Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw VI (Part 1)

Previously on Saw V...


Oh alright, FINE, if you insist. Ultra-memorable and fleshed out hero Paul Strahm- no wait, Phillip? Patrick, it was Patrick right? Ah, PETER Strahm died in the garbage compactor from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Hoffman successfully framed him for being Jigsaw, while a bunch of nameless characters tried to recreate the plot from Saw II.

Like MANY people, Saw V was the final straw for me and I jumped ship. Saw VI limped into theaters greeted by sparse audiences, as this was the first movie in the series to not be a runaway success. Oh sure, it still made nearly $60 million dollars worldwide but this is nearly HALF of what the previous lowest grossing movie in the series (to no one's surprise, Saw V) made. There is no better example of what pissing off your audience can do than that.

You could see the writing was on the wall for the series at this point, as it was soundly beaten out of box office dollars by what you can easily call the next Saw-like phenomenon: Paranormal Activity, which was in its second week of release. Rest assured, the Paranormal Activity franchise is in my review stack because HOLY SHIT there is some stuff to say about that one.

Director David Hackl moved on from the series only after one film, Kevin Greutert brought in to replace him. Like Hackl, Greutert had worked on the previous films only he was an editor, so at least the tradition of “keeping it in the family” continued here. Although I wonder if that's a good thing, if all these people thought it was okay to release Saw V upon public audiences maybe this series could have used an outsider that knew nothing about the previous films? Let's see if we can't answer that question with A Ghoul Versus Saw VI!

Note: like all the Saw movies I've reviewed, this is for the Unrated version. With the exception of III I haven't bothered to point out the differences between these and the theatrical editions because the only different has been more blood and guts. However this one has some significant changes that I will be listing.

I sure hope this movie opens with someone in a trap that'll have nothing to do with the rest of the movie! So far so good, as we see a woman wake up in a chair with a lethal looking piece of machinery strapped around her head. In the next room over, separated by a mesh fence, is a man wearing a matching piece of headgear. She calls him Eddie, trying to talk to him when Billy butts in.

“Hello. I want to play a game. The devices on your heads are symbolic of the shackles that you place upon others. You recklessly loan people money, knowing their financial limitations, counting on repossessing more than they could ever pay back. You are predators, but today you become the prey. And it is your own pound of flesh that I demand. The scale before you is your only path to freedom.

“However, only one of you may pass and the toll is the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of flesh. Before you are the instruments to exact this flesh. Move with haste though, for when the 60-second timer hits zero the one who has given the most flesh will release their bindings while the gears on your opponent's head will engage, piercing their skull. Who will offer the most flesh in order to save their life? The choice is yours.”.

Oh come on, loan sharks? That's really the best they could do? Not killers or rapists, but predatory lenders? Rhaargh. The timer starts, Eddie grabbing a knife and cutting off one of his fat roles and yes that's as fucking disgusting as it sounds. Simone, the woman, begins sawing her arm off as I wonder what I'm doing with my life. Like I mock this, but I'm the one who paid money to watch it. Maybe that's the point of these movies, to make you realize you're wasting your life watching them and need to get your shit in order.  Simone places her severed arm on the scale between the two rooms, winning the contest and her life as Eddie's headgear activates and kills him. Roll title card.
After a strange shot of Cecil from Saw IV riding shotgun in a car with... AMANDA DRIVING?! Wait, what?!? Does that mean what I think it does? Was Amanda- ahh, let's hold off on that for now. The movie's just starting, let's not get bogged down with speculation just yet.  This scene was not shown in theaters, nor should it EVER have been. This basically gives away the movie's biggest plot twist if you've been paying attention to earlier films.

We find ourselves at the Umbrella Health Insurance Company, where we meet Senior Vice President William Easton, about as big of a smarmy douche bag imaginable. He is played by Canadian actor Peter Outerbridge, most a veteran of television shows, and here he looks SO MUCH like Gary Oldman's character Zorg from the Fifth Element that it gets fairly distracting at times. The whole scene establishes what a monster he is as he cancels the plan of a man dying from a heart condition, which is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. How come they've never done this earlier in the series?! Actually seeing the people pre-Jigsaw abduction so we just don't have to take Billy's word for how evil they were? You know, the whole “show, don't tell” thing I'm always ranting about? Way to earn a point early on, Saw VI.

Hoffman gets called to his latest crime scene, where he finds Erickson and the FBI have taken it over. Strahm's fingerprints are all over the place, which kind of makes me wonder about the continuity of everything going on here. This has take place maybe a couple of days tops after the last movie, so Hoffman had time to abduct two people and set all of this up that quick in addition to all the other stuff he had going on? Brother gets results!

Turns out Erickson has an ace in the hole though: Agent Perez is still alive! Dun dun duuuun! This surprises the hell out of Hoffman, which shouldn't be possible EVER but oh well, as Perez looks at him with a “cat who swallowed the canary” look. Now I'm going to stop here to ask a question: what could she POSSIBLY know about him? Her last words to Strahm were “Detective Hoffman”, but that makes zero sense as there's nothing we've seen that could have led to her suspecting him as the third accomplice.

We learn Strahm and Perez had investigated the five people from the last movie over their role in the fire, which only cements his guilt in Erickson's eyes. Hoffman fakes outrage over being kept in the dark about Perez, but Erickson mollifies him by offering full disclosure on the case. Hoffman readily accepts, whether he planned all this in advance being left up in the air.

