Mad Monkey Vs The 7 Deadly Saws

Saw BannerBy Frank Marmoset

Hello. I want to play a game. The rules of the game are simple. Laid out before me – like an assault course covered in barbed wire and poop – is the entire Saw series. If I’m able to successfully navigate all seven of its deadly chambers (also known as ‘films‘), I will have earned the right to live another day. Through this purifying trial, I will learn to appreciate the sweet, precious, beautiful nature of life. Chances are, it will also make me sleepy and irritable.

Follow me, if you dare, as I journey through… The 7 Deadly Saws!!!

  

Saw (2004)

Saw 1 PosterPulling open the rusty iron door and tentatively entering the first chamber, I see the inside is not as bad as I’d feared. It does, however, seem familiar, as though it were cobbled together from the detritus of places I‘ve already been. The air has a murky green tint, like in Seven; there’s a grubby atmosphere of nihilism and S&M, like a Nine Inch Nails video; and those fiendish traps look like they were left over from Cube.

And I think I saw Marilyn Manson masturbating in a corner.

Saw is (or should be) a simple story. Two strangers awake in an unsanitary bathroom to discover they’re the subject of a grisly game. Each man is chained at the ankle and has been given a simple instruction – kill the other man if you want to go free. It’s the kind of elegant premise that can be effective in a low budget horror, and at times Saw uses it well to create a sense of claustrophobia and suspense.

Unfortunately, where the film falls down is in its insecure need to cram in a whole bunch of other stuff, as though the filmmakers were afraid we’d be bored by their primary story. Saw takes every available opportunity to get out of that filthy bathroom, bombarding us with an assortment of flashbacks and side plots, all of which serve to dissipate the tension created by the two key protagonists‘ predicament. This needless abundance of plot is Saw’s biggest weakness, and it will prove to be the Achilles heel of the entire series.

Saw 1Even so, Saw is a solid entry into the horror genre. Derivative it may be (even its villain, Jigsaw, a man with a morally superior attitude and a taste for spiteful punishment, feels like a riff on Seven’s John Doe) but Saw’s honest attempt to rely on suspense and atmosphere (rather than the cheap gross-out tactics that dominate the sequels) means it just about scrapes through as a better than average example of twenty-first century horror.

6 SEVERED FEET OUT OF 10

    

Saw II (2005)

Saw 2 PosterEntering the second of Saw’s deadly chambers, I’m greeted by the first truly horrific sight of the series: Holy crap, it’s Donnie Wahlberg off New Kids On The Block!

Please bear with me while I collect myself. Phew. At least he’s not singing.

Saw II feels in many ways like the first true Saw film. This is where the formula for the series was set in stone – open with a gruesome death, torture a bunch of mismatched folks as they make their way through another set of Jigsaw’s traps, torture the audience with a tangled mishmash of plots, then finish up with a montage as Charlie Clouser’s bombastic theme (easily the best thing about the series) kicks in and all the crazy plot twists are finally revealed.

This is also the first time Tobin Bell (as Jigsaw) gets to take a shot at becoming a modern horror icon. The first film’s unnecessary mystery over Jigsaw’s identity meant Bell had minimal screen time, but he’s front and centre in part two and he acquits himself well. Horror films need a good villain, and Bell plays the calculating (and insufferably sanctimonious) bad guy perfectly.

Saw 2All in all, I liked Saw II a little better than part one. The parallel stories are tied together more effectively this time, it has a more satisfying ending (seriously, what the hell happened at the end of the first film?), and it benefits from the increased presence of Tobin Bell as the asshole with the master plan. I can’t deny that New Kids scare almost ended my journey through The 7 Deadly Saws early, but ultimately this was an easier chamber to survive than the first.

7 STABBY SYRINGES OUT OF 10

       

Saw III (2006)

Saw 3 PosterMy confidence bolstered by two relatively easy instalments, I enter chamber number three only to be overwhelmed by a stench from the very bowels of hell. The clanking of infernal machinery is all around, the floor is sticky with some unnameable substance, and from afar I can hear inhuman wails of agony and despair. It’s just like London.

Saw III sees Jigsaw and his nutbag sidekick Amanda (the Harley Quinn of the Saw series) kidnap a doctor to ease Jigsaw’s worsening cancer. Also, eight thousand other things happen, because the philosophy of these films seems to be that if one story is good then eight thousand and one stories must be eight thousand and one times better. Maybe it’s unfair to expect the makers of Saw to understand that less is more, but this issue of cramming in plotlines like Japanese businessmen on a bullet train gets worse with each sequel as the story ties itself in knots trying to connect its brand new twists and turns to all the previous twists and turns.

