Friday, October 31, 2014

The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2012) Review

And now it's finally Halloween. Thank God. The pressure of getting reviews out this month with major internet issues sure was a wild ride but it's all over now. Anyway, for Halloween I decided to take a look at my new Halloween tradition and what I see as a the latest classic for the holiday: The Cabin in the Woods. Seems fitting after looking at The Evil Dead but how this film celebrate Halloween so well? Let's find out!

As you might expect, five teenagers go to a secluded cabin in the woods for vacation. While chilling out, they discover that the basement is filled to the brim with ancient artifacts and they begin to mess around with them. One of them finds and reads out the book of the dead, making an undead family rise and attack them one by one. It's not a typical horror film as we switch between the cabin and a group of scientists who appear to be monitoring the whole event from afar for a dark purpose. The cabin group have to fend off the dead and figure out just what the hell is going on.

The Cabin in the Woods is a love letter to the entire horror genre. It's actually very hard to talk about this film without giving things away. There is a lot to this film and there are many twists that turn the whole genre on its head. The main strengths derive from just how much it is apparent that the writers care about the genre. Poking fun at the flat and cliche characters by bringing the more developed characters down to that level once they enter the cabin (one of my biggest gripes with The Evil Dead ironically) as well as just being a gargantuan mash up of all the great horror tropes. It's really hard to say why without giving it away but, trust me, it's filled with them. It's almost a game of guessing what thing comes from which film.

Looking at this film in a technical sense is also great. The actors do a great job of portraying the cliche characters that we saw in the likes of The Evil Dead while also giving them a bit more depth in a way that it's obvious that they have been affected by the cabin. It's interesting and the cast are wonderful. Chris Hemsworth needs no introduction since he's the jock...bascially Thor but the rest are not to be ignored. Fran Kranz and Kristen Connolly are probably the best of the cabin group but the real acting strengths come from Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who portray the main overseers of the cabin. They are a fantastic duo and bring most of the best moments of the film. They easily play the best characters in the film.

If you're looking for the ultimate good time and Halloweeny fun fest, then look no further than The Cabin in the Woods. This film celebrates and yet still mocks what is so ingrained about the horror movie genre. It has a good sense of humour yet still has its fair share of horrific moments. The cast is great and do a good job of mimicking the tired and dull characters of the genre. The climax an absolute blast. Do yourself a favour and watch it  ASAP. Now that the month is over, I can finally review all the flashy new films I saw over the month! CATCH UP TIME!

A genius celebration of the horror movie genre. Sure to be a Halloween classic!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992) Review

We've reached the end of the Evil Dead trilogy and I realise I need to do loads of one off films. After the gargantuan Saw franchise and now just finishing up a trilogy, I'm a bit fatigued. Well, there is one film left for October but before we look at that, we need to dive into where the trilogy decided to end...hence why it's a trilogy (my god, I'm tired). After Evil Dead II opened the door for a more comedic horror film, where can the last installment go from there? Let's find out.

Continuing off from Evil Dead II, Ash (Bruce Campbell) finds himself prisoner in the medieval time period. He manages to convince the townspeople that he is there to save them from the curse of the Necrenomicon. He travels to find the book but blunders his way out of way the right spell which causes the dead to rise as an army, led by his evil self, who start a war against the innocent people. Ash stands up as their savior armed only with his new prosthetic hand and his "boomstick"!

Army of Darkness is the best of the three. I'm throwing that out there. Leaving behind the generic horror genre for...something that doesn't even resemble it was a great idea. This makes Army of Darkness stand out and would probably explain why The Evil Dead title is omitted for this iteration. Ash combined with the medieval setting makes for a good subversion of the 'fish out of water' cliche. There is little time spent of Ash being an outcast as we almost instantly jumps into the ass kicking and wise cracking. Actually, the wise cracks are what make the film even better. This is a very quotable film and Ash becomes an even more iconic character. The rest of the cast is also improved (slightly cheating since the Evil Ash is obviously played by Bruce Campbell too) with the likes of Embeth Davidtz helping to expand the film. In the end, Ash is the only relevant character but the cast is much better than the rest of the series.