Heading to the hospital to question Simone, Hoffman is accosted by a blonde reporter named Pamela Jenkins. Played by Samantha Lemole, she actually appeared in the last movie as one of the reporters at the press conference announcing Jigsaw's demise but had no lines. She's the Jigsaw expert, writing trashy story after trashy story about him. She asks if Hoffman knows about the box Jigsaw left to Jill Tuck, but he deflects the question. Jenkins wants an interview with Jill in exchange for toning down her stories, Hoffman patronizingly telling her he'll “see what he can do”.

Talking with Simone, Hoffman makes her talk about how it was her fault she was drawn into her trap, which is mind boggling stupid because he's doing it in a room FULL of cops. If anyone in the police force in the Saw universe had half a brain, they might start wondering why he's acting EXACTLY like Jigsaw here. When he asks if she learned anything from her actions, she starts screaming at him about what she was supposed to pick up from that rather grisly lesson. Disappointed, he leaves.

This brings up probably the biggest flaw in the entire series: what exactly is Jigsaw hoping to accomplish with his lessons? I know he's a psychopath that is justified in his own mind, but we also see he's very logical and analytical. The only person his tests have ever worked on was Amanda, and that's highly debatable as she was crazier than his dead ass. The textbook definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time, which is precisely what Jigsaw's been doing for six straight movies.

Shouldn't he be noticing this, even with his mental state? That none of his traps are working and everyone's dying, not learning any kind of lesson about life? And even if they DID survive, does he honestly believe they'll change their ways and become goodie two shoes? Wouldn't they, you know, want BLOODY REVENGE like any sane person put in such a situation would?

You ever see a little movie called Fight Club? If not, Brad Pitt's character attempted something similar in that movie, trying to force a man who was wasting his life in a dead end job to do something with his talents. He did this by holding a gun to the back of the man's head, telling him to pursue his dream and become something, threatening to come back in one year's time and shoot him if he hadn't. While still demented, this is WAY more an effective way to trying to change somebody in someone better than they are. No horrible physical deformation, no making them kill someone, just an effective means of making sure they'll play the twisted game.

We jump to Jill's lavish apartment where she's tearfully watching old home movies of her and John at her ultrasound. She opens the box and we finally get to see what's inside: six numbered envelopes and a seventh smaller one. She reads the contents of number six but conveniently away from the camera so we can't see what it says. Her phone rings but she doesn't answer it, Jenkins leaving a message wanting to meet with her. Jill opens envelope two, which contains a photograph of the intrepid reporter.

Down in the hospital morgue, the mortician shows Team Jigsaw his findings of Eddie's autopsy, namely the jigsaw-shaped piece of skin cut off him were done with a different knife than previous victims. Hoffman's all “big fucking deal, Strahm used a different knife than Jigsaw”, but Perez has matched the incision patterns to a previous victim: one Seth Baxter. Uh oh Perez, your intelligence is only gonna get you killed, better pick up that Idiot Ball in a hurry if you want a chance of making it to the next movie! Erickson says they never found a tape with Eddie so they're looking into Seth's tape to see if it was possibly made by a different person as well, if so they'll have enough evidence to conclude Strahm was the killer.

Jill arrives at her clinic to find Hoffman waiting for her, learning “the game” is going to begin tonight because someone knows about Jigsaw's box. I like they didn't even TRY to play this as a shocking reveal, because it was painfully obvious Jill was involved in all this nonsense. Telling her he's taking over all aspects of the game, Hoffman demands the numbered envelopes from her. The first envelope has a picture of Easton in it, the detective not knowing who he is.

This triggers a flashback of Jill talking to Jigsaw well after his turn into serial killing, her ex-husband making a case of how his way of “treating” people is superior to hers. To prove this he introduces Amanda, who was a former patient of hers. This film has been boring as hell so far, but hey, Shawnee Smith cameos tend to mitigate pretty much anything.

Easton runs afoul of Pig Mask, waking up in a crazy contraption with a breathing mask strapped to his face. Billy appears on the TV and- whoa, it's John Kramer this time! John's prerecorded message informs him he has an hour to complete four tests or else he'll go explodey. We cut to a woman named Tara waking up next to her panicked teenaged son Brent, finding themselves in a cage with a monitor right outside. The monitor shows Easton's plight, as he learns what his first test entails.

The lights come on in the room, showing an older man in an identical trap. In an odd change the theatrical cut shows a flashback establishing this man as a janitor working at Umbrella Health, whereas in the Unrated cut didn't so you'd have no idea who he was unless you were paying really close attention. Jigsaw explains their traps, which basically boils down to who can go the longest without breathing will win while the other will be crushed to death by clamps.
This is even stupider with the reveal the older man is a smoker, his crime continuing to smoke when he suffers from heart disease. ...really? I've previously questioned Jigsaw's criteria for what constitutes a crime, but this one takes the cake. If we don't get a litterbug put in some kind of ironic trap by the end of the series, I'm calling shenanigans.  The smoker loses, Easton released from his trap as his opponent is crushed to death. Tara and Brent watch this from their monitor as the son notices a trap in the corner of their cage: a giant vat of acid hooked to a level that says “live or die”. He wants to pull it but Tara isn't so sure because of the ticking timer. We can see Hoffman watching them from a two-way mirror, looking at their pictures from his envelope.

Click here for Part 2!