The second sequel is also where the series starts to feel more spiteful. Almost all attempts to create suspense have been abandoned in favour of finding creatively cruel ways to maim and kill characters we barely know. The end result is that Saw III feels like the cinematic equivalent of a freak show, except instead of Bearded Lady and Dog Faced Boy we’re being invited to gawk at Eviscerated Woman and Man Drowning In Liquefied Pig Carcasses. Whether you consider this a negative I’ll leave up to you, but I will say if the intention of director Darren Lynn Bousman was to disgust rather than frighten, he succeeded admirably.

Saw 3There are good things about the film, though. A scene in which Jigsaw undergoes cranial surgery via a power drill is grotesquely disturbing, and Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith both turn in solid performances as Jigsaw and Amanda. In fact, the twisted relationship between those two characters was by far the best aspect of the film. If only they’d focused more on that and dropped some of the other crap.

4 LIQUEFIED PIG CARCASSES OUT OF 10

        

Saw IV (2007)

Saw 4 PosterAlmost halfway though and my journey is becoming arduous, folks. After the previous chamber I’m feeling cold, tired, and it hurts when I pee. Using Jigsaw’s disgusting bathroom was a bad idea. I know he has cancer and I imagine all the planning involved in his elaborate traps probably keeps him pretty busy, but would it kill him to run a mop over that place?

Anyway, just as it seems as though all hope is lost, I see a familiar face in the distance. It’s Luke off Gilmore Girls! Does this mean Lorelai is in here, too?

Of course not. There’s no delightful Lorelai Gilmore here. That’s because all the fourth deadly Saw chamber holds is BOREDOM AND RIDICULOUSNESS. And also more Donnie Wahlberg.

Here’s the story: With Jigsaw and Amanda both dead, an FBI agent (the aforementioned Luke off Gilmore Girls) is called in to figure out who’s continuing Jigsaw’s twisted assholery. Then blah blah cop movie clichés, yadda yadda torture, yawn yawn flashbacks, etcetera and so on, montage, theme, crazy plot twists, the end.

Saw 4Now look here, makers of Saw IV. It’s not our fault you killed off both your villains at the end of part three and didn’t bring either of them back as robots, zombies, or robot zombies. Please do not punish us for your bafflingly short-sighted decision by inflicting this boring nonsense on us. And could you ease up on the fucking plot twists? At this point in the series, attempting to make sense of the ongoing story is like trying to follow Inception while riding a rollercoaster next to a screaming toddler after being kicked in the head by a donkey.

This fourth chamber has hurt my tiny brain. If you don’t mind, I’m going to lie down for a bit, maybe get some sleep and dream of a magical, far off place where no one is getting mangled by evil machinery.

1 DANGLING DONNIE WAHLBERG OUT OF 10

          

Saw V (2008)

Saw 5 PosterHiya! Samantha P Marmoset here! Big brother is curled up in a foetal position right now, mumbling about ‘The Horror’ or something. What a pussy LOL! I gave him a sandwich and some of those Ramones albums he likes so he’ll be feeling better soon. In the meantime, I’m going to tell you boys all about Saw V.

Ewww, gross! A guy’s guts just totally came out!

This film is about a man looking for Jigsaw’s accomplice. I’m supposed to tell you the man is Luke off Golden Girls, but I don’t know why. One of Frank’s lame jokes, I guess. Some other people are being electrocuted and decapitated and stuff, and now Frank says one of them is from something called Barfy The Vampire Slayer (sounds made up to me).

Saw 5So yeah, this film is boring. Lots of scenes where men walk around with guns, then lots of scenes where people get squished and blood shoots out everywhere. And where was Jigsaw? I thought Jigsaw was the bad guy in these films? I didn’t understand any of this and it was icky. Worst of all, no kissing or dancing! I mostly like films about kissing or dancing.

Frank’s singing along to those stupid Ramones now, so he must be well enough for the next chamber. I need to go anyway, have to feed the cats HAHA! Seeya!

2 BISECTED HANDS OUT OF 10

           

Saw VI (2009)

Saw 6 PosterOkay, I’m back. Thanks to Sam for the piggyback through the sixth chamber. She’s surprisingly strong for such a tiny woman.

Look, I was thinking – do we really need another Saw review at this point?

Really?

