Category Archives: Mystery

Old (2021) Review

Old

Old

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, horror scenes & content may disturb
Cast:
Gael García Bernal as Guy Cappa
Vicky Krieps as Prisca Cappa
Rufus Sewell as Charles
Alex Wolff and Emun Elliott as Trent Cappa
Thomasin McKenzie and Embeth Davidtz as Maddox Cappa
Abbey Lee as Chrystal
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Patricia Carmichael
Ken Leung as Jarin Carmichael
Eliza Scanlen as Kara
Aaron Pierre as Mid-Sized Sedan/Brendan
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly reducing their entire lives into a single day.

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Old was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, I know that his movies aren’t for everyone and there are a few of his films which don’t really work for me personally. On the whole though, I like his movies. There was a lot of mystery surrounding Old but I knew it was a thriller about aging set on a beach starring Thomasin McKenzie and Vicky Krieps, and it was directed by Shyamalan, so I was interested in how it turned out. I actually really liked it a lot.

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Some have described Old as being Twilight Zone esque and while I’ve never watched the show, I can kind of get what they mean. The plot is fairly straightforward and fairly predicable at times, but has a high concept that they take advantage of, the horror of inescapable aging. The movie is about time as to be expected, with plenty of themes about growing old, experiencing major moments in life in a short time, and effectively is a meditation on time despite being a thriller first and foremost. In most Shyamalan films there is a level of sincerity to how seriously they take the story, and that goes a long way here. The movie is a family drama, and while this dynamic and concept has been in many movies (including horror thrillers), it was handled quite well here. This is one of Shyamalan’s darkest movies, but it also has a lot of heart in it, and it nails the emotional aspect of the story. I face found the story gripping on the whole. In terms of issues with the writing, it does have Shyamalan’s trademark awkward and artificial sounding dialogue as expected. However at this point I accepted it as a Shyamalan thing, if you’re used to it from his other movies, then Old won’t be too hard to get through. The movie has this general level of weirdness to it but I find that it helps the movie have an off kilter feel to it. There are some moments which are funny but some of those feel intentional. I know that a lot of people will compare Old to The Happening, but the former definitely does things a lot better. The invisible horror certainly works a lot better in Old, perhaps because of the existential nature of the rapid aging in the movie. I will say that the tone is a little messy and all over the place. There is indeed a twist as to be expected from Shyamalan, and I think the twist is just okay within the context of the story, but it is one that I’ll need to think about. It does have a big exposition dump and an odd tonal shift that makes it feel out of place, otherwise I was fine with it.

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This movie has quite the talented cast, and I thought that everyone performed their parts greatly. The main family is greatly played by Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie. They had strong chemistry between them and they really felt like a family. The rest of the cast including Rufus Sewell, Abbey Lee, Ken Leung and Eliza Scanlen were also really good in their parts. The performances of the actors playing children who age up quickly (Wolff, McKenzie and Scanlen) particularly do very well at portraying older versions of the children while believably capturing the mentality of the younger people they were hours before. Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie and Rufus Sewell were the standout performances to me.

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M. Night Shyamalan’s direction is really solid, I think this is some of the best work he’s one on a technical level at the very least. He definitely excels at his smaller scale movies, and this is certainly one of his smallest movies, with it mostly taking place on a beach. Speaking of which, the setting of the beach was great and there were some stunning shots, and certainly a notable amount of use of blocking to hide certain things and capture characters’ perspectives. Shyamalan does a lot with the claustrophobia of the setting and being trapped there, much like how the characters feel. Most of the movie doesn’t have anything overtly violent but when it does, it is effective. There’s even a surprising amount of body horror and in those moments, Shyamalan lets it loose and gets more gnarly than I was expecting it too. Finally, the score works very well for the movie.

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I have heard some people say that Old is M. Night Shyamalan at his absolute ‘most’, and I can sort of see why. If you aren’t a fan of many of Shyamalan’s movies, there might be some aspects about it that might not work with you, from some clunky dialogue, weird tonal changes, and odd story and technical choices. However, I actually quite liked the movie and found it entertaining, the actors were great, I was invested in the story, and it was very well made. It is definitely a divisive movie, but I think it’s worth checking out. It is possibly among Shyamalan’s best films.

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) Review

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The Conjuring 3 The Devil Made Me Do It

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & cruelty
Cast:
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Ruairi O’Connor as Arne Cheyenne Johnson
Sarah Catherine Hook as Debbie Glatzel
Julian Hilliard as David Glatzel
John Noble as Father Kastner
Director: Michael Chaves

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) take on one of the most sensational cases of their careers after a cop stumbles upon a dazed and bloodied young man walking down the road. Accused of murder, the suspect claims demonic possession as his defense, forcing the Warrens into a supernatural inquiry unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

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I was a bit sceptical about The Conjuring 3 going into it, mainly because James Wan, who directed the previous 2 films, wasn’t returning to helm it. However, I am a fan of the first two movies, so I was still interested in checking it out. While it’s definitely not as strong as the Wan directed Conjuring films, it was better than I was expecting and it was quite good.

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One way that The Conjuring 3 especially works is by being different from the other movies with regards to the type of story, while fitting in nicely with the rest of the series. It’s not a haunted house yarn like the past two movies, and goes for a more mystery angle that involves a lot of investigation as the lead characters try to figure out the possession. I’m not that scared by the movies, so I don’t mind the different approach, even though it is still very much a horror movie with jump scares. The first two acts are pretty good and entertaining. The movie starts off well with a great and memorable opening scene, which gets you hooked from the beginning. After that point we have two storylines that go in different directions, one following the murder suspect, and the other following Ed and Lorraine Warren. I was quite intrigued to see where the story played out. There were some issues with the writing. I wish more things were fleshed out, for example having a Satanist being the one behind everything is an interesting idea (instead of it just being yet another demon), though their motivations aren’t explored really. While I wasn’t expecting anything super deep, I was just hoping for something more. The third acts of the Conjuring movies are the least scary sections of those movies and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. A lot of over the top in your face supernatural stuff happens, and it also cuts between two storylines which sort of takes you out of it. I didn’t mind it though, the climax was entertaining and I was satisfied with the resolution, even though it felt a little rushed.

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The characters and acting are the stronger parts of these movies, and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. One of the best aspects of these movies is Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their performances are great, and they share such believable chemistry. They really are some of the most compelling protagonists in modern horror movies. Their relationship is in the forefront once again, and much of the investment in the story comes from us being invested with these characters and everything that’s happening with them. The rest of the cast are great too, including Ruairi O’Connor as the possessed murder suspect at the centre of the film, and John Noble as a haunted ex-priest.

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As mentioned previously, James Wan didn’t direct this movie, and while his absence is felt to a degree, director Michael Chaves does quite well at helming it. It is well shot (some of them felt signature to Wan), and it does well at setting itself in the time period of the early 1980s. There are some jumpscares that were predictable and not that scary, but it does well at building up an fairly strong horror atmosphere. The creatures, dead bodies and other similar entities look incredible, with some phenomenal visual and practical effects.

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As said previously, The Conjuring 3 isn’t quite as good as the previous two movies. However I was invested in the story and characters, and was interested to see how it all played out, paired with some solid directing and really good acting, especially with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the compelling and likable lead characters. If you liked any of the previous Conjuring movies, I think the third movie is worth a watch at the very least.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Review

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Spiral From the Book of Saw

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Torture & sadistic violence
Cast:
Chris Rock as Det. Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks
Max Minghella as Det. William “Will” Schenk 
Marisol Nichols as Capt. Angie Garza
Samuel L. Jackson as Marcus Banks
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Working in the shadow of his father (Samuel L. Jackson), Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of an investigation into grisly murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Having only seen the first three Saw movies last year when it was originally set to release, I was only mildly interested in it. However, I got even more excited for it when I watched the rest of the movies in the series. For all of their faults (and there’s a lot), the movies were quite enjoyable, even considering the lower moments of the series. With this new entry being based off an idea from Chris Rock and having a different approach, it looked like what the franchise needed. Despite some flaws, Spiral is quite a good horror movie and a well needed revival of the franchise.

