Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 Nights of Terror 2015 #17-23 - Saw series (2004-2010)

Saw series (2004-2010)
Format: DVD

My girlfriend is a big fan of the Saw movies and I hadn't seen all of them (giving up after part 5), so we decided to do a marathon of them as part of this year's 31 Nights of Terror. Rather than give individual reviews of each of the movies (and try to explain the plots, which let's face it get pretty intricate and confusing, and impossible not to post spoilers), I thought I would give a few observations about each entry and then rank them.

Saw (2004)
Director: James Wan
Starring: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover
- All these years later it's easy to think of the Saw movies as classic "torture porn", but it's also easy to forget that the first movie was more of a psychological thriller. The gratuitous torture scenes would become prevalent later in the series. Instead this one is all about the twists and turns of the plot, feeling like a sequel to SE7EN in some ways. While I'm not a big fan of some of the "music video" editing, I think James Wan did a great job here. The acting is also top notch, minus Danny Glover who seems, well, tired or something.

Saw 2 (2005)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith
- Part two is can't really be classed as out-and-out torture porn, even if there are more "traps" in it, some of them truly cringe-worthy. The syringe pit in particular had me squirming in my seat. I like this one better than the first movie mainly because we get more Jigsaw and Donnie Walhberg plays a better protagonist than Glover did.

Saw 3 (2006)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus McFadyen
- The torture porn aspect is definitely ramped up in part three, which has some really nasty moments (pig shredder is gross-out and the rack is brutal). I do enjoy the fact that the relationship between Jigsaw and Amanda gets explored here - I think their relationship was what made these early movies so great. Thumbs up to the ending twist.

Saw 4 (2007)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson
- Clearly this was meant to be a three-part series and in hindsight it probably should have been left that way, but you can't blame the studio for wanting to milk the golden goose (I think I screwed up the metaphor there somehow). Unfortunately, while Saw IV is indeed watchable, these movies had become very formulaic by this stage - trap, trap, trap, twist ending. In its favour, this entry has some good background on why Jigsaw became a killer, although the amount of flashbacks does drag down the middle portion. Also, am I the only one who found it damn difficult to tell the difference between Agent Strahm and Detective Hoffman? Couldn't they have chosen two actors that didn't look so similar? It's nice to get some closure on the Eric Matthews story arc.

Saw 5 (2008)
Director: David Hackl
Starring: Scott Patterson, Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell
- By this stage the series was becoming a bit like the Final Destination movies - you keep watching to see what cool kills they can come up with. The biggest fault of Saw V is that it doesn't have enough Jigsaw, as the story revolves around Strahm and Hoffman, neither of which has the charisma to replace John. Points for casting Julie Benz, who is always good, but the ending twist (while involving a great gruesome kill) is pretty weak.

Saw 6 (2009)
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Mark Rolston
- I really don't have much to say about part 6, as it suffers from mostly the same faults as the last entry - not enough Jigsaw, too much Hoffman. I will say that the ending twist is pretty good and I enjoyed the overall "game". I really dug the merry-go-round trap.

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Betsy Russell
- And so the series comes to an end, and not before time. The formula is very, very tired by now and this entry doesn't even have the benefit of the directing of James Wan or Darren Lynn Bousman. This entry does ramp up the gore, rivalling part three for most gruesome, but that can't make up for its faults. The biggest fault is the acting - the guy who plays the character Gibson is so hammy and annoying I felt like punching the screen at times. And, as the name suggests, this one was filmed in 3D, so we get plenty of hokey "stuff flying at the screen" effects. The final twist is pretty good and it does tie everything together in a satisfying way (even if you can tell it was story writing on the fly).

My ranking of the Saw movies from best to worst:
1- Saw 2
2- Saw 3
3 - Saw
4 - Saw 4
5 - Saw 6
6 - Saw 5
7 - Saw 3D: The Final Chapter

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