It's Halloween time, and I want to be frightened. I want my blood to run cold from dreadful rushes of adrenaline; I want to listen to the wind howl in the dead of night as stark images from a horror movie keep me awake. True, I am a mental maschochist, an admirer of the boogeyman who has never caught me...yet. Yes, there is obviously something twisted and wrong with me, even though I'm fundamentally a decent person. I am a scary movie fan, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
That's why I took a break from all the TV Halloween Horror flick marathons (of which there are woefully few) and went to see SAW II a couple of hours ago. First, let me get this out of the way: which one is better--the original SAW or this sequel? IMHO, it's the original, even though the initial SAW is notorious for having its share of problems (just look at any review on www.rottentomatoes.com). And it's hard to say I "liked" either one of these movies. I'm just looking at them from a point of effectiveness--did they scare me or not? Well, let me tell you what kind of movie scares me: something that messes with my mind until I wake up in a cold sweat. Something that drags a feeling of dread through its plot and over my nerves so slowly that I have to watch most of the movie through my fingers. Something that makes me anxious about seeing the face of the killer--a horror almost as awful as looking evil itself in the eye. Movies that do this for me: DON'T LOOK NOW (the build up...that ending), JAWS (talk about hearing your own heart beating in your ears as the clang of a bell and the lap of soft waves marks every second to a victim's death), PSYCHO (the lunatic, wide-eyed glee of Norman Bates as he charges through the cellar door, knife raised and music shrieking), and SESSION 9 (you can feel the awfulness in every echo off the abandoned asylum's walls in this movie, and the worst part comes with the utlimate human tragedy). Truthfully, neither SAW movie even comes close to my favorites, but I did think the first movie had a truly terrifying set up and tenor. I mean, my God, remember that dungeon/bathroom/whatever-the-devil-it-was where the victims were being held prisoner? I walked out of that movie feeling grimy and disgusting. And the end was a corker--a hell of a twist. This movie could head up a genre called Grislygrunge. I think the term (not unlike "Splatterpunk") speaks for itself and clearly tells you what you're in for with the SAW franchise. (And, just for tangent's sake, let me tell you that I'm really looking forward to HOSTEL, another grungy horror movie that was previewed before SAW. Also, FEAST. Bring 'em!)
But I'm talking about SAW II now. There's actually not a whole lot to say. I wasn't scared, yet I was pretty grossed out--and I think that was the intention. SAW II doesn't disappoint if you're there to see inventive killing. Also, there was some taut action going on with the cat-and-mouse games between Jigsaw (the serial killer) and the cop he's tangling with. Still, I started daydreaming about an hour into the film, which is never a good sign, even though the end shook me out of thoughts of grocery lists and things-to-do-when-I-get-home pretty thorougly. Yeah, the finale was all right, but not even close to the first SAW's concluding slap on the butt. Do I recommend this? I guess so, but only because it's Halloween and it's really the only movie out that fills the terror niche for this weekend. Any other time, I'd say stay home.