With a tagline like "It's Spreading", you can't really fault me for likening this film to a virulent strain of horror genre herpes. And, like it's infectious cousin, the Saw franchise also lays dormant for most of the year, only to rear it's ugly head once in a while to remind you that it's still here and has no plans of ever going away.
Written by the same inconspicuously paid duo that gave us Saw 4 and 5, it's obvious right from the start that while they seem to have hit their stride with 6, they're still not near the level of storytelling as past outings in the series, namely Saw 1 or Saw 3 (my two personal favorites in the series). True, the plot is a bit more complex than the last two, and there is a message here about health care and social injustice, but at times the film feels like it's playing "Six Degrees of Jigsaw" by trying to connect every single person from past and present films to each other in some gigantic circle jerk of intricately designed violence and the message wafts between being a subtle commentary to being preachy in a heartbeat.
Now, don't get me wrong... I like the Saw series. Nay, I love
the Saw series. I'm a big fan of dumb gorey splatter horror, and this franchise continually delivers brand new contraptions and gadgets that make my inner sociopath squeal with glee, but let's face it - these are by no means what I would consider "good" films. Entertaining, hells yes. Would I put any of them up against Citizen Kane or Casablanca? Not in a million years. That's what makes them great - they exist for sheer entertainment value. Popcorn munching, soda guzzling, cheering at the screen entertainment value. On that front, Saw VI succeeds admirably, moreso than the previous two films and nearing the quality of the first trilogy.
Storywise (without treading too far into spoiler territory), we're again saddled with Detective Hoffman, who I still think is the worst addition to the series. Costas Mandylor pouts and scowls his way through every scene like a true soap opera star, while the rest of the cast drifts in and out of competence at a surprising rate. The plot centers on the latest victim - the CEO of a health insurance company and his team of worker drones who specialize in finding faults in their customer's policies so that they can save money. There is blood and gore and hacked off body parts and crazy twists and turns, but really nothing that we haven't already seen in some way. They even bring back the whole "oh, the key is inside my body" schtick.
But what's really unforgiveable is that they've spent so much time building Detective Hoffman up as Jigsaw's replacement, but then in this movie proceed to tear down everything they've built up so far. Again, I don't want to get too far into spoiler-land, but by the end of the movie, there is a real question as to who will continue the legacy of Jigsaw, and as always there are enough loose ends still out there that they can exploit them for another 2 or 12 movies at least. I left the theater wondering if that was the new formula that the series was going for - introduce an heir apparent, then drag them through hell while introducing a new character, kill of the heir, hand over the reins, rinse, repeat. Beyond that, how many of these people can possibly have the skills and abilities to set up these traps? Sure, Jigsaw may have designed them, but mechanical engineering isn't exactly something that one can pick up over the weekends.
All in all, it was a fun movie to watch and one of the better outings for the franchise, but I still left the theater slightly disappointed. Thankfully, I know that my disappointment will quickly fade as I forget the movie entirely until next year when Saw VII pops up and reminds us all to get ourselves checked.
Rating: Low Matinee / High Rental.
Written and Directed by Oren Peli.
Continuing on my quest to find something scary to watch this Halloween season, I was sent a screener for Paranormal Activity (it's a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-colleague's-sister kinda thing, so don't ask). The first movie from newcomer Oren Peli, it follows the same "found footage" formula as movies like The Blair Witch Project
- you make a creepy movie on a handheld camera and release it to the public under the pretenses that it's real. It's been given a wide release now thanks to a brilliant marketing strategy, but I personally found that it was extremely over-hyped and not in the least bit scary.
The plot deals with "loving" couple Micah and Katie, who are being visited more and more frequently by a demonic entity in their home. I put the word "loving" in quotation marks because the main characters have absolutely no chemistry together, and every word out of their mouths seems like a veiled barb or insult towards the other. They are "that couple"
- the couple that are still together after 3 years despite how absolutely terrible they are together. Katie, the one whom the demonic entity seems interested in, is completely demure and totally cowed by her douchebag boyfriend Micah. Like a mantra, she continually begs him to leave the demon alone and not provoke it or try to contact it throughout the length of the movie, and he continually ignores her and almost goes out of his way to bring suffering down upon them both. They are both so disgustingly unlikeable that halfway through the movie I found myself honestly rooting for the demon. I couldn't wait to see it f**k these guys up.
The movie proceeds in a predictable fashion - Katie brings in a psychic expert, Micah teases and dismisses him as crazy. Katie begs Micah not to bring a Ouija board into the house, he does it anyway (and pisses the demon off in the process). Katie asks him to leave it alone, Micah calls it out and calls it "worthless". And on and on. Every time Katie is truly scared and uncomfortable, Micah goes on and on about how "cool" the whole thing is, or about the "great stuff" he's getting on his camera. And through it all, they both do things so completely contrary to what a normal person in their situation would do, it makes it very hard to relate to them in any way.
The true culprit revealed.
As for the "scares" in the movie, I would say that they are hit and miss. A lot of the movie relies on sound design and creepy noises or sudden bangs, but unfortunately, the sound of the movie increases prior to each of these (to give it that authentic found footage quality), so none of them really surprised me. Once that volume started raising, I knew something was going to slam, or crash, or creak. Past the sound issues, the few visual effects there were in the film were all fairly unimpressive. Maybe it's me (I am an animator and visual effects fan after all), but there was never really that "oh holy crap" moment in the film that I was looking for. At one point, Micah puts baby powder all over the hallway floor to see if the being leaves footprints, and when it actually does, the only thing I could think to say was "awww, they look like little invisible E.T. footprints". By the pseudo-bleak end (the ending I was silently hoping for), I was left scratching my head why this movie would scare anyone.
I originally started watching this movie in the mid-afternoon at my desk, which I quickly gave up on because the acting was so terribly forced and the directing so obvious that I felt like I was watching a bad episode of SyFy's Scare Tactics
. I stopped the movie, and began again in the middle of the night in my room to get as much of the theater feel as I could and while that improved the experience slightly, it pointed out one of the biggest flaws the movie has: it's not scary on it's own. This is the kind of movie that you have to watch in complete darkness, all alone, in a creaking house during a windstorm to get. The scares don't come from the movie, they come from you freaking yourself out by overthinking every little sound around you. Watched in the daytime with people, this is the kind of movie you'd laugh and MST3K your way through. But given enough atmosphere and a skitterish pysche, I can understand how someone could get worked up about this. However, if I was trying to scare myself, I'd just save myself the money, stay home, and watch Gossip Girls or something.
Rating: Low Rental.
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