Weirdly enough, my biggest problem is that there are actually two versions of this film. If you were to buy Army of Darkness on DVD, who should end up with two discs, therefore two versions. I suppose it's down to personal preference as the differences only stem to slightly different dialogue and a completely different ending. I personally prefer the original theatrical ending as opposed to the director's cut as I prefer to see Ash win for once and it gives us one of the best lines. The expanded sense of humour is fantastic. Ash has since become one of my favourite film characters solely due to Army of Darkness. Evil Dead II was a start of what Ash would become. From generic, scared teenager to one handed, gun toting, wise cracking badass. THAT is character progression.

Army of Darkness is a fun good time. It's not out to change your life or offer social commentary, it is purely existing to entertain. Bruce Campbell is wonderful as Ash who proves to be a much better character thanks to much more comedic moments and wise cracks. The two endings does sour the experience as you have to debate which version you would prefer to watch. It's less of a horror film now but considering that horror movies have since become over saturated, jump scare filled and souless productions...that is expect one. There is one recent horror film that I have recently discovered and I will address that this Halloween. See you then!

Fun, quotable and a rip-roaring good time. Less focus on horror and more on comedy proves to be a good move.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987) Review

So the first Evil Dead films, while it was scary at the time, hasn't aged well. Sure, the effects look good for the time, it just comes off as cheesy and accidentally what would happen if the film makers themselves realised this and thought "you know what? Why don't we just make it again but deliberately cheesy and silly". Evil Dead II is this exactly this idea. So will the sequel (..or remake...kind of) be better than first or will it just be too forced with its humour. Let's find out.

Retelling the first film, Ash (Bruce Campbell) takes his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) to a secluded cabin in the woods where thing to wrong after a professor's recording of the book of the dead is played. Linda is transformed into a 'deadite' and the same could happen to Ash. The professor's daughter (Sarah Berry) returns to the cabin after Ash fights off the curse (and his own hand) but things continue to spiral out of control as the spell strengthens. Ash has to fight the evil dead armed with a shotgun and a chainsaw for a hand.

Let's address Ash. In the first film, he was a generic survivor character who didn't have much to him outside of living (debatably). This time, however, he is expanded as a more interesting character who Bruce Campbell brings a lot to. He is more competent despite the horrible situations he finds himself in. I think the more relaxed and comedic environment that he finds himself in makes for more character based moments that make him stand out. With a more interesting protagonist also makes for more interesting villains. The monsters in this film are much more impressive and well designed than before. Instead of just make up, we are given stop motion monsters that are more threatening and actually can freak you out. A much needed improvement over vines and camera tricks.

The new tone that the film established is much better than playing horror straight. It gives a new twist on what was established (literally) and makes the film much more unique. Seeing the look of a gritty horror film combined with more comedic dialogue and character moments is bizzare but welcomed. I suppose my problems with the film derive from the fact that Ash, once again, is the only interesting character in comparison to the rest of the cast. Considering that Ash this on his own for most of the film. Most of the my flaws with the first one are fixed as whittling the cabin crew down to two was a smart idea.

Evil Dead II is a big improvement of the first film. It's interesting that a film labelled as the second film is more akin to a remake than a continuation. Begs the question which film is canon but, considering what's next, I can assume this one is seeing as the next film literally takes place seconds later. Join me next time for the last in the Evil Dead trilogy that doesnt even have the name: Army of Darkness. What about the actual remake of the first film? Well, I have it on DVD now but with Army of Darkness and my Halloween pick there won't be time...maybe next year.

The new found sense of humour is welcomed as the series steps into a more comfortable environment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981) Review

Horror films have come a long way. From actual terror to...jump scares (a long way is apparently a long way down in terms of quality). Yeah, horror isn't what it used to be as it has since become an over saturated, jump scare filled attempt to be edgy. Jump scares aren't scary by definition. Shocking, yes but not scary. They don't haunt you, they just make your natural instincts kick in. Where am I going with this? No idea. Here's The Evil Dead...that was one of my worst introductions I've done.

Five friends take a trip out to an abandoned cabin in the woods where they find themselves caught up in the evil that lurks in the forest. They discover an ancient book known as the Necronomicon as well as a tape translating what the book says. As the tape plays, evil beings are released as the group are slowly attacked and/or possessed. The only survivor, Ash (Bruce Campbell), has to take on the evil dead alone and survive the night.