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First of all, getting the obvious out of the way. Spiral may be a Saw movie, but you don’t have to have watched the Saw movies (even the first movie) to enjoy this one. I do think that it is worth knowing what Saw is about at the very least, regarding Jigsaw’s games, the traps, etc. It takes place in the same world, and there are references to John Kramer and his impact is present in much of this movie, but that’s as far as it goes. If you’re a Saw fan, don’t expect to see any past Saw characters or anything, you’ll just be disappointed. Spiral does have some differences from many of the Saw movies. First of all, the plot goes back to basics and doesn’t get convoluted like the sequels did. There’s a serial killer targeting corrupt cops, and much of the movie is Chris Rock as a detective investigating with his partner. It is the first Saw movie to not have an ongoing game running throughout the movie, even the first Saw which had a good amount of the movie being flashbacks while the main story focusing on the game in the bathroom. In some ways it takes more from Se7en than Saw (ironically the latter took a lot of inspiration from the former). There is definitely more humour in the mix especially in the first act, particularly within the dialogue. It actually does work quite well all things considered, and it does give it a distinct tone from the other movies. Another way that this movie is different in the series was the social commentary and themes. Saw VI made itself stand out with its take on health insurance, and no other Saw film had been that clear about being about something until Spiral, which this time takes on corrupt cops. It was refreshing to see, and I really liked the angle. However, don’t expect a deep dive or analysis about the subject matter, if anything I wish they went deeper into that and spent more time with it.

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Something Spiral does have in common with the first Saw was the use of traps, with traps being the most (in)famous aspect of the movies. Now there isn’t a huge number of traps in Spiral, instead focusing more on the actual investigation. With that said, the traps are definitely prominent in this movie. Unlike some of the sequels, the traps in Spiral are purposeful, and they actually have a meaning behind them. Overall, I was invested with the story and interested to see where things would go, even if I do feel like it could’ve been a little more. However, there are some story and writing faults. The dialogue can either be a bit sloppy, or very expositional and forced. It does fall on some familiar tropes, both for Saw and cop/crime thrillers, it even has the classic trope of the older cop who gets a younger partner. As said earlier, this could’ve done a little more with its take on corrupt cops, the runtime is 90 minutes, so it could’ve spent more time with that. Some parts of the plot are predictable, and you can figure some twists out, especially if you are familiar with previous Saw movies and twists. All I’ll say is that with regards to the killer, I was more interested in the why than the who, and I kind of wish more time was spent with that. As for how it serves as a soft reboot, I’m interested in where the series could go from here, especially with where the film ends on.

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The acting is pretty good generally. Chris Rock leads this movie as lead character Zeke Banks, and he’s yet another case of an comedic actor taking on more dramatic work. Despite some moments of overacting, he actually does a pretty good job and is believable enough. Yes he acts like how you’d expect Chris Rock to act as a cop, but he does make for one of the more energetic and standout Saw protagonists thus far. Max Minghella plays Zeke’s partner, and the two actors are great and have a strong dynamic on screen. Samuel L. Jackson is also in this movie as Zeke’s father, who was once a police chief. He’s not in the movie as much as you’d think he would, but he does play a vital role, and he acts his part well.

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This film is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who previous directed Saw II, III and IV. It is interesting that one of the main people who shaped what the Saw series would become would be the one to return to helm the entry which would revive the series with a distinctly different take. His work in this movie is quite good, it’s probably the most polished Saw movie on a technical level. The look of the movie is great. The original 7 Saw movies had this grungy 2000s look to it. Jigsaw in 2017 did give it a new and modern look, however it almost looked a bit too separated from the previous movies. Spiral has a happy medium of the two, looking modern and also looking grimy and gritty. The use of colour is also pretty great and makes it stand out from the rest of the series in a good way. The editing is also balanced well. It is fast paced especially during the trap scenes, as per usual for the Saw movies. However it doesn’t get obnoxious. I would be lying if I said that the traps in this movie would rank among the best or most memorable of the entire series. However they are good, creative, and fit the tone and overall story incredibly well. They are definitely on the more realistic side (more Saw 1 than Jigsaw or Saw 3D) and are more grounded. It’s also no slouch when it comes to the gore, with some truly gruesome moments, and the use of practical effects is great. Charlie Clouser, who composes the scores of every Saw film, returns to compose the score of Spiral. The score is good, and sets itself apart from the other movies, and yes, some familiar sounding themes from the series do make a comeback.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw is really good. It has a fresh take on the series, it’s solid on a directing and acting level, and I was interested throughout. It’s not the best movie in the series, there’s at least a few Saw movies I would consider to be better (including the original film). However it is one of the better movies in the series for sure. As for whether you’ll like it or not, long story short, if you watched some of the Saw movies and you didn’t like them any of it, this won’t change your mind. If you are a Saw fan, I don’t know for sure how you’ll feel about it (definitely depends on what you’re expecting/hoping for), but it is definitely worth watching. If you haven’t seen the Saw movies but are familiar with the concept and want to watch Spiral right now, you can jump right into it without a problem. As a fan of the Saw series, I’m pleased with the movie and I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.

Rope (1948) Review

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Rope

Time: 81 Minutes
Cast:
James Stewart as Rupert Cadell
John Dall as Brandon Shaw
Joan Chandler as Janet Walker
Cedric Hardwicke as Mr. Henry Kentley
Farley Granger as Phillip Morgan
Constance Collier as Mrs. Anita Atwater
Douglas Dick as Kenneth Lawrence
Edith Evanson as Mrs. Wilson
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Two young men, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger), commit a murder and host a dinner party to toast for a perfect murder. However, reporter Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) finds them suspicious and starts probing them.

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I knew of Rope as being one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier and lesser known movies, yet one that’s very well received. It’s also known as that movie from him that’s made to be looking like it’s all filmed in one shot. Released in the late 1940s, it was very innovative for its time, introducing a number of filmmaking experiments that other films hadn’t done. Even beyond those however, Rope is still a really good movie on its own, and very much well worth the watch.

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The plot of Rope is pretty straightforward: two men strangle another man to death, hide his body in their apartment, and then throw a party in that same party to determine the perfection of their crime. It’s also pretty short at 81 minutes. However, the movie gets the most out of its premise and runtime. Rope is gripping, riddled with suspense throughout. It effortlessly engages the viewers in its very well crafted plot, and sustains the tension throughout its entire runtime, even when the audience has an idea of how the movie will end. It’s also perfectly paced so you are always locked in with what is happening. The script itself is very well written, I love the dialogue and how it foreshadows future events, and there’s a good amount of dark comedy throughout. It is based off a play, and watching the movie you can definitely see that, but it pulls it off and is thrilling from beginning to end. At the same time, it’s more than just a simple thriller where the tension is whether the two killers will get away with it. Rope is also a dissection on the philosophy and morals surrounding murder, especially with the lead characters. Looking deeper into it, it might be one of Hitchock’s darkest movies, if only for some of the behaviours and mindsets of the killers.

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The acting is pretty good all around, even if it does feel very stage-like. Considering that much of the movie is shot in long continuous takes, it was no doubt a lot for them to carry those long scenes with long stretches of dialogue. James Stewart is the most well known of the cast, and he’s good in his part, though he doesn’t appear until after the first 30 minutes or so. For much of the movie it is John Dall and Farley Granger as the two leads as the killers. What makes them interesting is that their characters aren’t doing this as a last minute attempt to hide the body and get away with the murder, it’s really to prove how smart they are. The two of them play each other very well and are both great in their parts.

