I went to see a franchise horror movie hoping for mind-emptying mayhem. What I got was a shoddy dig at US domestic politicsby Mark Cousins / November 18, 2009 / Leave a comment
Saw VI: an unfortunate attempt at social commentary
It’s Sunday. When I woke this morning it was pouring with rain and I was exhausted. I have been in Iraq, then chained to an edit suite for a month. I felt like going to the cinema but I wanted the “empty” experience of sitting in the dark and watching something without the challenge of themes or character. I scanned the listings. An Education, based on Lynn Barber’s book? Not empty enough. A season of African films? I’ve done too much discovery and travel recently. And then I spotted it: Saw VI. I’ve seen none of the previous five films in this Hollywood horror franchise but, despite its reputation as “torture porn,” I reckoned it was bound to have long run out of ideas. As ideas were what I was avoiding, this was the film for me.
There were just three of us in the 11am screening, all blokes, all wearing hoodies. In the first scene, two people are bolted into a machine that will kill the one that cuts off the least of their own flesh. Pure hokum. Except both are pre-crash sub-prime mortgage vendors. Hold on a minute, that’s more zeitgeisty and interesting than I wanted. The scene ends. They’re suitably dismembered. But then the main character enters the story and—please, no—he’s a health insurance meanie who refuses to pay out to patients, citing clauses in the fine print. The über-baddie of the series—the serial killer John/Jigsaw—was a customer of his and got cancer, but the meanie again wouldn’t pay for treatment. John says: “In Asia they pay the doctor when they are well, but not when they’re sick. They pay for what they want, not what they get.” I knew what I wanted: my money back. Social commentary in the Saw movies? The Roger Corman B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s smuggled politics into their plots as do Egyptian and Indian musicals, but the biggest horror-movie cash cow of the Bush era?
As I watched, fully intending not to think, I had five thoughts about cinema today. First, if I imagined I’d bought a ticket for a ride in the mainstream, I was wrong. Horror fiction has never been aerodynamic enough for the mainstream’s uneddied currents, its ideological comforts, its libidinal ease. Rom-coms are now where the greatest unthinking happens.
My second thought was about Lionsgate,…