Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What I Saw and when I Saw it

A few months ago a couple of local boys, 14 and 15 years old, talked on the phone. The 14 year old's mom listened in on an extension as the boys discussed a plot to kidnap, torture and kill some people they knew. The mom was alarmed enough to notify police, and the boys were arrested.

The teens allegedly told police they wanted to emulate the Saw movies, make a name for themselves.

Not so long ago a judge released the 15 year old. The lawyer for the 14 year old said the conversation was just goofing off between friends, that they had no way to actually commit the crimes they were discussing, or to lure anyone to a spot in which to kill them.

The mom who turned in her son and his friend said her son is a troubled kid who has had problems before. Who'd know better than the kid's mom? No one seems to be taking any chances and he's still in juvie.

After this story broke I was curious about the Saw movies. I had never seen them but I'd heard some things about them...things that made me not want to see them. This past Sunday afternoon the Sci-Fi Channel showed Saw and Saw II. Fearnet has Saw III on the Comcast On Demand menu. I decided to satisfy my curiosity about their Columbine-style effect on the two teenage boys. I'd watch as much of the movies as I thought I could stand. I watched both Saw movies on Sci-Fi. I believe they were edited in the goriest spots ( a notice at the first of the movie said it was "edited for time and for content"). I turned off Fearnet's Saw III, which apparently was not edited for content, after 15 minutes. Too much sadism, too much gore.

Saw has a plot, outrageous though it is. There is a story, there is a mystery that kept me guessing. When it was over I didn't feel elevated in any way. Saw II is worse, and the third picture is even gorier. I understand from reviews that Saw IV is gorier still and that appears to be the fate of Saw V.

It's the way of Hollywood to take something successful, even something abhorrent like Saw, and then remake it endlessly in its search for profits, pandering to the lowest common denominator of customers. Just think: they made so many Friday the 13th movies they stopped numbering them, just remade the first one as Friday the 13th, proof that there aren't any new ideas.*

So back to the boys on the phone. In the Saw movies the murder plots were completely contrived and unrealistic. They looked expensive to produce and if it were real life there'd be no guarantee any of them would work. The killer knows a lot about his victims and where does he get his information? We're left with an almost supernatural sense of evil power, but the killer in the first movies, played by Tobin Bell, is dying of a brain tumor. His murders are so overproduced you have to wonder how he--even with a female accomplice--has the time, money or strength to get them ready. How in the hell would the boys have gotten away with even the most rudimentary plot against their classmates? But that's not what law enforcement thinks. The boys think, therefore they are.

As hard as it is to think of kids plotting murder, they hadn't done anything. They had watched a movie that fired their morbid imaginations. They were two kids talking on a telephone, two immature minds regurgitating the tortures and plots of horror movies they're actually too young to see without adult accompaniment, fantasizing.

We're been taken over by brain police, who not only punish us for deeds but for thoughts and, despite the right of free speech, for what we say.

In good conscience I can't recommend that anyone without the maturity to handle them watch the Saw movies. And if you're mature enough to handle the movies you probably aren't interested anyway.

*CBS TV's Harper's Island is a Friday the !3th styled story, also an Agatha Christie ...And Then There Were None mystery, but at least they don't dwell morbidly on the murders and the sadism, which propels the Saw movies.

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