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Alfred Hitchcock directs this very well, Rope is actually his first movie shot in colour. As for the actual look of the movie, it’s nothing special at first, it looks like a TV movie. However the cinematography and camerawork is one of the most famous parts of the movie. Like I said before, it is because Rope is shot to make it looks like it’s one long continuous take. That in itself is highly impressive on a technical level, but it also makes you fully engaged in what’s happening. You are immersed in the narrative, as you are in the apartment for the entirety of the film. Speaking of which, I really liked the set design, and how the apartment was set up gave the movie a little something extra.

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Rope is likely one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most underrated movies. It’s a short, simple and contained thriller that is incredibly effective, from the great performances, a sharp script, and excellent direction. It’s well worth watching if you haven’t checked it out already.

Jigsaw (2017) Review

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Jigsaw

Time: 92 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Torture & Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Matt Passmore as Logan Nelson
Callum Keith Rennie as Detective Halloran
Clé Bennett as Detective Keith Hunt
Hannah Emily Anderson as Eleanor Bonneville
Director: Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig

The police are at a dead end when investigating numerous ghastly murders in the city that resembles the work of a serial killer who is known to be dead since ten years.

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After the Saw movies concluded with the embarrassing Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, it seemed like that was it for the series. However, a Saw movie following on after that point was in development for some time, emerging as Jigsaw in 2017. With it being 7 years after the last film and seeming to have a fresh start without the convoluted storylines, Jigsaw might be what the years-dead franchise needed. It made for an enjoyable movie in the series, however manages to be a disappointment at the same time.

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Overall, the writing isn’t that good, the biggest problem of the movie really is the script. Compared to the past Saw movies, the plot is mostly simple. There are 5 people stuck in a Jigsaw game, and there’s police trying to figure it out as they discover dead bodies along the way. This time however, Jigsaw is meant to be dead, yet there’s evidence that he’s potentially still alive, including John Kramer’s voice on the tapes. This does add an intriguing element to the plot at least. With the 5 people in the game, it’s just same old trap stuff that you’ve seen in the past movies. You do get the feeling that it is sort of aware of stuff from the past movies, however it also doesn’t go all the way with the self awareness. Some of the stuff with the traps are far fetched, as in Jigsaw (or whoever is behind the traps) is going off the assumption that characters do certain things. There’s specifically one moment where a character says something about their past and later on there’s a pre-recorded Jigsaw tape that mentions that what this character previously mentioned. The investigation from the police is also pretty typical of similar plotlines from previous Saw movies. With that said, the mystery of what’s going on was a little intriguing, as evidence seemed to indicate that it really was Jigsaw behind this.

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The movie doesn’t really directly follow much from the last movie, don’t expect even references of Gordon, Hoffman, Amanda or Jill here (don’t expect Gordon to be the killer despite the ending of the last movie). In some ways, I can understand them abandoning stuff from the past movies, I don’t blame them especially after Saw 3D. With that said, it doesn’t really bring anything original to the table at the same time. It’s definitely not a reimagining of the series. Plotwise it does have more of the same story beats (the game and the cop side of it), and so it feels rather formulaic, generic and uninspired. Not that having similar plotlines is a bad thing, but they don’t even add their own unique spin on it. With that said, there are some decent aspects. The movie has some entertaining moments in both storylines, and the pacing was consistent if nothing else. Plotwise, the movie only gets really messy at the end when it has one of those famous Saw reveals. There is a certain point in the third act where you can probably figure out some aspects of the twist through process of elimination, however it’s not just that. I’ll do my best not to reveal much of the reveal. What I will say however is that it does to a degree mess with the timeline of the Saw movies and there are things that don’t make sense from character decisions to logistics and more. Not to mention that it does actually feel like multiple Saw twists put together. It’s not as undeserved as the Saw 3D ending reveal and there are aspects of it that I do like, but it does stick out to me as really not really working.

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As far as acting goes, rather average and unmemorable for the most part. The characters are passable enough, some are better than others. The group of 5 going through the Jigsaw game aren’t among the worst actors in the series but again weren’t particularly memorable save for maybe a couple. On the procedural storyline, there’s a detective named Halloran played by Callum Keith Rennie, and there’s a forensic team with Logan Nelson played by Matt Passamore, and Hannah Emily Anderson as Eleanor Bonneville. Of the new characters, Eleanor was by far the most interesting because she is fascinated by Jigsaw. That’s something we haven’t seen before from a Saw character across all 8 movies, and I’m honestly surprised that we hadn’t seen someone like her appear in any of these stories before. Sadly she’s only really a supporting character and doesn’t really do a whole lot in the movie. As for Tobin Bell as Jigsaw, all I can say is that he has a part in this movie. I won’t elaborate on that, but I really liked those parts involving him and even 7 years after the last film still performs this iconic horror movie character perfectly.

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The directors of Jigsaw are the Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael), which was a big interest to me considering that they made Daybreakers and Predestination, both of which I really liked. Jigsaw is definitely a modern movie, and looks quite different from the past Saw movies. It doesn’t quite have the grimy look from the first 6 Saw movies but still is a good-looking movie (again looks better than Saw 3D). Most of the Jigsaw games have been held in bathrooms, houses, basements and warehouses, so I guess changing the setting to a farmhouse this time at least was something different. As to be expected from these movies, there are traps. The traps are pretty entertaining but looking at the traps in the series as a whole, most of these new ones are a little unmemorable. The one trap that was out of place was something involving laser cutters, and while a lot of the other Saw traps aren’t the most realistic, lasers seem to be a little out of place as it’s going into technology that doesn’t really exist. With those traps comes gore as to be expected. There’s a decent amount of gore but it’s unexpectedly a bit subdued. The gore itself is a mixture of practical and CGI, the CGI isn’t great but its at least better than 3D’s (not saying much). Charlie Clouser provides the score once again, and as usual his work adds a lot to the movie.

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Jigsaw has some good parts to it for sure, it’s directed well, it’s entertaining and it’s definitely better than some of the worse sequels, certainly way better than Saw 3D. With that said, you do wonder what the point of the movie is. While it does remove some aspects to make itself stand out from the past movies, it also falls back on familiar territory, it doesn’t really add anything new, and doesn’t do enough to make itself its own thing. It’s looking even worse with Spiral coming out in 2021, intended to reenergise the franchise, and this time to be a much more effective soft reboot. I’m not expecting Spiral to even reference this movie. With all that said, if you like the Saw movies, Jigsaw is worth a watch.

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010) Review

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Saw 3D

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains Torture & Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw
Costas Mandylor as Mark Hoffman
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon
Sean Patrick Flanery as Bobby Dagen
Director: Kevin Greutert

As a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) brutal legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru and fellow survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a man whose own dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror.

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After a number of sequels whose quality was gradually descending from the heights of being good towards being mediocre, Saw VI was a refreshing entry in the Saw series and was a return to form. I was actually surprised how much I liked it as opposed to being sort of yet another Saw movie to get through. With that said, I heard nothing but bad things about Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. Even the people who are fans of the series usually say it’s by far the worst entry. I lowered my expectations as much as possible, and I think that’s partially why I kind of enjoyed this to a degree. Nonetheless, I’m not exactly sure how this movie ended up the way it did, even for the lows the series have gone in the past, it’s a little surprising that Saw 3D is this awful.

