To explain this R is to peek into my obsession with uniformity and cleanliness. Imagine you had never heard of this franchise. I mean, it's possible. This series is beat, despite the spinoff that came this year. The movie is called...Saw. It's not even just Saw. It's Saw VI. Horror movies can sequelize and keep going. It's brutal, guys. And the insane thing is that it prides itself on being gratuitous. I have seen the first five films, but I forgot how good these movies are at desensitizing you. I was grossed out by the first torture scene. But I quickly got comfortable with the rest of them. It's gross. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Kevin Greutert
*sigh* I had the evening alone, okay? There's a part of my brain that doesn't let things go. If I start something, it may take decades, but I want to finish them. I watched the first four Saw movies because I was watching every movie that came to my local cinema at the time. I was single with disposable income and the local movie theater had $5.00 matinees. So I would just go to the movies and pick the one that was closest to the current time. Thus, I binged the first four movies and then went to go see part five in the theater. It also had Scott Patterson and I'm oddly obsessed with Gilmore Girls. But when I found out that Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson were going to make a Saw film, guess what part of my brain woke up? If you guessed the part that was obsessed with completion, yeah, you guessed right.
I forgot how badly these movies were made. Honestly. I'm not going to be all high and mighty and claim that there's nothing watchable about these movies. I've always been flummoxed by how good the twists are for movies that came out annually. I actually forgot that these movies had a twist ending, with the exception of the first one that had a really memorable twist. But these movies just straight up look bad. I remember thinking back in the day that when I saw the LionsGate logo pop up on screen, I knew I was going to watch some absolute trash. But everything about Saw VI looks like trash. It's got the visual aesthetic of a Korn music video. When I found out that this movie was made in 2009, I actually couldn't believe it. I mean, this screams 1999-2002. It's everything about bad filmmaking.
Now, I know Tobin Bell was on board. Tobin Bell is one of the more respectable elements of these movies. He was an actor before the Saw franchise and I'm sure that he was mildly jazzed to become a household name because of these little gore films. But the rest of the cast screams Days of Our Lives level of commitment to the craft. (I think the police captain is B- recognizable, but that character is also wildly incompetent.) Which brings me to Hoffman as the primary protagonist / antagonist. (I'll discuss this in a second.) Tobin Bell is still in these movies and thank goodness that he is. He's the best part of these movies. But the Saw movies did something kind of smart and killed off Tobin Bell's character a few entries ago. I mean, for the healthy people who stayed away from the Saw movies, Tobin Bell's Jigsaw was diagnosed with a terminal illness that could have potentially been treated, but the world around him devalued his life. Thus, he finds himself plagued by this need to make people appreciate life by torturing them through ornate Rube Goldberg killing machines. Someone once joked that Kevin McCallister from Home Alone grew up to be Jigsaw. Meh.
Anyway, Bell's character is interesting. He's convoluted and his plot is a puzzle box in its own right. But it at least makes sense. But then there's Hoffman. Hoffman...is dumb? I always feel bad for writing about an actor and his portrayal, but there's nothing interesting about Hoffman. I suppose that's kind of the point. We want to see Hoffman taken down. As much as we intellectually rooted for Tobin Bell's Jigsaw to get taken down by the police, there's at least a sick pleasure that comes from knowing that Jigsaw is one step ahead of everyone else. (Honestly, I don't know when this cancer patient had time to design and build all of these death traps.) But Hoffman? He's boring. He's just a guy who kind of takes pleasure in killing people. And the thing is, I'm pretty sure that this is the second entry where he's Jigsaw.
There's this great twist at the end of Part V. My memory for these movies is trash, so I apologize for going into this kind of uninformed. I think the big reveal for Hoffman being the bad guy happens in the last one. But the big reveal that Sgt. Luke Danes of Stars Hollow actually accidentally saves Hoffman is the big moment. There are cool things about Hoffman, but Hoffman himself is nothing. He's woven into this impossibly complex story that is just meant to make the story keep going. It's the same thing that happened with the Scream movies, but at least the Scream movies were only made every so often, thus allowing for complexity to be planned out.
So what, then, is Saw VI? I commented that Hoffman is either the protagonist or the antagonist, but I'm not sure which. One of the cooler elements of the Saw movies is that a lot of the story takes place from the killer's perspective. As much as I don't love these movies, I give credit where credit is due. William, the insurance agent, is Hoffman's primary target in this movie. He's the one going through the mega puzzle that ultimately leads to his death. He's the one who is given the dark version of the It's a Wonderful Life character change. I normally think of the protagonist of a story as the one who is going to change throughout the story. That dynamic character learns something about himself and finds this day to be the most important of his or her life. Okay. That's definitely William. William went from thinking that he was a good guy whose hands were clean, despite the fact that he's responsible for the unfair treatment to hundreds to becoming this guy who self-sacrifices and causes injury upon himself to help others. Rad. Sounds like a dynamic protagonist to me. But William's story is definitely the B-plot of the movie.
And that's what's really weird about making the villain the main guy in the story. Unless the franchise took the character of Jigsaw and tried redeeming him so that, by the end, Jigsaw was repentant for his actions and became this force for good, there is no way to make that character dynamic. If anything, the only thing that can really happen is that the character can become a more extreme version of himself, which is what is implied by Hoffman's face being ripped open at the end of the film. If anything, we don't want William to escape. The Saw series is about begging for the same thing to happen over and over again. It's why the story is so dense. It needs to accommodate for the interesting story that can only happen in the flashback. That is a very packed flashback, guys. William, you just can't grab that kind of attention.
And yet...AND YET, I'm probably going to keep watching. It's the completion thing. But part of me wants to know if the kid who killed / overkilled William at all has a plot to deal with. I mean, he crossed a line. Also, what did William learn? If Saw VI did anything, it reminded us that the central conceit that Jigsaw is working from is very very flawed. It makes no sense because William didn't have a chance for survival. The kid who killed him wasn't suicidal. It didn't wake him up from a stupor. Instead, it was just good old fashioned revenge killing. What does that have to do with anything? These are dumb movies, but they aren't completely without some value.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.