6WH: Week 5.5 - Finishing Saw

Back in Week 2, we watched a few of the Saw sequels, ending on the rather uninspired Saw V. While I don't particularly love these movies, Saw V was the series' first clear misfire. Given the rather complicated (and actually pretty impressive) continuity between each film, I thought it would probably be better to finish off the series than to forget all the details and try and come back up to speed next year. So, will the final two installments represent a return to form, or was Saw V the beginning of a downward spiral?
  • Saw VI - Of course, this movie picks up right where Saw V left off, with Hoffman (aka Jigsaw Jr.) having triumphed over Agent Strahm and continuing Jigsaw's work. This time, the target is a health insurance executive, one who finds loopholes to avoid paying out claims. Yep, the Saw series' attempt to get relevant, I guess. And what's more, he's even relevant to the rest of the story(he apparently denied an experimental procedure for Jigsaw a while back). Meanwhile, Jill (Jigsaw's former wife) gets a box willed to her from Jigsaw, and proceeds to execute Jigsaw's final request. The police are also beginning to suspect that maybe all is not what it seems. There's a lot going on here, including a lot of flashbacks, but it holds together much better than the previous installment, and even starts to make a little sense. For his part, Hoffman is really emerging as a good villain, and Jigsaw's well laid plans allow us to root against Hoffman (not that we weren't before, but the series seemed content with him taking over for Jigsaw, rather than being a pawn, which is what he really is). The insurance executive is a good subject, and the film mines his story well. Of course, there are lots of traps here, and they're actually pretty well done. In the end, this isn't the best film in the series by a long shot, but at least the series is back on track.
  • Saw 3D - While I'm sure we'll see the series reemerge at some point in the future, this was billed as The Final Chapter, and it may be the only film series to reach seven installments in just seven years. Add in the complex and intricate mythology and continuity, and the series does have a certain charm, even if the gore and torture might be over the top. Fortunately, the series manages to go out on a strong note too. This is the best installment since at least IV, and maybe even going back to the original. Part VI ended in a way that set up a bit of a confrontation between Hoffman and Jill, but that doesn't quite turn out as fun as I thought it might. On the other hand, Hoffman does get what's coming to him, so there is that. There's another good Jigsaw target in this one: a guy who faked having survived a Jigsaw trap, and is parlaying that into a book deal and fame (we get a nice flashback of Jigsaw getting his book signed by the fraud, too). There's even a Jigsaw Survivor's Support Group, and thus we get to see a bunch of familiar faces... including this guy:
    Handsome Devil, Cary Elwes
    Man, I had really wondered if they'd ever get back to Cary Elwes' character, and I like what they did with him in this movie, even if it is a tad obvious what his role will turn out to be. I obviously didn't see this in 3D, and I generally hate that treatment, but in this case, it seems like it forced the filmmakers to come up with more creative traps and less camera jiggling and whatnot, which actually is a good thing. It's certainly not a perfect film, but it's actually a fun one, and it ends the series on a high note.
Once again, I can't say as though I particularly love the series. I like the continuity and puzzle-like nature of most of the plot, but a lot of it seems to be steeped a bit too much in misery for misery's sake, especially when Hoffman takes over for Jigsaw. Still, I'm impressed with how well the series holds together, and it never devolved into anything really cheap or gimmicky, like making something supernatural or psychic (or, uh, sending Jigsaw into space). This is impressive for a series done on the cheap in short timeframes (seven movies in seven years has to be a record of some kind).

I do think the series and I suppose the sub-genre as a whole, deserves a closer look. There are a lot of things about these movies that could benefit from a deeper dive, both from a series perspective but also from a thematic perspective. I'm not claiming these are particularly enlightened movies, but hey, if people could do it for slashers, it can be done for torture porn. As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, I love the idea that in 20 years, some dork like me is going to look back on these films from his or her youth and marathon them (like I did with slashers), and then someone smarter than me will contextualize it into our post-9/11 angst or something like that. One can only hope.

In the meantime, we're running out of runway here. We've got one weekend left (no idea what the theme will be, if any) and then the Speed Round and the big day. I think there will be some bleedover into the following weeks as I finish off a few books and whatnot, but it's been a good year folks. Stay tuned.