This past Thursday, I went to the Century South Point to see a marathon of films from the Saw series, culminating in the new Saw V. The franchise is popular enough that I figured it wouldn’t be tough to find enough dedicated followers eager to sit through all five movies at once.
I was wrong. Arriving at the theater about 10 minutes before the 4:25 p.m. start time, I was greeted by manager Vanessa Padgett, who said she didn’t think they’d sold any tickets yet. She warned me that distributor Lionsgate hadn’t struck any new prints for this event, so the theater was using original prints that had traveled around the country many times, to drive-ins and discount theaters and anywhere else that showed the movies over the last few years.
Walking into the auditorium a few minutes before the first movie began, I noticed only a handful of people (nine, to be exact) waiting for the marathon to begin. No one was dressed up or quoting juicy lines from serial killer Jigsaw. Saw started, and although the print was scratchy in a few places, it generally looked fine. I remembered that although it’s not a good movie (the acting and dialogue are both atrocious), it’s actually sort of austere in its first 20 minutes, when it’s essentially a two-character drama in one closed room.
A few more people trickled in right before Saw II; one group of four swelled to about seven, although its members kept wandering in and out. One of them was quite pregnant, and I asked if she thought this extended exposure to scenes of grisly torture would have any effect on her unborn child. She said no; her own mother let her start watching horror movies at a young age, although those were of the vintage, more atmospheric variety. The Saw movies were the only modern horror she liked.
The low-rent nature of the endeavor shone through again as the print of Saw III had previews for two-year-old movies still appended to it, and the filmmaking quality dipped pretty precipitously as we moved on to Saw IV. The problem with the Saw franchise is that each new movie requires a rewrite of past events to shoehorn in new twists and surprises. It doesn’t help that the filmmakers killed off villain Jigsaw at the end of the third movie, and now have to find ways to fit him into flashbacks in order to maintain his presence.
The theater filled up for the finale, since regular ticket-buyers for the midnight show mixed with those of us who’d been there all day, but it didn’t feel like an event—just another night at the movies. After all that waiting, Saw V was boring and repetitive, not as awful as Saw IV but certainly not even in a league with the mediocre earlier films. I wandered out at nearly two in the morning disturbed less by the flood of graphic violence than by the steep descent into filmmaking ineptitude. Count me out for next year’s inevitable six-movie slog.