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The embarrassingly named Saw 3D: The Final Chapter tries to be so many things at once, and pretty much fails in all of them. The writing is abysmal, it is such a mess and lacks the elements that made even the weaker Saw movies somewhat work. For as goofy as the movies got, the tone was pretty dark across all of them. With the opening trap though, it establishes it as a different type of movie, feeling very goofy and campy throughout and I’m not 100% sure that it was intentional. This trap takes place in broad daylight in public and involves two guys having to fight over a girl and it’s actually worse than how I’m describing it. Not that there isn’t entertainment to be had from it, but you just can’t take it seriously. None of the story is genuinely interesting, none of the attempted twists really work, and the characters are dull. Even with Saw V, there were some aspects that were interesting. With this movie however I was just watching this as a purely camp horror film. Some of the dialogue in the movies can be bad, but this movie reaches new lows in hilariously bad lines, I sure hope that some of them  were partially intentional. This time the Jigsaw game is focusing on a character named Bobby, who lied being part of a Jigsaw game and is profiting off it for money and success, and he’s now finding himself in a real Jigsaw game. That’s fine enough and different for a Saw movie, even if it’s not as interesting compared to the last movie. It certainly had potential, but it was very mishandled in many ways. For one, the lead character is boring, but it doesn’t stop there. A massive flaw is that the movie had quite a big focus on the traps, specifically the gore, and I mean more than usual. There’s really no meaning behind the traps at this point, it just revels in extremity and the gore. With the previous movie, they tied the lead character with having to make decisions over peoples lives, like how he decided whether people got health insurance or not. You’d think that there’d be something like that for Bobby, but nothing like that happened. It’s just “here’s another gruesome trap” for you to see. With the movies it feels like there is a chance that people will get out of the traps, without that however there is no tension, and we are basically just watching gore happen. Besides, it’s already so silly that it’s hard to take any of this seriously. Additionally, by the end of the movie, the whole game doesn’t feel like it really matters to the rest of the plot.

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There’s also a police subplot, which isn’t unusual for the series, as they try to investigate and hunt down Jigsaw (in this instance Hoffman). However, it’s the worst attempt at a police or investigation subplot in the series. It’s incredibly weak and boring here, and you don’t really care for it, not helped by the very bland lead detective. Hoffman is also here after Jill Tuck tried to kill him in the last movie, and he’s hunting her down. Every so often it cuts to that storyline in between Bobby and the traps, it’s not very interesting or well handled either. Then there’s the whole Final Chapter aspect, it tries to tie up so many storylines, it really fails and feels rushed. This was meant to be 2 movies and was rushed into 1, and that’s completely unsurprising looking at the results. There are plenty of callbacks to the other Saw movies which you notice but they don’t really feel earned. As can be seen with the cast list, with Cary Elwes included, Dr Gordon is back. His return was much anticipated ever since the first movie and no mention of him in the sequels. The very first scene of the movie is a flashback cutting back to him after he escapes the room at the end of the first Saw. After that he also gets a scene in the first act and for the longest time doesn’t appear in the movie again. Eventually you learn why he’s in the movie, but even then it raises a lot of questions. The most identifiably enjoyable section of the movie has to be the last third of the movie, which is so over the top I can’t help but enjoy it. I won’t go into it too much if you want to see for yourself but the movie sort of turns into a slasher movie. When I say slasher movie I don’t mean the scary kind, I mean the incredibly silly kind where a lot of people get killed but it’s just entertaining. There’s even a scene where someone is running away, and it looks straight out of one of the movies from the Scary Movie series. There is a twist and reveal at the end of the movie (since all Saw movies have these), but it ends up creating more questions than answers. Without spoiling anything, I like the last scene plotwise and in concept, it makes a lot of sense with how they end it. However the context surrounding that reveal and scene has its own issues, requiring some explanations that we aren’t getting. Saw 3D is really lucky that it’s not the last movie in the series because this was quite a bad note to end it on.  

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Right after Saw VI having some of the better acting of the series, Saw 3D has some of the worst acting of the series. With Saw V and Saw VI, there’s been a reduced amount of Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw, which wasn’t particular exciting considering that Bell is one of the only consistently good things about these movies. However in those movies, he appears in some significant flashbacks in the storylines, and does enough that it makes up for his lack of screentime. With that said, in Saw 3D he has way less scenes, you don’t get much of him, and in fact this has to be the least amount of screentime an actor has had while having top billing as in the movie. With that said, Bell brings his A game as usual. Not to mention, in one of his scenes involving a flashback with Bobby, his choice of disguise is just so… unbelievable that I almost recommend watching the movie just for that scene. Sean Patrick Flanery plays Bobby, the main victim in the Jigsaw game of this movie. I wouldn’t say he’s terrible considering some of the other acting in this movie, but he’s just passable. As for Bobby as a character, he’s not annoying or frustrating like Jeff from Saw III but he’s not interesting, he’s underdeveloped and the audience don’t have much reason to care about him. Just a very forgettable character and performance, and one of the weaker Saw protagonists. The main detective this time is Matt Gibson, a new character. If they kept any of the FBI agents from Saw VI alive, any of them easily could’ve fitted this role very well. Unfortunately, Hoffman killed both of them, so another cop character had to be created, who just so happens to be the worst of the main detectives. Gibson is such a boring and forgettable character, given particularly bad dialogue, and Chad Donella’s performance is honestly laughable. Costas Mandylor returns as ex detective and Jigsaw apprentice Mark Hoffman. I’m not sure that the film really knew what to do with him really for the majority of the movie. Then at a certain point towards the latter portion of the film, he becomes something of a slasher villain, and that’s where he shines. He basically just becomes the Hoffmanator, taking that voice recording scene from Saw VI where he killed 3 people in quick succession, and goes to a whole other level here. As said earlier, Cary Elwes returns as Doctor Gordon. He appears in the very first scene, he appears in a meeting of Jigsaw survivors, and without spoiling anything he does appear again. All I’ll say about his purpose in this movie is that the use of him wasn’t great. This Gordon isn’t developed enough in this movie, nor does he really have enough screentime to make him work as well as he could’ve. That’s not even to mention that the actual performance was… off. I know that a lot of people aren’t the biggest fan of his acting in the first Saw, but in the survivor meeting scene, he is just so creepy and sinister that is just so random. I’ve never heard anyone utter the term “promotional DVD” with such evilness. The acting from the people stuck in traps can be hilariously over the top that it really takes away even further from the gory traps. Really the only actor in the traps who I thought was good was the late Chester Bennington, who’s great in his 1-2 minutes of screentime.  

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Probably the biggest surprise of this movie is that Saw 3D is helmed by Kevin Greutert, the director of the very solid Saw VI. It seems so strange that someone who did some really good work on the last instalment would then produce such a below subpar movie. As it turns out however, this movie was supposed to be made in two parts with David Hackl (director of Saw V) directing. However Twisted Pictures fired Hackl at the last minute and forced Greutert to come back to direct it as 1 movie roughly 1-2 weeks before shooting began. Keep in mind that he was about to direct Paranormal Activity 2, but was made to create the last Saw movie because of a clause in his contract. So for all the many faults, I don’t blame him at all. He wasn’t able to incorporate or bring new ideas to the movie, and had to work with what he was given. That aside, this film is terrible on a technical level. First of all, the look of the movie. All the previous Saw movies had this very grimy look to it, but it has become part of the aesthetic of the franchise, and fits perfectly for the tone and vibe of the series. Saw 3D on the other hand is so brightly lit even in the trap scenes, it looks awful especially compared to the past movies. If there’s a Saw movie that could be called torture porn, it’s this one. It really tries to pack as many traps as possible, they even use a dream sequence as an excuse to add yet another trap. Not only that but they really amp up the gore, which leads me to the effects in that they were embarrassingly bad. You can tell that for all the lows of the past movies, most of the gore scenes were made with practical effects and looked somewhat realistic. Here though the gore looks really fake, both the practical and CGI effects. As for the traps themselves, they reach new heights in being over the top, even by Saw standards. At the same time, many of them were rather uninspired, unmemorable, and don’t stand out.  