Alright, fine. Here’s your bloody review: It’s just as boring and ridiculous as the last two, except this one comes with a cack-handed attempt at social relevance by torturing bankers and private medical insurers. I liked seeing Shawnee Smith return, but that’s about it.

Happy?

Saw 6Now I vote we treat this penultimate chamber with the disdain it deserves and head into the home stretch.

1 LUMP OF HACKED OFF FLAB OUT OF 10

             

Saw VII (2010)

Saw 7 PosterThis is it, folks. This is where it all ends. The seventh and final chamber.

Thank fuck.

I’ll give the makers of this one some credit – they pulled out all the stops to produce probably the most grotesque Saw yet. There is almost no part of the human anatomy that isn’t stabbed, sawed, ripped off, pulled apart, pierced, burned or severed in this film. If you watch the series purely to see creative bodily carnage, you will not be disappointed by Saw VII.

That said, it suffers from the same issues as its predecessors: too much plot, too many characters, too little suspense, too many attempts to tie everything together into one labyrinthine whole, and – maybe worst of all – not enough Jigsaw. Costas Mandylor’s character (Jigsaw’s acolyte, Detective Hoffman) has never been an adequate substitute for Jigsaw, and to make matters worse this final film sees Tobin Bell making only the briefest of appearances. The villain is everything in a horror film, and the weak villain in parts IV to VII has been a huge flaw. They painted themselves into a corner when they killed off Jigsaw in part three, and it’s a mistake from which the series never recovered.

Saw 7If you split the Saw saga into two parts – I-III: Jigsaw Era and IV-VII: Hoffman Era – this film is the best of the Hoffman Era. It’s just as daft and convoluted as the others, but it entertains in its own mindless, blood-splattered way; and I enjoyed seeing Cary Elwes return for one final – if painfully obvious – twist in the tale.

4 EXTRACTED TEETH OUT OF 10

So that’s it. I made it. I survived The 7 Deadly Saws. Beaten, bloody and bruised, I limp toward the exit. Long has been the way and hard, just like John Milton said, but the end of my ordeal is in sight and sweet, sweet freedom is almost upon me.

But wait. This is the end. The grand finale. And we all know what happens at the end of a Saw film. That’s right, this is where I dramatically reveal the many crazy twists and turns you never saw coming! Please commence humming the climactic Saw theme now:

DUN-DUN-DUN! DUN-DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN!

Remember Marilyn Manson masturbating in a corner? That was me all along! And the person writing this review? Someone else altogether! The bit with my sister? Actually written by my uncle Albert! That guy over there? He’s a dog in an overcoat!

DUN-DUN-DUN! DUN-DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN!

Only now do you realise that my diabolically elaborate plan all along was to do something involving something about something that relies heavily on something and will lead to your inevitable something!

DUN-DUN-DUN! DUN-DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN!

Game over!

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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

51 responses to “Mad Monkey Vs The 7 Deadly Saws”

  1. Droid says :

    Entertaining reviews Frankie. Much more than the films I imagine. Great stuff.

  2. koutchboom says :

    Really saying the Saw 7 was good? And gross? I felt that it was weak in most of the kills.

    • Frank Marmoset says :

      I gave it 4 out of 10. That’s not exactly saying it was good. But I enjoyed it more than most of the sequels.

      And yes, it was pretty gross. Arms ripped off, jaw ripped off, Linkin Park guy’s skin coming off, woman burned alive, woman sawed until her guts fall out, woman poked in both eyes and mouth, woman poked in neck, woman killed by the Amanda head trap from part one, woman ripped to pieces (lots of dead women in this film). I thought they went all out to throw in as much carnage as possible for the ‘last’ film.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        The writers appear to maybe have issues with the women folk. It’s hard to tell but if you really look at all the subtle hints frank provided above you see some it running through the sub text.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s not just women. 3 is astonishingly misanthropic and throttles itself on it’s own plot twists.

        This was really Jigsaw’s device- the audience’s brain melts trying to keep up.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I’ve only seen the first two.

      • Frank Marmoset says :

        In fairness to the Saw people (although I’m not sure why I want to be fair to the Saw people), I don’t think they have a problem with women so much as human beings in general. Not one of these films has a fully sympathetic character – everyone is guilty and ‘deserving’ of Jigsaw’s punishment in these things.

        I’d say the Saw series is more misanthropic than misogynist.

