Up front I need to say that I am a big genre fan of horror. I mean I’m a huge movie buff in general, but horror in particular is an absolute favorite of mine. Also, I have a real passion for the actual theater experience. Sure home theater has come a long way and is fantastic, but for me, something about visiting the actual theater (caveat here being a nice, clean, well maintained theater) just adds an extra layer of excitement. I’m especially interested in the way theaters are trying to differentiate in the face of massive pressure from both home electronics and the internet. Technologies like IMAX, THX and now digital 3D provide an experience that, even if not always perfect, is something difficult, if not impossible, to replicate at home.
So that brings me to Saw 3D. Lately everything is getting the 3D treatment. In the past, horror + 3D was anything but peanut butter + chocolate. These two great tastes were not so great together. Has that situation changed? Well the honest answer is really yes, and no.
Before I talk about the movie, it’s probably worth touching on the sub-genre for just a moment. Torture Porn. Many do not like that monicker and, to be frank, it has pretty ugly connotations. The shoe does fit, though, in many cases. Essentially, if the entire source of the scare is nauseating violence brought to you by way of excruciatingly detailed scenes of suffering and torture… Well then what else can you really call it? Admittedly, this is a genre that certainly would never have huge appeal and it is also a genre that can burn out fast. Teenagers for generations have had a pretty infinite appetite for watching a coed get chased down by a masked slasher, but watching someone get eviscerated while tied to a chair? Not so much.
Probably the two most widely publicized and well known representatives of the genre are Saw and Hostel. Hostel is pretty much the poster child here. It is a surprisingly solid film, an extraordinarily disturbing one, and one that is actually very well paced and well directed (kudos to Eli Roth). That said, it is also fairly one dimensional. Kids go down the wrong path. Kids run afoul of some horrifically bad people. Kids end up goners. As surprisingly effective as the first movie was, the follow-up was unsurprisingly just more of the same.
Without a doubt, sequels are tough. In any genre, the tendency of sequels to fail to live up to the promise of hugely successful originals has become a running joke. There are exceptions, some phenomenal exceptions like Lord of the Rings, but in general, sequel cynicism is a safe bet.
And once the numbers climb beyond 2, it seems to get exponentially worse. For Saw, this is movie number 7. 7 is a scary number. Many would argue that Star Wars wasn’t able to pull off a 6 peat. If Star Wars failed to deliver, what chance would a little torture porn franchise have? When it comes to high density sequel packed franchises, the horror genre has been the worst offender actually with stalwarts like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween limping along long after the reputations of the ground breaking first efforts had been tarnished irreparably.
Well this is where, in my opinion, the big surprise comes in. The Saw franchise is actually a lot more well developed than it ever gets credit for and yes, the sequels, including number 7, actually are good. That’s the good news. The bad new is that now, by this seventh entry, the barrier of entry for folks new to the franchise is probably too high. Even horror fanatics would probably be well advised to not dive into this franchise at this final chapter. The reason is precisely because it does succeed so well at being a serial. The Saw films essentially form one nearly 14 hour long movie. Its like a mini-series tracking the convoluted plotting and scheming of the nefarious, possible anti-hero, Jigsaw. Without spoiling anything, I will just say that if you have never seen a single Saw movie, don’t start here. If you love the franchise, you will enjoy this one. If you hate Saw, this won’t change that.
And now for the 3D. Does it add anything? In my opinion no. Is it abused like in the early embarrassing 3D horror films Jaws 3D or Friday the 13th 3D? No. There aren’t a ton of gratuitous Dr. Tongues Theater moments, thankfully, but nor is this horrors answer to Avatar. That wouldn’t be so bad if most theaters weren’t charging extra for 3D films. That is the topic of another blog, but I think the movie industry needs to ensure a premium experience if they are going to charge a premium price, otherwise they may start to lose even crazy fanatics like myself.
Saw 3D – on my Hit or Miss scale I’ll call it a qualified Hit