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Time to address the elephant in the room, the 3D in Saw 3D. It was 2010 and unfortunately the notion of adding 3D to big movies hadn’t started to die down yet, so for the last instalment, for whatever reason some people decided that the film should be shot in 3D. It being hard to take the movie seriously with the use of 3D (and even adding it in the title), the fact that they shot the movie in this way really made it worse. First of all, there are things flying at the camera all the time, mainly the gore and body parts, and without actually watching it in 3D it just looks stupid every time it has one of those moments. Second of all, all the blood in this movie is pink, no doubt it appears red for people seeing it in 3D, but here it’s just makes it even harder to take the scenes of violence seriously. There’s a moment where they use the footage from the end of Saw VI when Hoffman escapes the reverse bear trap and his cheek is ripped open, with realistic blood and gore effects. Then it follows right after that and with the new footage in Saw 3D, when he’s sewing his face back up there’s just pink blood all over his face. In terms of standout sequences, it’s just the skinhead trap and a certain sequence involving Hoffman towards the end of the movie. The only genuinely good thing on a technical level is Charlie Clouser’s score, he’s pretty reliable but unfortunately not even he can elevate many of the scenes in this movie.

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I could go on and on about Saw 3D: The Final Chapter but the short of it is that it basically fails on every level. It fails as a Saw movie because there’s no tension or really any horror (just gore), and the twists aren’t particularly good. It also fails on being a conclusion to the main 7 movie arc. Saw 3D has become unfortunately a parody of itself, and I find it particularly hard to take it seriously. The only way it doesn’t fail is that it does provide some entertainment although a lot of it is unintentional, with some of the acting, directing and writing choices being so absurd that it is quite enjoyable. As for whether or not you should watch this, if you made it through the previous 6 Saw movies, you might as well watch the final one (of the main storyline at least). Though to have the most enjoyment with this, you really have to go in with the right mindset. Lower your expectations and once you figure out what this movie is going to be early on, you might then be able to enjoy it.  

Saw VI (2009) Review

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Saw 6

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains sadistic violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw
Costas Mandylor as Detective Mark Hoffman
Mark Rolston as Agent Dan Erickson
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young
Peter Outerbridge as William Easton
Director: Kevin Greutert

The legacy of the Jigsaw Killer continues as his successor Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) follows his instructions while his wife (Betsy Russell) carries out his final request.

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Even though I had enjoyed the Saw movies up to this point, they’ve been getting a little dull. The previous movie, Saw V, particular,y left me rather underwhelmed. Despite the series being in decline, I had some hopes for Saw VI just based off the things I had heard a bit about it. Having watched it, I can say that I actually ended up liking this a lot more than I thought I would. After the past couple of entries, it’s a return to form for the series.

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The past couple of movies have been spending a lot of time taking place in the past. Thankfully with the exception of some flashbacks, Saw VI is mostly spent in the present. The main storylines in this movie consists of a new game that people are trapped in, and Hoffman dealing with John Kramer’s wife Jill Tuck, along with an FBI investigation into the identity of Jigsaw. The game focuses on the insurance industry and the US healthcare system, with the main victim of Jigsaw’s game this time being the executive of an insurance company. This is a hot topic especially considering it was 2009, but it’s still socially relevant to this day. I found the approach to be very interesting and unexpected, as I didn’t really expect the Saw series to tackle social issues. It’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer and it’s pretty blatant with the way it’s written, but this hasn’t been a subtle series on any level so that’s not really a problem. I admire them actually going in this different direction. Not to mention, it actually fits perfectly and makes sense that this would be something that John Kramer would focus on. It’s pretty clear that unlike some of the other games, this one is actually personal for him. There are some flashbacks with John Kramer and the main victim William Easton (the insurance executive), which really links things together. Not only that, but you can see how some of what happened in the past would inspire Jigsaw to take the approaches that he takes as a serial killer, especially with the whole choosing life or death aspect. The one thing I will say though is that I’m not sure why this game hadn’t happened sooner as opposed to being one of Kramer’s final requests considering how important this was for him. You’d think that this would’ve been one of the first games he would’ve tried after becoming Jigsaw. As for the game itself, there are moral dilemmas that Easton faces throughout. In some of the past Saw movies, they try to present difficult situations to the main character, and usually it doesn’t leave an impact on you. Here it’s genuinely nerve wrecking as the main character often has to decide who lives and who dies.

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Detective Mark Hoffman’s (Costas Mandylor) storyline is the other major part of the story. He was the clear cut successor to Jigsaw, and as that he was a little underwhelming in Saw V despite some of his background being revealed. However, he does a lot more here, and ultimately is a notable improvement in this movie. He has some great moments in this movie, one of the highlights involving a voice recording. Like in Saw V, there are flashbacks of Hoffman working with Jigsaw, and also Amanda, and I found those scenes to be interesting. There is even a reveal that retroactively improves an aspect from Saw III (even if it does raise a question by itself). Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell), the husband to John Kramer, was introduced in Saw IV and got some screentime in V. She gets to do stuff in Saw VI too and I like how she was utilised. Here she is going to fulfil her husband’s final mysterious request which is built up over the course of the movie. In the last movie, she was left a box by John Kramer, and we finally see what’s in that box. There’s also an investigation about the identity of Jigsaw over the course of the movie, which is typical of Saw. At least with the FBI investigation this time though, it doesn’t pull a Saw V and give exposition to the audience and have them reveal things that we already know. This storyline is more about whether Hoffman will get away with it. I mostly liked it, though I do kind of wish some of it went differently. For example, some of the decisions from the agents towards the end of the plotline were a little silly and not that well thought out. The ending is great, with both storylines being ended well. Without getting into it, the sequence that occurs right before the credits is one of my favourite scenes in the series. For what it’s worth, there’s also a post credits scene, though whether it pays of in the next Saw movie remains to be seen at this point. On the whole, Saw VI starts out strong from the beginning and stays strong all the way to the end. You can tell from the beginning that the pacing is much better and not sluggish. There’s a strong balance between horror and drama, which the past few movies had struggled with. It’s also a lot more focused with the plot, not as messy as Saw IV and not as (for lack of a better word) pointless as Saw V. While there are some lore and backstory revealed in flashbacks, they don’t feel forced and they work naturally for the characters and the story. The emotional stakes are raised in both storylines too, which I wasn’t really expecting. Now it is still over the top and unbelievably ridiculous, but it’s gloriously and entertainingly so. Some moments and character decisions are far-fetched and don’t make sense. However, if you’ve reached the sixth movie in this gory soap opera at this point, you’ve come to expect all that.

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The acting in all the Saw movies is a mixed bag, but Saw VI has probably the strongest acting on a general level. First there’s the returning characters. Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw is once again great, he’s still very much here through flashbacks, but it’s done to enhance the story. I guess you could say that he’s used similarly to how he was utilised in Saw V, but it’s done better here. He feels like a presence throughout in every storyline, from the main Jigsaw game which was personal to him, to other people that he knew like Hoffman and Jill. Costas Mandylor returns as Hoffman, and as I said earlier he’s much better in this movie than he was in Saw V. He’s very different than Jigsaw as a character, but I liked that, and he has some fantastic moments here especially in the last section of the film. I will say though that once again, he sticks out as being such an obvious villain. There’s a scene with him and a Jigsaw survivor in a hospital, and he’s just cartoonishly suspicious it was actually unintentionally funny. Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck gets to do some things in the plot, and Shawnee Smith even returns as Amanda Young in some scenes for some flashbacks. The acting of the people in the game are still a mixed bag, but generally the acting from them here is surprisingly decent for a Saw movie. The lead in this storyline is Peter Outerbridge as William Easton, the insurance executive that Jigsaw forces to play the game. There’s plenty of reasons to not like Easton, but Outerbridge manages to make you sympathise for him with everything that he’s going through.