I'm sure this may be considered blasphemous but The Evil Dead is very, very dated. I could agree with those that claim the effects are still decent as I always favour practical effects for horror films over CGI anyday and the plot was fresh at the time (its basically a cliche now) however there are things that just don't hold up. This is a minor point but young Bruce Campbell does amuse me. Maybe it's because of what he ended becoming (see Army of Darkness for the answer), It is no wonder that Ash was the character they kept around seeing how forgettable and dull the rest of the cast are. Sam Raimi had to pick one to keep around and thank god it was Ash. Who knows where we would be without him. The Spider-Man trilogy would be nothing without Bruce Campbell. 

Looking at this film in terms of originality, it does very well actually. The horrors that befall the group are unique and imaginative and leave an impression. The first possessed being locked in the cellar is one of the most iconic bits of the franchise and that goes for the remake too (don't expect that this week. I haven't seen it yet). At the time, I'm sure this was a fresh horror film with great effects and I would agree. Really, the biggest problem is that they made sequels. Evil Dead II is basically a semi-remake that surpasses this one in every way. It's become a redundant film now.

The Evil Dead WAS horror classic but really hasn't aged well. This is partially down to very tiny budget and indie feel however this gives the film its charm. Its silly and cheesy...probably accidentally but that's for the sequel to decide. Did I enjoy it? Yes but I recognise that there are better films now and the sequels just did too well in surpassing it. So with all my bragging about the sequels, I reckon we should take a look and see what they did so well that made them stand the test of time much better than the original.

At the time it was a horror classic but now it's starting to show its age and was superseded by the sequels anyway.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Saw: The Final Chapter (Kevin Greutert, 2010) Review

We're finally here. We finally made it to the end. It's good to see a franchise that actually ends. Concrete. Look at that title. There is no way they can do another one but, quite frankly, they shouldn't have done another one after Saw VI anyway. That would've been a high note for the series to end on but here we are. Maybe it won't be so bad. Most people would save the best for last...or so you would think. Let's take a look at Saw: The Final Chapter. Yes I am ignoring what it's called on the title sequence and in cinemas...shut up.

Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a supposedly acclaimed survivor of Jigsaw's traps who begins a campaign to bring all the survivors together and start a support group where they find a special guest sitting in. A man we haven't seen in a long, long time makes his overdue return as we learn what he has been doing since he left. In a bit of irony, Bobby is abducted and thrown in another trial where has to save his wife from, quite frankly, one of the most horrific deaths ever conceived. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) also does whatever it takes to exact revenge on Jill (Betsy Russell) after what she pulled at the end on Saw VI as the end of Jigsaw's reign is on the horizon.

You may have gathered by now that I am a huge fan of the 'Saw' franchise. However, if there is one thing I cannot ignore is that Saw: The Final bad. Normally I would be able to defend the 'Saw' films but not this one. If you were to make a film based on what outsiders think 'Saw' is, this would be it. Mindless, senseless and all around stupid. The traps are the most boring that the series has even seen and border on slapstick at times. My biggest gripe is that this is contradictory since Jigsaw wanted to end the games with Will from Saw VI. There is no reason to continue after Jigsaw's arc was encapsulated at the end of Saw VI and is evident by the fact that he is almost forgotten in this one. It's just an excuse to finish of Hoffman and Jill's petty rivalry. The traps are made for no other reason than to appease the 3D tagline the film boasts (that I refuse to put in the title. 3D should not BE the movie, rather an after thought).

There are some things that do work. The ending, that I dare not spoil is, is one of the best examples of a perfect franchise ending. It caps off the series perfectly and can't praise it enough. The dialogue, acting, music, cinematography...perfect. My big buzz word for Saw is "cathartic" but I only got that sense twice throughout the whole thing. Nothing feels justified and therefore the whole point is missed. What's the point if you can even fathom what Saw has built up over this length of time. Saw III and VI nailed that aspect yet the last one of the franchise completely fails on all accounts.

Saw: The Final Chapter is, admittedly, an insulting way to end the series UNTIL the ending comes around. If you stapled the ending to Saw VI, we'd be golden. This one is nothing but pointless filler to appease those creepy teenagers with blood lusts who don't understand what makes 'Saw' a fascinating franchise to begin with. Two people wrote this and I would believe that had one of them only written this one. Something clearly went wrong as one of them wanted to tie up all loose ends (done remarkably well, I admit) while the other just wanted for pointless violence with some of the series's worst traps. The ending is perfect, that much is evident, as is the use of existing characters but everything else misses the point.