      • koutchboom says :

        Ehh I think the girl cutting off her own arm in 6 was worse then anything in 7 as far as gore goes. Also that final trap was really lame. I think maybe because they had more money with 7 they tried to show more and it just came off really lame. Then again I watched these like a normal person with at least a year or so distance between each one. But at least I agree 4 is the worst.

  3. koutchboom says :

    I say the “via a power drill is grotesquely disturbing” that noise of the drill bit hitting the skull is by far the creepiest thing of the whole series.

  4. Xiphos0311 says :

    I see my first comment didn’t take, let me try again.

    Funny review Frank. That Barfy the Vampire Slayer line was so random that it made me burst out laughing..

    Now for the obligatory defense of Donny Wahlberg, he was great in Band of Brothers

    • Frank Marmoset says :

      You’re right, he’s not a bad actor and I liked him in Band Of Brothers, too.

      Forgive me. I saw an opportunity for a cheap New Kids joke and I took it.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        No need to apologize for a New Kids joke, you were hanging tough and that’s the right stuff with those jokes.

      • Droid says :

        Frankie only managed to navigate his way through this dreadful series by taking it step by step.

      • Frank Marmoset says :

        I WISH I HAD ANOTHER NEW KIDS JOKE TO PUT HERE!

        But I don’t, so I’ll just take my hat off to you two. Funny stuff. 🙂

      • koutchboom says :

        Speaking of Donnie he’s pretty good in Blue Bloods. He’s a little too super cop but I like him in that show.

  5. Jarv says :

    Funny stuff. Particularly the inception+ roller coaster line.

    I’ve seen about 10 minutes of 4 and that’s as far as I will travel down that line

  6. Droid says :

    Since I’m never going to watch any of the Saws 2-7, can someone who’s seen them explain how Jigsaw is in the series after they killed him off? Flashbacks?

    • Jarv says :

      Saw 2 is actually OK. Honest.

      The “twist” in it actually makes sense as well. It’s three onwards that’s spectacularly spiteful.

    • Frank Marmoset says :

      Jigsaw’s just in flashbacks from Part 4 onward. After that, another guy (Detective Hoffman, played by Costas Mandylor) takes over as the key villain.

      It gets even more complex toward the end as more people (not sure if I should spoil who) are revealed to be involved in the spiteful punishment business.

  7. Frank Marmoset says :

    SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE – ALTERNATE ENDING.

    The original ending to this review was a more serious attempt to understand why Saw was so popular, but in the end I ditched it in favour of a goofy joke (because that’s what I do). So here, for sensible discussion purposes, is the amateur intellectual ending:

    If I can put on my analytical hat for a second, I’m going to offer my opinion on why Saw has been so successful (combined budget: $67 million, combined box office gross: $827 million) and why I believe that (for better or worse) it’s the quintessential horror series of the last ten years.

    Firstly, we live in jaded, cynical times, my friends. Everyone has seen it all these days, meaning it’s become much harder to shock anyone. Since shock value has always been a part of the horror genre, films have had to work incredibly hard to elicit the required response from audiences; and I submit that no one has worked harder than the Saw folks to shock its audience.

    Secondly, we also live in attention deficient times, which I believe accounts for the overstuffed nature of the Saw narrative.

    Thirdly, torture. It’s been a very fashionable subject over the last decade, in the real world as well as in our entertainment.

    Finally – and this is the most fanciful part of my theory – we live in an increasingly secular age. As western society moves farther away from God, we may have, as a society, an unconscious fear that we are all wicked and in need of punishment, and that fear could be what Saw is trying to tap into. In that context, Jigsaw functions as a proxy for a wrathful, old testament God, judging the world and finding everyone in it guilty. Seriously, he has to be a God of some sort, or how the hell can he pull off all those elaborate schemes despite being, for four out of seven films, dead?

    • Jarv says :

      Finally – and this is the most fanciful part of my theory – we live in an increasingly secular age. As western society moves farther away from God, we may have, as a society, an unconscious fear that we are all wicked and in need of punishment, and that fear could be what Saw is trying to tap into. In that context, Jigsaw functions as a proxy for a wrathful, old testament God, judging the world and finding everyone in it guilty. Seriously, he has to be a God of some sort, or how the hell can he pull off all those elaborate schemes despite being, for four out of seven films, dead?

      I’d love that to be true, but I reckon your overestimating the people behind it.

      • Frank Marmoset says :

        You’re probably right. My mind wanders when I’m bored, which leads me to concoct fanciful theories based on subtext that might not actually exist.

