely disgusted me.  I kid you not, I did not eat for days afterwards.  Countless subsequent other horror films attempted to mimic and exceed the levels of gore and torture employed in the Saw series, but they will always be considered runner-ups to me.  One film that tried its hardest, but ultimately succumbed to negative reviews was 2007s Captivity.  I remember seeing Elisha Cuthberts character being forced to drink that disgusting concoction and almost hurling myself as a result.  In my opinion, the films that succeeded best, riding of the coattails of the Saw series, were The Collector and The Collection, both penned by Saw series writer Marcus Dunstan.  However, I digress because were gathered here to talk about the Saw films and how much joy they brought to me each Halloween season, not second rate knockoffs.  So where were we?  Oh yeah!  I need the Saw films back in my life so I can lose weight each Halloween season enabling me to gobble and ingest more candy than normal.

The first three Saw films and the subsequent three were like two separate trilogies to me.  I mean, the first three films revolve strictly around Jigsaw and his wannabe protege Amanda, but the latter three films while still focused on Jigsaw and his DNA also revolve around the mischievous Detective Mark Hoffman and how many strings he ultimately pulled behind the scenes in the first three films that we did not even know about.  Thats why I loved these films.  They may not make the best bedtime stories, but the writers really gave it their all to make them all feel like one conclusive, conjoined whole.  And then came abysmal Saw 3D, or the seventh film in the franchise.  Yuck!  I remember seeing this film theatrically on the day of its release with Why So Blu writer Aaron Neuwirth out in California.  While hes not a fan of these kinds of horror films, he took one for the team because I was out there and we dont get to see each other too often.  Saw 3D not only felt disjointed from what came before, but it was really a bad, God awful movie.  It was an embarrassing way to end such a successful, and for the most part good, franchise.  The only event that came as close to the level of disappointment I felt with Saw 3D was the final season of the hit Showtime series Dexter, or come to think of it maybe seeing my beloved Denver Broncos get stomped on by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl this year.  Either example you try to relate to, I think you know where Im coming from here.

So where do we go from here?  And why do I keep putting quotes around the words final and end when I lovingly refer to the Saw films?  Thats because I truly dont think weve seen the last of the Saw series or maybe even Jigsaw for that matter too.  How can they possibly bring back a villain that has been deceased since the third film?  Im not entirely sure, but I do know anything is possible.  I mean just look at whats in store for us next year.  I waited thirty odd years for a sequel to Return of the Jedi and Im finally getting one.  So thats why I say you cant keep a good thing down.  Im not implying that what Jigsaw did or how he justified killing was righteous, Im just saying there hasnt been anything quite like the Saw series since it vacated my beloved Halloween season in the theaters.  Do we absolutely need these films back?  Of course we do not.  But tell me.  How cool would be to maybe have a fresh new take on the series?  Maybe a new Jigsaw killer or wannabe protege emerges from the abyss and shadows of the first seven films that can be explained oh so well in the innovative ways that the Saw series goes back in time to show you oh my Godhow did I miss that coming?  Thats what makes the Saw series so special to me and thats why I believe a resurgence can also be a successful one.  If nothing else we can always throw one more Saw film in the mix to right the wrongs of the seventh film much like X-Men: Days of Future Past did with the third film in their franchise.  Sound like a plan?  I think so!  Why not go back to the future?  Dont knock it if it works.  Trick or treat!  Happy Halloween all!

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