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Kevin Greutert directs this movie, and this is his debut feature film. The previous director of a Saw movie was the production designer of the sequels, and Greutert also has a link to the series from being the editor of the past 5 movies. On the whole, I think the direction was solid. The editing is probably better than the first four movies at the very least. It’s still frantic during the more intense moments, but it has been toned down so it’s not quite as distracting or obnoxious. With that said, some of the editing can still be unnecessarily fast paced, even in normal scenes. There’s a scene between John Kramer and William Easton where they are talking, and every so often the camera speeds between their faces for no reason. The traps of the past movies have been mostly underwhelming, especially Saw V. Saw VI however sets the tone for the rest of the movie by opening with an incredibly brutal trap that I wasn’t expecting, establishing it as one of the more brutal entries in the series (or at least more so than the past couple of movies). The traps can be quite creative, there’s one based on oxygen, and while it’s not as brutal as some of the other traps, it was certainly unique for the series. There’s some larger scale traps for the series, including a steam maze and most infamous of all, the shotgun carousel. The latter of which is among the best traps from the whole series, and while featuring some gore, seemed to focus a lot more on tension. That’s the other thing, I genuinely felt tense during many of the moments in this movie, whereas in a lot of traps in the other movies I don’t usually feel anything. Charlie Clouser’s score as to be expected is fantastic, I actually can’t imagine a Saw movie without his music work, it’s so iconic to and synonymous with the series.

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For what it’s worth, Saw VI is the best Saw movie since Saw II. The storyline was more focused and engaging, the traps were memorable and crazy, and it features some of the best moments from the whole series. I wouldn’t call it great, it definitely has its faults and in a lot of ways unbelievably silly and ridiculous (especially considering where the series had started). But by Saw movies standards, VI mostly certainly is great. Even if you didn’t like the past few Saw movies, I recommend giving this one a chance.

Saw V (2008) Review

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Saw 5

Time: 92 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Torture & Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Costas Mandylor as Detective Mark Hoffman
Scott Patterson as Agent Peter Strahm
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Julie Benz as Brit
Meagan Good as Luba Gibbs
Mark Rolston as Agent Dan Erickson
Carlo Rota as Charles
Director: David Hackl

Although Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and Amanda (Shawnee Smith) are dead, the game still lures five unassuming victims. In the guise of a survival of the fittest routine, the contestants begin their journey towards a deadly end.

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After Saw IV, it seems like the Saw series just seems to be going down this path of every instalment being subsequently worse. However, for some odd reason I’m interested to actually watch all of them, even if most of them aren’t exactly good. I was hoping that Saw V would improve from the last instalment, especially with how messy that one was. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, in fact I’d actually say it’s a bit worse. Not the step down that III was from II or IV was from III, but I’m less favourable towards V, even if I enjoy parts of it.

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Saw IV was quite complicated with its storylines. This time it’s a little less complicated with Saw V, consisting with a new game with the new victims, Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as the new Jigsaw, and FBI Agent Strahm’s (Scott Patterson) investigation into Hoffman. With that said, the plot is also rather forgettable and dull, the most forgettable of the movies so far. Something that you’ll be able to tell early on is that this movie is first and foremost dedicated to lore, the plot is secondary, and there’s a lot of focus on backstory with a lot of exposition. John Kramer/Jigsaw does make some appearances in flashbacks given that he’s dead, but unlike Saw IV there isn’t a whole storyline dedicated to him alone. On one hand, the idea of less Jigsaw in this movie wasn’t exactly exciting, as Tobin Bell (actor for Jigsaw) and Charlie Clouser’s scores are really the only consistently good things across all of these movies. At this point though, the series has to try something else and not be held back by him, so I do respect it trying to move on, while giving a bit of Jigsaw. Of the main storylines, I’ll start with the one focusing on the group of people stuck in the traps, probably because there’s not much to really say about that one. The theme of the traps involves people having to work together to survive, I do like that idea and it’s quite an interesting one for this series to have. There’s also social commentary on real estate people, and there’s decent enough conflict with the victims fighting for survival, including fighting themselves. Unfortunately, the execution is quite weak compared to Jigsaw’s other games, from the mediocre and unlikable characters, to how its not even the main focus of the movie. By the end of the movie, the trap plot becomes something of a subplot. As I said, Saw V is more about the lore and backstory than the plot, and the former is more what the other two storylines are about.

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The cliffhanger of Saw IV revealed Hoffman as the secret Jigsaw apprentice teased throughout that movie. Now that John Kramer is dead, this leaves Hoffman as his successor, and his storyline is about that. A large portion of the scenes consist flashbacks, where it goes back to times of the past Saw movies and shows how Hoffman was involved in some past iconic moments and traps. Saw III showed Amanda and how she was involved with some of the events of the past Saw movies, but at least those were shown in a few scenes or brief montages. With Hoffman in Saw V however, there are extensive scenes showing them. These are the only moments where it can get convoluted, when it goes back to the past Saw movies and especially with the interconnectivity. Some of it can get tedious, but I did like the connections. The third storyline is that of Strahm from the last movie, as he’s investigating Hoffman as he suspects him as being an accomplice to Jigsaw. There is a problem however that takes away from what could’ve been an interesting storyline, we already know the truth of Hoffman’s link to Jigsaw. Now Strahm isn’t dumb, he is smart for figuring out everything all by himself. However you do wonder what the point of it is when we mostly know everything already, and it’s not really gripping. It’s also particularly dull, Strahm looks at pieces of information and speaks exposition out loud for the audience. Ultimately you realise at a certain point that the Strahm storyline with him figuring out Hoffman is just to serve the latter’s backstory, as we learn about him. I think ultimately how well this movie works for you depends on how interested you are in Hoffman as a character. As it was, I found him okay, but he really doesn’t do enough in this movie to make me particularly engaged in him or interested with the idea of him being the new Jigsaw. There are plenty of twists as to be expected, but they aren’t great or unexpected like a lot of the other movies. The ending has one of those big Saw endings with the music and the reveals, it’s enjoyable as always but is a bit goofy and doesn’t hit as hard as much as the first three. Saw V is about 90 minutes long and while it wasn’t tough to get through, it was a bit of a slog, especially in contrast with the other movies, even the fourth.

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The acting from the main cast is good, the rest is a mixed bag. I guess one could call the main character Peter Strahm, played by Scott Patterson. On one hand there’s parts of the character I like. He is one of the smarter main characters of the Saw series, in one of his earliest scenes he escapes a trap that was meant to kill him. Not only that, but he manages to figure out Hoffman and Jigsaw all by himself. With that said, him being smart does make some of his later dumb decisions frustrating. Additionally, Strahm doesn’t do much beyond move from place to place to deliver exposition, we don’t actually get to learn much about him, and he’s not developed as a character. Costas Mandylor plays Mark Hoffman, the secret apprentice to Jigsaw. He does appear broody and menacing and I guess he plays his part. Again though, Hoffman hasn’t done much to make himself interesting enough as a character. As I said earlier, Tobin Bell still gets to play some role here in flashbacks as Jigsaw, mainly to do with Hoffman. As usual he’s great and his screen presence is strong as always, even in the numerous scenes where they are just showing behind the scenes of past traps, Bell still does very well in his part. There’s an extensive scene where these two major characters meet for the first time, and it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. The characters outside of those three are typical horror movie characters, they weren’t interesting, they are hard to like, and their acting aren’t good. It’s worse when none of them are really a main character in this story. Even with Saw II, the game had at least the son of the main character and Amanda. None of the characters in the traps of Saw V has an impact on the rest of the overall plot, it didn’t feel like it mattered if they lived or died.