        But I do think – whether it’s conscious on the film makers parts or not – there’s a strong Catholic streak running through those films. They’re all about sin and punishment, there’s a near omniscient guy pulling everyone’s strings, and most of those traps are very Spanish inquisition.

      • Continentalop says :

        I think Mr. Marmoset is on to something. The filmmakers might not be consciously doing it, but they seem to have tapped into a nerve with the public’s desire to see people pay a big price for moral transgression that they normally would get away with (although torture & murder doesn’t seem to qualify as the biggest sins). I think Payphone & Dexter kind of tap into that.

        Maybe Jigsaw and the Saw series have replaced our idea of Hell where sinners go to be punished?

    • Droid says :

      Thats a nice write up there Frankie, but there’s something disturbingly fitting in a Saw review that you give me nightmares by planting in my brain the grotesque imagery of you dressed as Marilyn Manson masturbating in the corner of chamber number one.

  8. Tom_Bando says :

    Never watched any of these.

    No interest.

    Mr Marmoset makes fine readin’ materials.

    I’d rather watch A*P*E*.

    • Frank Marmoset says :

      I’d rather watch A*P*E*.

      Me too, Tom. Me too.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        They knew when to quit-just the one(1) A*P*E* entry. Though a sequel WOULD have been appreciated–in the same misguided way that Troll 2 has been. But only marginally.

    • MORBIUS says :

      I concur with Bandolero, never seen any of these and not a mote inclined to do so now. Glad you made it through these unscathed Frankie,. even if its only physically. If there’s a Saw ate, maybe they could torture all The Gnu Kidz on da Block for the mental anguish they have inflicted on the worlds populace!

  9. Frank Marmoset says :

    AND ANOTHER THING!

    Christ, I’m ranting like a crazy person at this point.

    Anyway, special lady friend and I watched Paranormal Activity 2 last night (it’s okay, not as good as the first one) and it struck me as interesting that PA has supplanted Saw as the champion horror series, because Paranormal Activity is very much the anti-Saw.

    Saw is loud, crass, bloody, unsubtle, overstuffed and IN YOUR FACE; whereas Paranormal Activity is slow, quiet, simple, almost minimalist horror. You could view that as a cultural shift away from one type of horror to another, maybe it’s even a positive sign that people have lost interest in seeing other people get ripped up for entertainment.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah but PA copied the thing that made the Saw series most interestingish when it comes to making Franchise Horror films. Make films that double back on themselves and interconnect to create a fucking tangled messes of a conveluted plot. Sure PA is a lot simpler right now. But by PA 4 where its the cousin of Micah who some how knows Katie, we’ll see. But also if the PA people are smart they’ll end it with just 3 and keep it a tight trilogy. This PA stuff can’t be scarier past 3 films. Also since PA 2 stole a lot of shit from [REC]. You could say both those films are moving back toward scares rather then shock.

  10. Continentalop says :

    Good review Frankie. I smell a couple Golden Changs for this.

  11. Tom_Bando says :

    We’ve missed the Film-series-reviewing edition of Mr Marmoset–glad to have him back!

    Police Academy is next up there young Mr Monkey. Make sure you get in the Russian ’94 one, too!

  12. ThereWolf says :

    Frank. Brilliant. A highly entertaining scribble indeed.

    Heh… Barfy The Vampire Slayer! Wait till she sees that…

    I’ve only seen the first ‘Saw’. While I thought it was quite good, I’ve got no desire to watch any of the others – and this write-up has helped cement that decision. Cheers.

    • Frank Marmoset says :

      Cheers, ThereWolf.

      If you liked the first one, the second one is maybe worth a look. All in all, though, the smart move is to give them all a miss.

  13. LB says :

    Ah a franklin review after years-and a good one at that! Consider you shit twitter-pimped, Yo!

  14. kloipy says :

    Holy shit Frank. Great reviews man. Glad to see you back posting again. I agree that part 2 is the best of the series by far. Though to be fair I’ve only seen 3 full movies and the autopsy scene from 4.

  15. just pillow talk says :

    wa-hoo! Frankie has seen seven more Saws than I have!

  16. Tom_Bando says :

    Mr Marmoset–would have Giant Robots helped improve the quality of this here series? Giant Robot Lions, maybe-??

  17. Toadkillerdog says :

    Hola. Anyone home?

  18. koutchboom says :

    Ahahahah at Kids In Mind, its a movie rating site for parents. They give a little message of what each film means. This is what it says about Saw 7.

    MESSAGE – Movies depicting torture are very popular and generate many sequels.

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