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February 28th, 2006


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12:23 pm - The Sophomore Jinx
I watched Saw II with koriandrkitten last night.

I should probably back up and mention that we watched Saw last week. Saw got rave reviews when it came out from one of my former roommates, but he's the type who describes good movies as "crazy," "so messed up," and "hardcore," and the list of his favorite movies is all sci-fi and places some of the best films ever made on the same level as the most abysmal crap I've ever seen. I thought Saw looked potentially interesting, but I wasn't excited enough to rent it, let alone see it in a theater. I figured I'd let somebody else buy it or rent it or I'd catch the it on TV (I imagine it's basically the same since the FCC doesn't seem to care about violence).

As I said, we ended up seeing it last week. I wasn't impressed. Saw had been advertised as an über-gory splatterfest, but ultimately it's neither -- it's just Cary Elwes writhing around on a filthy bathroom floor (oh, and eventually he cuts off his own foot). How the mighty have fallen. I don't particularly care about the lack of gore -- it's not like I need to be desensitized any further -- but that's really all Saw had to offer. The plot is a Jigsaw puzzle (Jigsaw is capitalized 'cuz that's the killer's nickname (I'm so clever)) assembled from the contrivances of modern horror/suspense films.

Some guy with too much free time and tenuous motivations is designing murders so that they are committed by his victims. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell (co-writer of the screenplay) wake up in the aforementioned filthy restroom with a corpse between them, and are informed via tape recording that Elwes' wife and kid die unless he kills Whannell's character in the next few hours. Danny Glover and Some Other Guy Whose Name I Don't Know are cops who are trying to track Jigsaw down. Stuff happens. Blood is shed. Nothing is what it seems, but I've seen the same stuff done so many times before that I just didn't care. It's really too bad -- Saw is well made, attractive (in its grungy, visceral way), and well-(though possibly over-)acted.

Saw II is more of the same. More characters, more blood, etc. Jigsaw gets captured but they can't arrest him (yet) because the video monitors in his hideout show the detective's kid is stuck in a house with a whole bunch of ex-cons the detective helped put away. They've all been infected with a deadly biological agent. It's a race against time! Will the cops find the house where the video feed is originating? Will the captured victims find the syringes full of antidote which have been carefully hidden throughout the house? Does anybody care?

The plot of Saw II unfurls with the relentlessness of the sweeps week episode of any given prime-time drama. It's not very plausible, but movies like this are not about plausibility. On the internet people devote long, scholarly, misspelled and under-punctuated forum posts to the intricacy of Jigsaw's character: He's not really a murderer because his victims kill each other! Please. Jigsaw selects victims who don't appreciate the value of their own lives. Apparently those who survive his ordeals are better people afterward? Never mind the fact that they've committed a murder (or several) and lost their sanity in the process.

Jigsaw exists for no reason other than to give the audience a conflict to care about and a bad guy with whom they can't identify.

It worked in the first movie because we didn't know him yet, but by Saw II his mystique has worn thin. The same thing happened with The Ring Two, which is a better movie all around than The Ring, but which is less fun to sit through because (as in Saw II) we already know the rules. This is the problem with suspense movies: usually there's room for a sequel, but the story is already nicely self-contained. The rules are explained at the end, so when it comes time for a sequel, there are three options:
  1. Change the rules, as in The Ring Two
  2. Pad the premise out with more events and false endings, as in Saw II
  3. Completely transplant the main characters to a different setting, as in The Chronicles of Riddick
The first option often creates continuity errors (how can covering the well render Samara powerless if the well was covered to begin with?), the second option usually results in multiple versions of the same movie (see any slasher film franchise). Obviously the third option is preferable, but then there's the risk of Saw in Space or Saw Saves Christmas. Mercifully, most series never get further than one sequel.

Where do you go after you've revealed WTF?
Current Mood: boredbored
Current Music: The Dark Crystal Soundtrack

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:rob_matsushita
Date:February 28th, 2006 11:18 pm (UTC)
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I have a personal rivalry with the Saw series, just for having enough similarites with Orange Murder Suit that I can't sell it anywhere (although I did hold out some hope of selling it as "Saw Zero: Orange Murder Suit," until I watched Saw II and discovered they had their own horseshit origin for Jigsaw).

My words at the end of the fist Saw movie: "Use the saw! Use the saw! NO, YOU IDIOT, USE THE SAW TO *REACH* THE PHONE!!!"
From:mouthdrummer
Date:March 1st, 2006 03:12 am (UTC)

Hmmmm

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Well, I've never seen either Saw or Saw II mostly because a friend of mine, after watching Saw, began to describe the premise (guy wakes up in a bathroom, yada yada), and within about two minutes, I had figured the "surprise" ending out. And that's just from a description.

Saved me from the embarassing "Day After Tomorrow" incedent where, during a lull in the action, I stood up in the crowded theater, yelled "this could not possibly happen!" at the top of my lungs, and stalked out. Being a science teacher has its disadvantages....
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:March 1st, 2006 03:34 am (UTC)

Re: Hmmmm

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Your Day After Tomorrow story is pretty damned funny. I had something similar happen in Shadow of the Vampire, which (if you haven't seen it) is a heavily fictionalized version of the making of the silent film Nosferatu. Some film history buff was upset that the actor who played the title role in the original film was portrayed as a vampire.

Anyway... I guessed the surprise ending of Saw right away, too. I assume you're speaking of the fact that Jigsaw turns out to be the corpse that was laying between the two main characters in the bathroom. The video store clerk was talking to my friend as she paid for the movie and said something along the lines of "it really freaked me out when he stood up at the end." That statement was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw how the bathroom was laid out.
From:mouthdrummer
Date:March 1st, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)

Re: Hmmmm

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See, now I didn't want to spoil it for anyone by revealing the "secret". Glad you did it for me.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:March 1st, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)

Re: Hmmmm

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I considered not doing it, but uh, I did it anyway.
[User Picture]
From:evil_jim
Date:March 1st, 2006 06:27 pm (UTC)

book covers

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A friend & former co-worker felt Saw was the best thing since sliced (insert favourite noun here) & talked it up enough to get me interested & promise I'd check it out. I haven't seen it yet & from what I've learned over the past few months about it & the sequil it sounds like I'd spend most of the time averting my eyes from the screen. At least it's been long enough that if I see him again I can say I saw it a long time ago & don't remember much other than that I didn't care for it.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:March 1st, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)

Re: book covers

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Based on your tastes I'd say you're not missing anything you'd like.
[User Picture]
From:wyrdsatyr
Date:March 1st, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
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I actually liked the original... the sequil didn't add much to the story, except for maybe a legacy.... I was unconvinced by the furnace trap though. The guy had crawled out that far, and he wasn't burned all that badly, he isn't going to die here....

I do find a sertain inventiveness to the vartious traps, but nothing that isn't necisary for almost any film of the genere, I mean 7 was no less inventive...
The Sophomore Jinx - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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