Monday, February 14, 2011

I Saw The Saws

Horror movies. The phrase brings to mind bad make-up and effects, ridiculous plots, and shock-factor that falls short. Sure, they may have made you jump once in awhile, but it used to be that "horror" was just a code word for "comedy with blood." Not anymore. Movies such as The Ring and Saw have redefined the genre.

I recently finished watching all seven (yes, seven) of these movies. There are a few misses in there (like #2 and, unfortunately, the final chapter), but overall the filmmakers have done an excellent job. The Saw franchise does two things well: Tell a story from movie to movie with extremely tight continuity and give you the creeps.

The surprising thing about the Saw movies is how well written the storyline is. What starts as a very simple concept really is revealed to be a multi-layered storyline with many twists and turns. Just when you think you have everything figured out, they do something like, oh, kill off the major antagonist, Jigsaw, AND his apprentice in the third film. How do you carry on a franchise once you've killed the villain? I won't spoil it for you but it's the gift that keeps on giving. One movie takes place simultaneously with an earlier movie but you aren't aware of it until the end when there's this amazing, "Wait? What's happening?" moment. Every character has a motivation and backstory that is explored with flashbacks in each film. Simply fantastic.

The second thing the Saw movie does well is make you feel empathy for the people in the traps. It's not just some high school kids being murdered. It is good (or bad) people having to do things WAY out of their comfort zone. This causes you as the viewer to empathize and feel what the characters are feeling. How would you feel if you had to cut off your own foot with a hacksaw? Or how about rip a key and a fishhook out of somebody's stomach that's tied to the end of a string hanging out of their mouth? As I watched the series I found myself cringing with uneasiness and I would look away from the screen multiple times during each movie.

These movies might not be for everyone, but I would tell fans of the horror genre to check them out and to stick with the series through the lackluster chapters. But peeling this onion really may make you cry.

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