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Non-Review Review: Spiral – From the Book of Saw

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is an interesting, if dysfunctional, franchise extension.

The obvious point of contrast is something like Jigsaw, the last attempt to restart the Saw franchise. Jigsaw was released in 2017, two years after Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, and it bet big on a particular kind of nostalgia. It was a film that consciously aspired to evoke the memory of the Saw franchise among an audience that had probably seen an entry or two in the franchise a decade earlier and had vague memories of the experience.

Rocking the boat.

Jigsaw offered a much more polished take on the Saw template, eschewing the grimy green and grey aesthetic of the previous seven films in favour of a crisp sheen. Still, the film worked very hard to demonstrate its affection and veneration for the source material, even while offering superficial updates like moving the action into the countryside and swapping blades for lasers. The company logos at the start of Jigsaw appeared over a remix of Hello Zepp. Billy the Puppet got a makeover. Tobin Bell got considerable screentime as John Kramer, and the film tied itself to his back story and history.

Spiral takes a very different approach to its nostalgia. The film is the first in the series not to feature the character of John Kramer. Billy the Puppet has also been retired. While a variation on Hello Zepp does eventually play, Spiral holds it back and makes the audience wait for the pay-off. Spiral is very much part of the larger Saw franchise, and contains the requisite death traps and even brings back director Darren Lynn Bousman, but it feels like a consciously pared down and “back to basics” approach to the franchise that strips out a lot of the clutter that has accrued over the franchise’s long life span.

Bloody horrific.

This is most notable with the film’s sharp genre shift. While all of the earlier Saw movies had some procedural element that followed law enforcement’s efforts to track down and stop the serial killer, Spiral centres this thread. Spiral is arguably a forensic thriller with gory elements, rather than a gory horror with a dash of forensic thriller for flavour. It’s a clear attempt at a fresh start, with Spiral even relegating the Saw brand to the subtitle while leaning more heavily on the spiral and pig imagery that was largely secondary in the original franchise.

The result is fascinating, even if it doesn’t quite work. Spiral is arguably a “back to basics” take on the Saw franchise, going so back to basics that it draws more heavily from the serial killer thrillers that originally inspired Saw than it does from the Saw movies themselves.

 

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New Escapist Column! On How the “Saw” Franchise Has Always Played With Its Audience…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Spiral: From the Book of Saw this weekend, it seemed like a good excuse to take a look back at the larger Saw franchise.

For good and for ill, the Saw movies are inexorably tied to the George W. Bush era, with their meditations on torture and their emphasis on moral hypocrisy. However, discussions of the franchise tend to overlook the way in which the films intersect with another millennial trend: reality television. The Saw franchise is the rare horror movie franchise that is actively engaged with the idea of watching horror movies. In particular, in the relationship that exists between horror movies and their audiences – and whether those watching at home are observers or participants in the carnage.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

173. I Know Who Killed Me (-#75)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with guest Cian Sullivan from the Selected and Sissy That Pod, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Chris Sivertson‘s I Know Who Killed Me.

Aubrey Fleming is a talented student, piano player and writer from the upper class surroundings of New Salem. She has lived a sheltered life, but this changes dramatically as a serial killer stalks the community. Disappearing after a football game, Aubrey is found dismembered but alive in a ditch. Rushed to hospital, she eventually regains consciousness. There’s just one complication. She claims to be Dakota, a stripper who has lived a much crueler life than Aubrey ever knew.

At time of recording, it was ranked 75th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Saw Franchise Dies a Painful Death…

What makes this particular painful about this story is that they’ve caused all the fuss over director Kevin Greutert over what is essentially a lame duck film. You could make the case that the writing’s been on the wall for the Saw franchise since the second movie which began a steep decline into ridiculous torture porn (so I enjoyed the first one, so sue me) or even since the last one which underperformed financially. Which is tough to do on a film that has a budget of your average 1970s Doctor Who serial, to be frank. Anyway, despite the seemingly large investment that making Saw VII in 3D would seem to represent (even crappy 3D ain’t cheap), it looks like Lionsgate are calling it a day. Saw VII will be the last of the franchise.

Brace (geddit?) yourself...

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Try Harder, Von Trier

Okay, I get it. We’re sick. We need help. We’re a culture obsessed with violence and pain and suffering. I miss the days when the gory slasher (or torture porn or gorn, depending on your preference) was solely the affairs of one-week-wonders produced on shoestrings and making a bit of money for studios to pump into other projects. However, with the autuer circuit’s growing fascination with paracinema (making the low brow high brow), it seems that these disturbing little films have become an arthouse favourite. Lars Von Trier’s effort at Cannes with Antichrist seems to have shown that critics are growing tired of it, but what on earth convinced artsy directors that this was a good genre to tackle?

This is another sort of gorn. It is also the only worksafe image we have on the topic.

This is another sort of gorn. It is also the only worksafe image we have on the topic.

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