One of the local news channels just teased a story with something like, 'School sex scandal! A teacher's in trouble, but not in a way you've ever heard of before!' My interest was piqued. I was hoping for 'teacher caught in love nest with class hamster' , but sadly, it was only a female teacher-on-female student molestation thing. Which is bad. Not entertaining! Or funny! But I always fall for that type of huckstering in movies, them promising something that's going to blow my mind, unlike anything I've ever seen, and nine times out of ten, I fall for it and eight times out of that nine, I'm disappointed.
Jaded thrillseeker that I am, I rented the horror flick 'SAW'. The reviews used words like 'disturbing', 'unique', 'the future of horror'. I was hoping to be scared or entertained, or even disturbed. I'd even settle for startled once or twice. But...no.
(SPOILERS BELOW ABOUT THE MOVIE! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!) (SORRY FOR SHOUTING!)
If you've ever seen 'SEVEN', a lot of this movie will feel familiar. A lot of green-tinted scenes (makes the blood look more vivid), seizure-inducing quick edits, a killer who sets up elaborate Rube Goldberg style ways to kill people (without them actually doing the killing themself), people tortured before they die in horrible ways, and an obsessed cop who takes his investigation TOO FAR. It opens promisingly, with two men in a filthy bathroom, each chained to the wall, a dead body between them lies facedown in a pool of blood. The two men have saws (TITLE!), there is a gun just out of reach, and a tape recording tells them that one of the men's wife and child are being held captive. Moreover, these captives will be killed if their husband doesn't figure out how to kill the other guy in the room within eight hours. By the way, either of the men can escape if they SAW through their own leg to free them of their chains. Sacrificing a limb in order to save one's life...nah, nothing I can relate to.
So after a lot of torture, running around, shooting, and red herrings (is it the killer really the crazy cop? the creepy hospital janitor? a, um, puppet?), we find out that the genius psychopath is actually (big SPOILER) a hospital patient with an inoperable brain tumor! Cancer-flavored revenge! I had heard about this twist before I saw the movie, and I know by experience that one of the side effects of a cancer diagnosis is rage. But when they show the Doctor in this patient's room in the important flashback, the Doctor describes his terminal condition rather offhandedly. And, that's it. The doctor is offed because he has no bedside manner, then? Plus,the killer is a patient in a hospital, even though it's too late to treat him, so I'm assuming they're just keeping him comfortable with heavy painkillers. They kind of take the EDGE off the anger thing, with the numbing and all. And the other people who die (or almost die) have nothing to do with the cancer patient. So the other victims didn't give him chemo or radiation or lost his paperwork for his HMO. They were merely guinea pigs? Collateral damage? Victims of over-conceived plotting? If he just killed those other people because he was a psychopath, then why bring up the cancer at all? Or maybe the brain tumor is not only killing him, but also making him insane, but still smart enough to elude capture by the authorities and build all these complicated death traps.
Besides the casual way that cancer was thrown into the movie, there were other things that bugged me. The parts of the movie that were sped up past 'frantic' to 'funny'; Danny Glover as the crazy cop (he never says 'I'm getting too old for this shit'); and how almost all the movie is flashbacks or flashbacks-within-other-flashbacks. The one redeeming bit of cleverness was that the killer was actually the 'dead' body in the room between the two guys, but I know I can't stay still for five minutes in an MRI, never mind being face-down on a tile floor in a puddle of blood for eight hours. And I must give a big shout-out to the worst car chase I've ever seen. The IMDB said that the filmmakers ran out of money for a chase, so they turned on the fog machines and had crew members push the cars around to suggest movement, then choppy-style edited the footage. Somewhere Ed Wood is kicking himself for not thinking of that himself.
To sum up, it's a pretty sub-standard gory horror movie with a superior ad campaign. And I'm a one-legged sucker with too-high standards out of $5 yet again.