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After three Saw sequels with Darren Lynn Bousman, there’s a new director for this 5th instalment. This new director is David Hackl, who served as on production design in the Saw sequels. It was an opportunity to add a fresh directing voice to the Saw series. The direction is solid enough, but isn’t special or anything. Oddly enough, a great aspect in the movie is the editing. Gone are the quick firing and flashy cuts from the Darren movies, it’s a lot more refined and clean. At the same time, its got the right amount of intensity. As to be expected from Saw movies, there are traps and gore. Unfortunately the traps aren’t that special. The opening pendulum, the water cube, and the ending trap are the only memorable ones really, even the traps from Saw IV generally stood out to me more. One of the most surprising parts of Saw V is that for the most part there are less actual gore, especially compared to III and IV. It doesn’t necessarily make it better or worse, just an interesting thing to see. Charlie Clouser’s score as usual fits perfectly with the movies, especially with the tense moments and reveals.

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Saw V is yet another mixed bag of a movie from this series. Now I still do like this movie, in the same way I liked IV despite everything about it. I only think it’s slightly worse than IV because it actually feels dull in parts and less memorable, it’s the least memorable of the 5 movies so far. This is probably the first point in the series where we have a Saw movie that really didn’t need to exist. Just watch Saw V if you watched IV and were still willing to watch more. I do feel like that’s the general feeling for the whole series, if you haven’t been alienated or given up by this point, watch the next movie. There’s 3 movies left in the series to get through, and at the moment the only one of them I’m at least hopefully for is VI.

Saw IV (2007) Review

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Saw 4

Time: 92 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Costas Mandylor as Detective Mark Hoffman
Scott Patterson as Agent Peter Strahm
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Lyriq Bent as Officer Daniel Rigg
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

While FBI agents Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Perez (Athena Karkanis) are still engulfed in the grisly Jigsaw case, SWAT Commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is roped in as the last pawn for yet another lethal game of the manic Jigsaw (Tobin Bell).

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While I was somewhat curious about the Saw sequels, I also had the feeling that they wouldn’t be all that good. The first two movies in the series were good, but Saw III was a step down for me. So going into Saw IV, I didn’t have high expectations and I guess that at least helped me prepare for it. The easiest description I can give for IV is that it’s just another Saw movie. Some of the entertaining elements are back, but its familiar faults are also back, and additionally it doesn’t really do much differently.

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Saw IV falls back on familiar tropes in the series, with flashbacks, traps, random new characters, twists, tape recordings, fast cuts, and a needlessly intricate plot. The movie starts off pretty well. Spoiler warning for Saw III if you haven’t seen it already, but it opens with the autopsy of John Kramer AKA Jigsaw to confirm that he is in fact dead and didn’t survive through some twist. There’s a lot happening in this movie, there’s like four plots happening all at once. Unfortunately it doesn’t really spend enough time with any of them so they feel all generally feel underdeveloped. Additionally. Saw IV tries to serve as a sort of prequel to some of the previous Saw movies, while setting up sequels for a post John Kramer Jigsaw world. While I wouldn’t say that I was bored during the movie, most of the plot is uninteresting and leaps from scene to scene quickly. On one hand, it being fast paced means that doesn’t really drag, but it also makes it messy, especially as a lot of the time there is an overload of information thrown at the audience. The narrative on the whole is very messy. The story was unnecessarily intertwined and it is very convoluted, which is to be expected from the Saw movies at this point. However it is getting to the point where it’s becoming confusing.

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The main plotline in Saw IV is about a police officer moving from trap to trap as he tries to save some people, similar to Saw III except the character isn’t locked in a basement and is free to give up at any time. This feels like familiar territory, and it is, and it doesn’t do really anything new with it. Pair that with an unengaging main character, and that plotline isn’t that good. Another plotline is a procedural crime drama with two FBI agents investigating the killings from Jigsaw. This was fine but not particularly tense or interesting either. As said earlier, John Kramer is now dead, so we have him appear in multiple flashbacks in this movie. These various extensive flashbacks detail more of Jigsaw’s backstory, largely through a character named Jill who’s being interrogated by the FBI. Now the Saw series is no stranger to flashbacks, but Saw IV takes it to another level and becomes very reliant on them, to the point where there is no balance between the past and the present events. To be fair I actually did like these scenes, and there’s so many of them that you almost wish the movie was just a full on prequel for Jigsaw. On top of that, the rest of the movie is Saw is on autopilot, so it was really the only interesting part. The characters on the whole were dull and not that interesting, and this movie introduces so many new random characters. With Saw III they also really started connecting all the movies’ plots tightly together. While some of the connections were interesting, this Saw timeline is so confused and bizarre at this point that you’re quite lost by the end. Twists are a staple in the Saw movies, but the twists aren’t that convincing this time around and don’t really work. At the end there’s one of those signature Saw plot twists and reveals but it doesn’t feel satisfying or deserved, not to mention it wasn’t exactly unpredictable. It just sort of sets up Saw V. The runtime is 90 minutes long, which I guess is at least better than making it 2 hours long like Saw III was. However as a result it means that in this time they have to cover over 3 plotlines, and as you can probably tell the outcome isn’t so great.

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As usual Tobin Bell’s performance as John Kramer/Jigsaw does keep things together somewhat. As usual he’s a captivating screen presence and manages to sell even the most ludicrous of writing, and steals every scene he’s in. Unfortunately, much of the other characters and acting aren’t so good. The main character Rigg is played by Liriq Bent, he was a supporting cop character from Saw II. He’s a rather boring character, given little to do here except go from trap to trap. While he was a little more likable than Jeff from Saw III, at least he had a character or personality, I barely remember who Rigg was by the end of IV. On another note, you can see why some of the main characters in the other Saw movies are being tested, not really for this character. The reason why he seems to be tested is that Rigg busts down doors and tries to rescue people and they end up dying anyway (or something along those lines). It just seems like a rather contrived reason to have someone who was in one of the past Saw movies be the protagonist. Not to mention that Jigsaw’s ‘philosophy’ and ‘moral code’ already seemed shaky at the best of times and this case doesn’t help matters much. The movie also introduces some new characters with potential, including Scott Patterson as an FBI agent and Betsy Russell as someone who knew John Kramer personally, unfortunately they are very underdeveloped and not much happens with them, so again Jigsaw remains the only good character in this movie.