While the ending may be one of the most perfect endings to a franchise I've seen, the film as a whole misses the whole point of what Saw is.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Saw VI (Kevin Greutert, 2009) Review

Yes, at this point Saw has run its course. There is nothing else they can do to inspire originality or recapture what made the first ones memorable...or so I thought. After the lacklustre Saw IV and Saw V, I was certain there was nothing worthwhile left and yet here we are at Saw VI, the one that would make the original creators proud. Let's find out how and why. 

(More spoilers apparently. These films love starting with spoilers for the previous ones!) Agent Strahm has met his grisly demise and Hoffman (Costas Mandycor) comes out on top as the true successor to Jigsaw. As per usual, a new victim is trust into yet another set of trails to test is worth as a human being. This is Will Easton () who has to fight his way through deranged test subjects within a certain time limit to save his girlfriend all while keeping himself alive. Meanwhile, Jigsaw's wife Jill (Betsy Russell) sets out to exact his dying wish that may leave Hoffman out of commission.

Saw VI is definitely a step up from the previous iterations. An engaging and well performed protagonist you feel for,  a full realised new villain to take over Jigsaw, one of the best cliffhangers and twists, and some of the most inventive traps in the series. I'm not sure what they did but the writers really turned it around (maybe that's what the carousel traps represents). The way this film is made is also great. One scene in particular makes fantastic use of sound combined with cinematography and cutting to really change the pace of the scene instantly at a reveal for the characters (the audience already knows at this point).

Really, the only flaw is that it's a Saw film. That name just strikes a reaction in people of disgust and makes them instantly want to push them away. It's affiliation to the franchise takes it down a notch since you still have to sit through the exposition that we already know at this point. It retreads reveals from the previous film and doesn't really have any of its own. We know there will be a great twist and cliffhanger (the twist is a bit more subtle in comparison to previous films but its still there) as well as the driving force for the protagonist being one of the best in the series, but the fact that its Saw means that many people will be turned off. Saw VI is sandwiched between mediocrity (Saw V) and crap (Saw: The Final Chapter...spoilers for that review I guess) and that's a shame because this is truly one of the best in the series.

Saw VI is the best out of the ones released after the initial trilogy. While the original is still surperior, there is a lot going for Saw VI. The protagonist is one of the best in the series, Hoffman is at his best here thanks to a well made and edited scene that is own of the franchise highlights, the traps are some of the best that don't go too far and stick with the more gritty theme of the originals rather than just violent for the sake of violent. This is the standard that the whole franchise should've been at but sadly the others fall short. Saw VI may win people back to the idea of Saw but IV, V and The Final Chapter will push them away. 

A much needed jump in quality that recaptures what made the original Saw films so good. Most of the elements are there for a good horror film but only the name and formula keeps it from being the best.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saw V (David Hackl, 2008) Review

Still going with this franchise. I knew it was seven films long but when you have to analyse them individually and base their merits on that, it gets tedious. I do like the Saw films (to an extent) but I have to admit...there ARE seven of them. Does the fifth entry to the surprisingly successful franchise still keep what made the first three engaging (cutting Saw IV off already) or does the formula grow tired and predictable. If Saw VI it's kind of obvious but let's take a look anyway.

As Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) legacy thrives long after his death, five more people are plunged into a new set of trails that aims to teach them a valuable lesson as Jigsaw's newly revealed apprentice watches over them. Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) does whatever he can to try and prove that Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is the aforementioned apprentice. The two clash as Strahm throws out the accusation while Hoffman fights to defend his name and title even if he has a secret explored in Saw IV.

It's quite clear that the Saw films definitely declined in quality as the series went on. Saw V is definitely one of the lowest points (not THE lowest...that's still to come). The major problem with the fifth iteration is that it's very dull. That's saying a lot for this franchise that throws blood and guts at you like it's currency. Strahm has the capacity to be an interesting character as was shown in the previous film however he is stripped of this and left as just a boring, generic detective. On the flip side, however,  is Hoffman who is still proving to be one of the better characters in the franchise. Costas Mandylor does become one with the character as he is given much more development than in previous films which was probably just simply for setting up the twist at the end of the last film.

