An idea in my previous post – that it is up to the audience to recognize and extract the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from a film – can be once again seen in the Saw franchise. This time, the Good is buried under and amidst much more garbage than it was in the Die Hard series. The main reason here is that the Saw movies are a horror film series, thus contain much more gratuitous sensationalism.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of a scary story and some are well done, such as Devil, which I reviewed on this blog. The problem with horror is that it allows for a great amount of excess to overwhelm the concept of story and by now, the average horror film is more disgusting than it is frightening. The decline in the quality of the horror story can be seen as a parallel to the decline of its creators’ and audience’s mindset as the genre went from exploring psychological themes (eg. Poe’s “The Raven”) to an excuse for showing wanton carnage (eg. the Saw series). Many people now actually determine which horror movie is their favorite by the kinds of death scenes that these movies have. Just like the Lone Wolf hero always returns for more bad guy bashing, so returns the horror film killer for another round of bloody murder – and the Gentile audiences also love this.
As the overall genre has declined, the same can be seen in a particular series within that genre. The first Saw film actually had a decent mix of visceral and psychological elements. It also provided a change to the standard horror movie psycho who kills for revenge after being wronged years ago or just for the sake of killing. In Saw, the Jigsaw killer, puts his victims into situations where they end up killing themselves, but always had a chance, if very slight chance, of survival if they acted according to his rules. Jigsaw’s goal is to reform people who did not value life by putting them into near certain death. Those who did not value life are either drug addicts or criminals who exploit others, but also regular people with less than honorable ways of going about their business. Jigsaw’s moral standard is very shaky, but it was still an interesting twist on a horror film villain.
However, the Saw series just went the way of its genre ancestors: into sheer ridiculousness. As the new entries came out, the traps got so complex that it seemed impossible that one man had set them up. This went onto be explained as the series trudged on, but the films’ stories didn’t get any more interesting while the devices of death and torture grew in intricacy as well as to immense proportions. Jigsaw also went from menacing and manipulative presence in the first movie to a “savior” of troubled souls in the sequels. The latter part ended up being very poorly developed, since by fifth or so film, innocent people start to die and it is clearly by Jigsaw’s design. Thus, to “reform” one wrongdoer it is ok to kill someone else? The films’ morality falls into serious question, even when going by rules that the series originally established.
Also, for the sequels, the filmmakers simply repeated the same initial point, albeit in increasingly elaborate and gory ways: in the first film an arrogant character gets an agonizing, but off-screen death, while in Saw VI, a character developed to be a slimy and greedy business man that everyone learns to hate, gets a very graphic and on-screen death. There is no real difference, just the amount of detail we are shown with the tacit point that those who have caused more harm deserve more harm done to them. This seems to crawl towards the Jewish “an eye for an eye” idea.
Overall, the Saw series is just another degraded horror film franchise, of which only the first film is at all worth considering viewing in its entirety. The others have interesting bits here and there, namely the back-story with the formation of Jigsaw’s philosophy, but this notion is far removed from being given the treatment it could have been granted as the films chose to focus on blood and guts.
However, there are some things worth mentioning. For instance, when Jigsaw is talking to a health insurance CEO about his company’s formula that determines whether people will receive coverage or not: “You are not taking into consideration the most important human element… the will to live.” With that, there is the suggestion of greater purpose, as people who have a strong will to live most likely do not lead empty and useless lives. To the same character Jigsaw also says: “When faced with death, who should live and who will live are two entirely separate things.” Once again, this can be interpreted as valuing the quality of people over their mere ability to survive due to their good health or their strength or even their ruthlessness. In the end though, these notions aren’t very developed throughout the films as the blood and guts aspect is always given center stage. Literally, no gory details are spared as victims are destroyed in stomach churning ways; just imagine Dante’s Inferno on every steroid out there.
Steroids are an apt comparison, as a mediocre aftertaste sets in after every film; they’re just artificially created jolts. Such are all “genre entries” nowadays; from comedy to horror, it’s just cookie cutter quantity biscuits, a dime a dozen. In a sense, it is sad to see that the clever premise behind the first film went on to be milked to death in six sequels. Ultimately, the most applicable thing that the series has to offer is that it allows the viewer to see the degeneration of quality through excess quantity. Though, that message has already been made clear by Hollywood long before Saw was made!
However, there is one subplot in Saw V that is worth looking at closely as it illustrates a real World problem very well. This is the Good hidden amidst the Bad and Ugly in the Saw franchise.