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Saw II and Saw III director Darren Lynn Bousman returns to make this movie, and while I liked his work on those past movies, I’m not sure he was the best choice to helm a movie that’s trying to transition away from the John Kramer Jigsaw movies. There’s an effort made to keep the feel and look of the previous movies, and a lot of what you’d expect to be here makes a return. The cinematography oddly looks a little smoother and cleaner than Saw III, though as a result it makes the movie look a bit flat. Saw IV has many trap set pieces, no surprises there. However they are devoid of tension or horror compared to what came before in the past movies. I guess part of it is that instead of the traps mainly being there to teach someone a lesson, they are there to serve up another gory demise to someone who has no chance of surviving. In a lot of those cases, these people clearly won’t escape, and for the most part you won’t care if they do or not. That’s not even to mention that even the traps themselves are rather lacklasture and devoid of imagination. By Saw III it got to the point where the movies were starting to have gore for the sake of gore, but at least there was some level of impact that came from watching them. Saw IV’s traps aren’t as disgusting and horrible to watch, even if there’s still quite a bit of gore. I don’t think it’s just me being desensitised because I remember finding some of Saw III’s traps hard to watch. As for the whole ‘is Saw torture porn’ question, IV is closer to being that than the third movie, because much of the movie feels like a conveyor belt taking you from one trap to the next and just throwing obligatory gore on screen without having any sort of impact on you. Disappointing traps aside, the practical effects on the gore are still great. The highlight for me was the opening scene when an autopsy is performed on John Kramer and while I’m not expert on it, it really did look like an autopsy. As usual there’s some fast paced editing, and most of it can be quite annoying and bad, mostly very fast during tense scenes, especially during traps. With that said, there’s one moment when an interrogation scene is happening and it’s getting more tense, the editing just acts crazy for some reason. Additionally, the use of slow motion especially for big reveals were a bit silly. An odd editing choice this time around are the transitions between some scenes, either involving time periods or locations. A character might walk into a room or camera might pan a certain way, and then it smoothly cuts to a different scene. While practical and well done, these are very jarring. Charlie Clouser’s score is one of the only consistently good things across all these movies alongside from Tobin Bell, it still adds a lot and is satisfying especially during the tense moments and the ending.

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Saw IV is yet another mixed bag of a Saw movie that gets worse the more I actually think about it. I liked Tobin Bell, the score, and the plotline with John Kramer’s past, but everything else felt flat. I actually do consider it to be worse than Saw III because it recycles stuff that has been done before, and more often than not was done better back then. If you liked Saw III and you’re up for more movies, then it might be worth checking out IV at least. Overall though, it just felt like more Saw for people who like Saw. While I didn’t dislike the movie, I hope it’s not just a series where each sequel is just a worse version of the last movie.

Saw III (2006) Review

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Saw 3

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young
Angus Macfadyen as Jeff Denlon
Bahar Soomekh as Lynn Denlon
Dina Meyer as Detective Allison Kerry
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) abducts a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) in order to keep himself alive while he watches his new apprentice (Shawnee Smith) put an unlucky citizen named Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) through a brutal test.

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Saw III is the last of the Saw movies I’m rewatching before I watch the rest of the series for the first time. From my last viewing, I remember this being just okay, though definitely steps below the previous two movies. However, that was a couple of years ago, so I thought I’d give it another go. My thoughts remain pretty much the same, it’s just okay at best.

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The writing is a very mixed bag. The first half does feel dragged quite a bit, but the movie does pick up as it goes along. Saw III doesn’t quite have the originality of the first two movies, and essentially is the same old story as before. It has two ongoing storylines, one is following a character named Jeff, who is put through a series of Jigsaw’s tests. The other is Jigsaw having his apprentice Amanda kidnap a doctor, and getting her to keep him alive for one more test. The Jeff storyline involves him wanting revenge on the people responsible for something that killed his son, and then finding those people caught in traps to test him. It certainly had potential and was more than just Jeff trying to survive traps. However, the execution of that storyline had much to be desired. I guess a large part is that the character of Jeff was quite annoying and hard to like, but everything else in that storyline still felt rather familiar. The doctor storyline with Jigsaw and Amanda was a little more interesting, I liked the dynamic between those three characters. Granted the other storyline not being that good certainly helped, but it really says something that the storyline that doesn’t involve traps is way better than the storyline that does (and in a Saw movie of all things). It’s also not trying really hard to shock you with the gore, and the one scene that is a bit gory is genuinely effective and one of the best scenes of the film.

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The theme of this movie is letting go and knowing what a life costs to you, and it really beats you over the head with that throughout. The thing is that this time, you aren’t really tense about the main characters actually potentially dying. It also doesn’t help that you don’t really like a lot of the characters, at the very least Jeff. As a result, it’s hard to be emotionally connected to the story, which is unfortunate considering that it is actually trying to actually add an emotional dimension to it. There are conversations of morality and it can feel a little self important and soap opera-esque at times, but I even enjoyed that. Saw III is a lot more crazy than the previous two movies, and it’s also a lot more far fetched and ridiculous with its plot. The plot is also more disjointed and unfocused, and the inconsistencies become more frequent and noticeable as the film progresses. The Saw series has been widely labelled torture porn, and I firmly say that the first two movies aren’t that. While I wouldn’t quite call Saw III torture porn, it is definitely leaning towards it with this instalment. This movie attempts to be more grisly and darker, however it still ends up being sillier. Saw III links its story to the first movie and the second movie, and while I liked seeing the connections, the timeline is a mess. I’m guessing that with the remaining movies in the series, they are only going to continue linking the entries together and make an even more confused timeline. There is a twist ending (unsurprising, it’s a Saw movie), I do like it, and there was more to it than I was expected. However I will note that it is such a downer ending, that it somehow ends up being cartoonish. The movie is an hour and 50 minutes long and that actually seemed a bit too long for the movie, especially with some of the dragging pace.

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Tobin Bell is great as Jigsaw as usual, even if for this movie he’s stuck on a bed for the entirety of it. Shawnee Smith also returns as Amanda, the former victim of Jigsaw turned apprentice. The mentor-mentee dynamic between the two characters keeps this movie interesting for the most part, even if Amanda seemed a little different compared to at the end of the last movie. The two main characters are Jeff and Lynn (the doctor). Jeff played by Angus Macfadyen is the protagonist and as stated earlier, he was rather annoying and hard to like, even with the basis of his character being him having a son who was killed and him wanting revenge. The performance is also a bit of a mixed bag. He’s my least favourite major character in the Saw movies so far. Lynn played by Bahar Soomekh wasn’t a particularly interesting character but she was alright, and was at least better than Jeff. The majority of the rest of the cast outside were rather bad.

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Saw III is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw II, and it’s generally directed the same way and is more of the same, albeit with some differences. For one, it definitely has an even larger budget compared to the past 2 movies, going from $1.2 million and $4 million to $10 million. Another difference is the level of gore. Saw II upped the gore over the first movie, however Saw III takes things to a whole new level with its reliance on it for shock effect. From the first scene of the movie, it’s pretty clear that it’s going for heightened brutality. Despite how over the top they are, the practical effects for the gore are actually very well done. There’s a lot of traps as to be expected, but they are even more elaborate and ridiculous than before. By this point you are probably wondering how they even come up with traps like these. They’re creative if nothing else. I do like the look of the movie, as well as the sets. The editing style carries over from the previous Saw movies, and it’s still bad. The thing is that you can probably tell that the first Saw was edited like that because of restrictions, including strict filming times, and the lower budget. The second Saw copied it unnecessarily, and now because of that, it’s seemingly become a staple of the Saw series since it re-appears in this movie. If you don’t know what I mean, during some more intense moments it gets really fast paced and flashy. There are fast montage cuts when a person is stuck in a trap, and there are dramatic cuts and white flashes when it goes into one of its many flashback sequences or reveals. It’s usually done in an attempt to make the scenes more tense but more often than not it’s kind of annoying. With that said, there are some moments which work, such as one scene involving brain surgery. One reoccurring Saw aspect is Charlie Clouser’s score, which is iconic and well fitting as usual.

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Saw III is worse than the previous two movies in the series, but I wouldn’t call it bad. There are some aspects of the story I liked, Tobin Bell as usual shines as Jigsaw, and some of the over the top moments including the gore and soap opera story are enjoyable. At the same time, the story is a mixed bag, and doesn’t feel particularly fresh compared to the other movies. I am aware that generally speaking, most people agree that the first Saw is regarded as the best of the series, the second and third are the next best, and the others are worse than those. Given how Saw III is, I don’t have a lot of faith in the remainder of the sequels.