In terms of plot, the only interesting elements are the traps as Saw V boasts some of the best in the series. The most iconic image of the film is Strahm's head trapped in the cube filling with water. No bloodshed, no violence and proves to be one of the more subtle Saw traps...not that that's saying much considering that this film also shows off what actually happens when the 'walls closing in' cliche is fully realised. It's one of the most memorable moments in the series as horrifically violent and scarring it is. I'm certain your sick bloodlust will be quenched by this one. However, like I said, that's the only interesting part. The rest is very boring exposition that drags. 

Saw V is a dull entry only existing for filler and dull exposition. It fills the quota for the established Saw formula with the inventive traps that definitely leave an impression as well as the mandatory twist and cliffhanger. It's at this point in the series that the formula start to run dry and becomes 'just another Saw film'. It doesn't stand up on its own and needs the others as a crutch, yet even then it spouting with exposition there was no chance of standing up on it's own at all. The acting has improved, that's for sure, as more interesting characters are introduced but it falls short of the previous entries.

Boring, dull, full of exposition and drags. There are good points such as the inventive traps and acting but the plot cripples it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Saw IV (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2007) Review

We should be proud. In my last review of Saw III, we managed to crack the code and worked out what makes Saw an actually deep franchise with an aim and a need. Maybe I'm just a horrible and sick individual but Saw glorifies catharsis and, based on your stand point, it could either be a good thing or a deplorable thing. However you stand, all we know is...a trilogy wasn't enough. Let's take a look at the fourth Saw film...Saw IV (I don't know what title I expected). 

This is going to sound like a spoiler but, hey, it's how the film starts. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dead (told you) and Lt. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is called in to analyses the corpse after an autopsy that reveals he hid tapes within his own body, making sure the game continues after his death. SWAT Commander Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bnet) is abruptly kidnapped and thrust into another one of Jigsaw's trials while FBI agents Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) are called in after another cop is killed in one of Jigsaw's game. The fate of Eric Matthews is still unknown as Hoffman finds out just what has happened. 

Saw IV suffers from a big flaw. As always, there are two narratives running however the one that follows Rigg is a problem mainly because Rigg just isn't a very interesting character. Previous test subjects like Dr. Gordon and Jeff have been the best characters in the film however Rigg not only doesn't have much to work with but is also overshadowed by the other plot that follows Strahm and Hoffman, two much more interesting characters. So half of the film works quite well while the other one falls short of being interesting. All the best moments in the film are all from Strahm's plot. The climax of Rigg's is good however but that's only because of the twist, as per usual, which is only set off by Rigg's stupidity. Yeah, not a great character if his lack of rationality costs people their lives. 

I think what really works about this one is the twist. I won't go into too much detail but it's pulled off very well and makes great use out of de ja vu similar to how Pulp Fiction does. It brings about an idea that I wish more films did well. Saw IV and Pulp Fiction really are the only films I can think of that pulled if off well. The use of visuals and sound in both films make the audience go "ooooh! I get it now!" and those eureka moments are what make the Saw films worthwhile. As for the traps, they're okay I guess. They do their job but pail in comparison to earlier and upcoming traps. Not the worst but nowhere near the best. 

Saw IV is okay at best. It suffers from the mind set that it's the film AFTER the trilogy like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. While it's not as pointless as On Stranger Tides, I am left wondering what Saw would be like if it was just a trilogy. Yes, we would miss out on Saw VI but there would be less dull and dragging moments in the franchise. The new characters are good but the protagonist can't hold the film up. It's not the worst yet not the best. That's the best way to sum it up. It's in the middle somewhere. Arguably the most forgettable in the series. 

The most forgettable entry to the franchise that, while fairly dull, it does have a few things going for it...just not enough to hold it up.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Saw III (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2006) Review

You'd think three would be enough. A nice, solid trilogy would've been fine by me. Granted the ending would've sucked if we only did have the three but I think some last minute editing would fix that. Anyway, let's take a look at the third in the Saw franchise that is note worthy for being the last to be written by the original writers. So beyond Saw III, it's free reign...and that's terrifying.

Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a depressed man left sorrowful after his son was killed in a hit and run, wakes up in Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) next game. He has to navigate through several games that force him to decide the fate of those involved with the car accident which will ultimately lead him to the man who put him up to these sick games. Meanwhile, Jigsaw's life is in jeopardy as his cancer worsens and his apprentice, Amanda (Shawnee Smith), kidnaps Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) and forces her to perform medical procedures to save his life. If she fails, the device Amanda places round her neck with explode, which would kill her instantly... obviously. 

Yes, this is the one with the Rack trap and, yes, it is horrifying and is one of two moments that I have to look away at in the entire franchise (it was three but I got over that one). Saw III ups the horror and gore element even further. It's worth noting that this is the last Saw film that was written by the original writers as they originally envisioned it as a trilogy. One event implies that however the ending itself seems to imply otherwise. It's not exactly stapled on, it's just that it continues that Saw trend of cliffhangers. This seems more flawed than the previous entry because it tries to over complicate things. It is interesting to see the scenes with Jigsaw and Amanda as it does give more context to certain aspects of the first film and clears up most of the second yet it throws a lot at you. It's not as complicated as 2001: A Space Odyssey  but, for the genre, they expect to take in a lot. It gets easier as the films go on but this is the first one to shove exposition at you.  

There are still good things, not as many as the first two but still good things. I complained about the Jigsaw and Amanda scenes but they really are the best parts of the film. The develop the two characters further with a much deeper look at Jigsaw's origins and sort of enforces the idea that...he's right. Okay, he goes about mutilating and forcing people to kill themselves or each other but he is some what justified. Illegal, yes, but it starts to hit what, to me, Saw is about. Saw is cathartic. While most of the people in THIS entry aren't worthy of this punishment, we see in the previous one and later ones that you do want these people to suffer for their crimes. These are horrible people, some that are beyond the help of the legal system leaving only one action - someone has to take it upon themselves to prove there is still humanity left in them. The basic human instinct of survival kicks in and that is what Jigsaw is trying to prove. Admittedly, Saw III's traps are a bad example as most of them are innocent in this one but this was one time thing and is more designed to lift Jeff from his rut. Painful...yes but at least it doesn't happen in real life, right?.....right?

Saw III is a step down in quality but I guess you can just call that ‘Sequelitis' (meaning that it's worse just because it's a sequel). You do start to realise what Saw is really about at this point as we see the film from the perspective of a survivor and Jigsaw himself. The scenes with Jigsaw and Amanda really are the more interesting parts of the film while Jeff's scenes are filler that is in the film for the sake of violence and quite a good twist (not as good as Saw II, but still good). We're going to keep going as it gets more and more violent (not sure how they can top the rack but...I'm sure they will).

Horrifically violent and filled with pointless filler but the effects are convincing and the plot focusing on Jigsaw is the core of the film and is strong.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saw II (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005) Review

I may have lied in my last review. Sorry, I know I said it would be more regular than usual because of mooching off the university's internet but I just wasn't feeling it there. Call me picky but it's easier to do in my spare time when I have nothing to do. Well then, let's continue on with the Saw franchise with the first of the sequels which dives into the much darker and gory side of Saw because there is another side of Saw people seem to miss but that will be addressed later on. Until then, let's take a look at Saw II.

Detective Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg) is brought into a crime scene and the lair of the Jigsaw killer (Tobin Bell) where he discovers Jigsaw's next sick game. Eric's son, Daniel (Erik Knudsen), and 7 other survivors are trapped in an abandoned house and are exposed to a fatal nerve gas. They have two hours to find antidotes for each other obtained via Jigsaw's mutilation games. As they are slowly killed one by one, Eric is forced to negotiate with Jigsaw himself to get his son free. 

So the first Saw film was merely an experiment that took off immensely. Just look at it! 7 films! That's hard to do. So if I liked the first Saw, how does the first sequel hold up? It's okay...sort of. To start with the negatives, this is where the Saw franchise got gory for no real reason. Yes the first one had the infamous 'foot cutting off scene' but really, that was it (on screen). For some reason, they flew off the handle and felt that this one had to feature crushed heads, incineration, bullets through the eye, knives in the wrists, I could go on. Just look at that image. He has a key behind his eye and has to cut it out to live! WHAT?! That's a step up from "get the key from that guy's stomach". The plot naturally had to change too. You couldn't throw two more people into a bathroom chained up (...well...I mean...spoilers and that) and, while it is thrilling to see how the people get on in the gas house, the chemistry is lost between the survivors. 
There are pluses however. The film throws an excellent curve ball and delivers one of the movie twists that I legitimately did not see coming. The plot is trilling and, while not as good as the first, still had me guessing throughout. At this point we know that John Kramer is Jigsaw so you'd think some of the suspense the first film was building up would be gone but, luckily, more ideas are thrown in that keep you wanting more after the film ends. Speaking of Jigsaw, Tobin Bell cements his iconic voice and look into the character to make for a fantastic villain who we learn more about later on. For this one, he's laying down the foundation upon which he will build on in the sequels. 

