Amelia; I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell; Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant; Saw VI; Astro Boy
Faked autopsy, evil twin rounds out this year's batch of Saw twists
by Sean "bad movie knight" Hanson
EXPECTATIONS: If the previous three entries are any indication, the Saw series has fallen into a routine: Like an old man with an exercise bike, each passing year brings a little less grace and induces a little more groaning, but at least they provide brief distractions from the ever-beating drums of fate as time marches us inexorably toward death -- whoops, sorry. I was having a Jigsaw moment.
REALITY: That merry-go-round. That fucking merry-go-round.
If anything is representative of the Saw series as a whole, the merry-go-round is it. Unlike the Friday the 13th or Halloween franchises, which perpetuate themselves with only one moronic conceit but generally move in a straight line, each Saw movie throws another half-dozen twists our way, bringing us a succession of despicable victims and cardboard villains tied together in unimaginable ways, each more one-dimensional than the last...and frankly, it's fucking maddening, a zero-sum con game operating on circular logic -- hence, the merry-go-round. (And, as far as dimensions go, Hoffman exists as a black hole.)
The first Saw was, in hindsight, a pleasant surprise. Hell, compared to its successors, it's a masterpiece of modern cinema. There were genuine scares, but the implications of Jigsaw's philosophy were even more frightening and the final shot was a delicious twist bearing its gasp-inducing fruit. And the traps, while occasionally stretching suspension of disbelief, looked like contraptions real engineers could devise with stuff that might be found at a hardware store.
Five movies later, Jigsaw's a sort of antihero, an idol to his followers and a god to Saw's fans -- there would be serious danger of copycat crimes a la Natural Born Killers if it weren't so difficult to secure an abandoned zoo, a half-ton of rusted metal, whole crates of gears, ten gallons of hydrofluoric acid, a robotic marionette, a whole office full of health-insurance workers, four stovetops, WD-40, steam valves out the ass, a fucking merry-go-round, a pound of C4, a shotgun with accompanying mechanical arm to operate said shotgun, two respirators, oxygen masks, an X-ray machine, a collection of security cameras and displays that would make ADT weep with envy, cow masks, a trash compactor, and a CD of carnival themes. You'd think, before half of that were acquired, at least someone in Homeland Security would sit up, wipe the dribble from his chin and exclaim, "By George, I think these folks are up to something!"
But I digress: Saw VI strives for political relevance, and achieves it to some degree. Revenge fantasy is an old trope in horror tales, and Saw VI plays out like a lower- to lower-middle-class vengeance wet dream, with usurers and insurers alike and alone getting crushed, boiled, brained, chopped up, hanged and shot in the chest. Jigsaw has moved up from dope addicts and petty criminals -- the unfortunate, really -- to the truly evil, and there's a measure of bitter satire in his choice of victims and methods.
Despite its many faults, despite its many twists (seriously, three are revealed simultaneously, and it's nigh-impossible to tell what the fuck is happening in the final five minutes) -- despite the sheer ridiculousness of it all, which inspired me to fits of uncontrollable laughter during its most somber moments -- Saw VI is not the worst of the bunch. It lacks the minor elegance and economy of the original or the mania of Saw II, but it avoids most of the pitfalls into which the previous three stumbled and, at the very least, features some interesting Grand Guignol horror...
Still, I'd rather read this.
RATING (OUT OF 5)