In a sequence that is cut apart into scenes placed amidst a mediocre gore-fest of a movie, which itself is part of an overblown franchise, we get a quite accurate picture of the problem most tribalists face: their own self-destruction. I’ll speak about it in words non-specific to the Saw series here.
Five people awake in a closed chamber. These five people make an ethnic and social class mix, thus can be seen as struggle in one society or between many. Each ones neck is bound in a metal collar that has a metal leash attached to it. There is some slack, just enough to move around, but no one can stray very far away from the wall. There also seems to be a v-shaped pair of blades right by where each leash goes into the wall, thus someone can lose their head if they are pulled to the wall hard enough. A voice sounds over an intercom, it’s the person who has set up this situation. The voice tells the ones trapped that they are all crooks and liars who have repeatedly deceived for their own gain. For their selfishness, they are now being put through a test of cooperation –“Five will become one, with the common goal of survival” – for to successfully survive the tasks ahead they must act radically different than before – “your lifelong instincts will tell you to react one way, I implore you to do the opposite”– if they wish to survive.
The first test is in this very room: unlock the collars before the timer runs out and the leashes snap back to the wall, putting anyone’s still attached neck right into the v-blades. Instantly panic starts and they try to rush to the keys, which are in glass boxes by the opposite wall. The thing is, that only one person at a time can reach the box since the leashes are attached to the same coil somewhere in the wall: they are literally bound to each other. The physically strongest tribalist reaches his box first and smashes it to get the key. Three of the others manage the same after much toiling and yelling and swearing… but the fifth person extracts her key too late and is not able to unlock her collar before the timer on the wall reaches zero. Five collars, four empty, one with neck bound, violently snap back past the blades and to the wall. As the severed head rolls to a stop, a large door opens: test one has been completed.
The second test: find the keys to four hiding places that will provide security from bombs set to go off as the timer reaches zero. Numerous jars hang from the ceiling, but only three contain the correct keys, all the others have blank keys, thus the four must also decide who will be “the odd man out.” Once again, they toil and yell and swear while smashing jar after jar. In a twist, the strong male is hit on the head in the last minute by one of the others, allowing the weaker male who was due to be “the odd one out” to use the third applicable key. The bombs detonate and one more is dead. As the smoke clears, revealing a shredded corpse, another large door opens: test two has been completed.
The third test: complete five circuits to open five locks on the large door to the next room before the timer runs out and makes the locks inoperable. There is large tub in the center of the room, it is filled with water, and seems like a logical place to complete the circuits, but the cords are too short to reach the tub. Someone must get shocked so that the others can proceed. After a tense few moments a fight breaks out, the woman who had saved the weaker man in the previous room now moves to kill him and use his body to complete the circuits – “Survival of the fittest!” However, in a similar twist, this exploitation of weakness ends by being topped with another exploitation. As she is beating the man, the third person, looking on, kills her. The body is put into the tub and the five crude plugs jabbed into its extremities. As the body jolts in the tub, the next large door opens: test three has been completed.
The final test: open the final door, the remaining people must insert their hands into tubes with saws and allow a collective amount of ten pints to fill a beaker, which will lower a scale and complete a circuit for the final lock. However, something is not right… there are five openings, yet only two people could have made it this far… or did they do something wrong? Yes, they did do something dreadfully wrong: they didn’t cooperate. They look at the keys from the first test and all are the same, thus only one was needed to quickly free everyone from the collars. The hiding places in the second room were big enough for two people, thus with five as there should have been from the first room, four would have paired up and the odd man out would simply be alone in the third accessible shelter. The five cords in the third room could have been then used to give a little shock to everybody, instead of a fatal shock to one, in order to open the locks. And now, in this final room, five people could have given a painful, but not fatal, two pints of blood each, instead of two people giving a very risky five pints each… or one person a full ten. The latter doesn’t happen as finally the tribalists realize that they must cooperate. Each one inserts one arm into a tube and into the rotating blades. After much agony, as the full beaker dips the scale and the circuit is completed, the final large door opens…
…but in a dark irony, they are now too weak to actually leave the prison.
Just as Elrond had said to the nations of Middle Earth, “you will unite or you will fall.”
Or as Benjamin Franklin conveyed in his most famous political cartoon, “Join or Die.”
Or as the motto of Aryanism communicates to all:
UNITY THROUGH NOBILITY
Devil: Microcosm of Zion – horror film review/analysis