Saw II is a decent effort for a sequel but if you're even slightly squeamish you need to avoid this. It's violent (with pretty good effects to boot) yet the plot is fascinating. It's not a masterpiece of writing but the suspense, coupled with the great twist and cliffhanger, leaves you hungry for more. You would be satisfied with his one if you have some kind of blood lust but if you're brave enough, you can venture forth to the next sequel. See you then.

Suspenseful and packed with great curve balls but fundamentally flawed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Saw (James Wan, 2004) Review

I have a good excuse for being away for almost a month (Reservoir Dogs was the only review in September...oops) since I was badly ill before and now I'm without internet since moving to University...I'm mooching of them now so here we are. Well, it's October now so it's time to roll out the creepy films. Last year was a bit of a free-for-all but this time I have focus. I will focus on the Saw franchise since I did a marathon of them at the start of this year as well as looking into the Evil Dead franchise. If there's any free time then I'll do some more random ones. Well then, let's take a look at the first in the series, Saw.

Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) wakes up in a dark bathroom, chained to a pipe with only Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) as company. They are forced by a un-seen third party to figure out where they are, how they got there and how to get out. Dr. Gordon and Adam reach out to each other and share what they know about the alleged 'Jigsaw Killer' who they surmise is behind this. Jigsaw is a mass murderer who pits people's willingness to live against their sins in sadistic "games" that, odds are, will leave them mutilated and dead. Detective Tapp (Danny Glover) has tangled with Jigsaw before and sets it upon himself to finish him for good and put and end to the games while Adam and Gordon fight for their lives.

A common misconception about the first film is that, because of its legacy of being affiliated with a horrific, gory franchise, that it too is violent and gory. In comparison, it's not. All the gore that happens is mostly off screen or implied except for the big finale that the film is now famous for (the DVD cover sort of gives that away). Instead, Saw is a thrilling and original film that uses unique film styles and filming techniques to produce an eery environment that we are isolated in for most of the film's duration. The bathroom has become an iconic location and this is due to the fact that, outside of exposition and establishment, we are stuck there with the protagonists and are just as lost as they are. It becomes an immersive experience as a result as we are on the same level as the people in the film except for Jigsaw himself. The plot does provide us with red herrings and misdirection that some could see as pointless filler however they are used to keep the audience on their toes in anticipation with an ending that leaves you wanting more.

I suppose the problem with making this a franchise annually is that the identity of the Jigsaw killer will most likely be ruined since they really pushed him in promotional materials for later films. Some would also cite horror films as a place for terrible acting (Troll 2, thank you very much) however it's passable in this one. Cary Elwes does a good job as Dr. Gordon as he manages to juggle his calm composed self at the start as well as the irrational, un-secure version of him by the end. The contrast is staggering. Leigh Whannell, in addition to writing the film, also does an acceptable job as Adam so it's a shame that he never really went on to be in the spotlight again. The rest of the cast isn't as memorable with the exception of Tobin Bell for reasons that would probably spoil a 10 year old film whose twist was ruined by sequels anyway (that's the point of secrets anymore).

Saw is far from perfect but it's rare that a horror movie would be considered perfect anyway (I imagine films from the Alien franchise take that distinction). It's suspenseful, thrilling and the way it's shot is very unique as it would go on to define the franchise's look and feel. Trust me, you know when you're watching a Saw film just based on the way it looks. The acting is passable by it's own merits but it's fantastic by the genre standards (sorry). Saw is a good, classic horror film that has it's place in the genre's history. Is it the best? No but it's a film that's worth keeping in mind. With that, we will tackle the rest of the franchise as the month progresses so join me later for Saw II. Things get...bloody to say the least.

A thrilling and well shot horror flick that left audiences wanting more...and that's exactly what they got.