Thursday, November 3, 2011

Saw Factor

Loyal readers might remember last month’s ill-fated tour into reality TV horror. Safety In Numbers proved to be a slow-moving, poorly made, and incredibly forgettable (so much so that I just stared at my ceiling for two minutes before the title came back to me) attempt to exploit the popularity of Survivor and murder. At the end of its painful barely 80 minute run, I was the one exploited.
Are You Scared* is a slicker take on the game show gorefest, mostly because it combines its simple young-people-hungry-for-15-minute-fame trope with the even simpler let’s-rip-off-everything-Saw-did-with-a-more-attractive-cast trick. Costas Mandylor, start oiling your killing apparatus.
Quick Plot: A pretty young barefoot blond wanders around a dank, broken glass-filled warehouse as her industrial choker flashes like an angry Christmas tree. A gravelly Tobin Bell mysterious stranger instructs her to dip her face in a vat of acid in order to survive “the game.” She does.

Credits! The mere fact that they exist gives us some assurance that we’re not actually watching Saw 8. I’m not saying that’s a good thing--as you know, I rather enjoy watching mentally challenged law enforcement get bamboozled by a smirking Costas Mandylor--but the confusion is natural so good on Are You Scared for trying at least once to differenciate itself from its source material.
Post credits, we get introduced to a hot-headed detective less charming than Donnie Walberg and the criminal psychologist who wasn’t in Starship Troopers so why should I really care? But they kinda do, mostly about this murderer who’s been luring TV-ready faces to terrible deaths that are then broadcast online. I KNOW. It’s positively revolutionary.
Oh wait. No it's not.
Hold onto your seats folks, because things are about to get WILDLY innovative. Our REAL main cast appears, and it’s composed of six attractive twentysomethings that pretty much follow Every Movie You’ve Ever Seen. Observe:
-The Black Guy, whose last memory is smoking a blunt
-The Stoner Dude, who likes to insist the women enter dark rooms first
-The Mousy Girl, who squeaks

-The Blond Brother/Sister Superteam, he of pompousness, she of unhealthy codependence
-The Other Brunette, who has a gender neutral name and sensible wardrobe and who therefore must be our final girl.
What do they have in common aside from good looks and a shared Chinese horoscope? The fact that all once submitted an audition video for Are You Scared, a reality show that pits pretty people against their biggest fears. Oh, and apparently generally ends in the brutal murder of its contestants.
I’ll admit that I got a tad confused by this plot point. While the master villain’s backstory is eventually revealed (hilariously), the television aspect remained murky. Is there a real Are You Scared that doesn’t end in mass homicide? If not, why the hell would you send in an audition tape? I get that fame is a tempting siren, but the end result of every segment of this ‘show’ is that you get your face melted off, body exploded, head drilled in, or shot up by shotguns. At least The Running Man had a prize. 

Then again, I watch America's Next Top Model, where women get into rioting fistfights in order to wear slabs of meat or do fashion shows in Glinda bubbles, so what do I know?
Anyway, as you expect because you’ve seen Saw II, the cast is knocked off one by one until only the obvious remains. The third act involves a Popcorn-ish reveal that...well, whatever. By that point, I was just hoping to see a last minute cameo by Costas Mandylor or at the very least, whatever the poor man’s Costas Mandylor next-best-thing is.

And now I’m left wondering...
High Points
For the first few kills, I was thankful that one of the few things Are You Scared DIDN’T swipe from Saw was the shrill and fast-paced editing that gets progressively more video game headache-making with every kill...

Low Points
...and then someone remembered that THAT’S how the Saw movies stage death scenes, so the screaming! cut! screaming! camera spin (when able)! scream! ticking clock! SCREAM! Cut! Cut! Scream! Cut! Scream! Music go louder! Cut! Scream! rhythm finally kicked in CUT SCREAM!

Lessons Learned
Breaking an entering is called “breaking an entering” (in case you didn’t know)
The typical uniform for a S.W.A.T. team member involves a comfortably loose-fitting t-shirt
A criminal profiler is also known as a ‘head shrinker,’ particular to prickly detectives who DIDN’T ASK FOR THEIR HELP

Drinking Game
You know I always like to aide and abet your alcoholism whenever possible in a creative way. Hence, watching all 80 minutes of Are You Scared can take you to that special blackout place quite easily. Simply take a sip/shot/injection whenever the film blatantly pulls a trick honed by the Saw series. You don’t really need my help on this, but here are a few examples:
-the appearance of a vat of acid
-a character wearing an industrial Rube Goldbergian choker
-the appearance of a surly detective

-the appearance of a S.W.A.T. team entering a cagey warehouse
-a character wearing an industrial Rube Goldbergian choker

-a character being shown an x-ray of his stomach which includes the key to bomb that will kill him in one minute
-two characters forced to choose their own lives or the person they care about
-a character wearing an industrial Rube Goldbergian choker

-a deep-voiced villain asking if his soon-to-be victims want to play a game
-a character wearing an industrial Rube Goldbergian choker

Call To Arms
In Japan, the film’s title translates to Jigsaw: Game of Death. As I tried to urge the producers of Survivor with my review of the far worse Safety In Numbers, Lions Gate: call your lawyer**
I’m being hard on Are You Scared because it’s a terrible movie, but in fairness, it’s far better than a lot of other Instant Watch horror picks. It’s practically The Shining in comparison to Safety In Numbers, and it didn’t make me want to hurt flowers in quite the same way as Nine Dead. Still, it’s a blatant ripoff with little to now charm, so your decision to watch it should lay purely in your taste for watching bland people die horrible deaths or just how much you need a Saw-esque drinking game to enjoy your evening. Personally, I’d rather follow Costas Mandylor’s battles with Hyenas, but the world is filled with choices and that my friends, is a beautiful thing.

*Nope, the lack of a question mark is not the fault of my lazy typing fingers. The movie doesn’t have one. Make of that what you will.

**Ever have a sudden vision of how a company REALLY runs? Just typing the words Lions Gate lawyer made me imagine a dark Jigsaw lair-ish dungeon where a bunch of expensive suit-wearing yuppies are kept in rusted metal restraints until they are activated to make/save the production company a few million or be forced a game.


  1. I fell asleep on this movie. I think I said to myself, 'This is Saw,' and immediately lost consciousness. I suppose some part of me wanted to save the 80 minutes of my life and pass. But attempting this whole watch movies I haven't seen a thousand times before to give others a fair shake.

    I think I made it maybe 30 minutes in. There's a certain kind of terrible I can process. Like Nine Dead. Which to me I guess wasn't too shitty.

  2. This was Saw, until a certain point when it became Popcorn without the fun movie references or Jamaican music. Ah well.

    You didn't hate Nine Dead? Really? I found it hilarious, but also painful. And this is ME we're talking about!

  3. There is a high puppet pic content in this review. Great work.

    I think i can safely avoid this one.

  4. Thanks TD! I wasn't even thinking about it, but it really does work. Especially since Costas Mandylor is so much more thing than human being anyway!

  5. Oh Emily, of course this isn't Saw 8, Saw 8 is the one where Jigsaw will take Manhattan-painting the town red with acid and bear traps!
    I want to see that movie about as much as I want to see a thirtheenth Friday the 13th movie! And a proper one at that, not just another platinum dunes remake-sequel. Finally Jason Voorhees wll get his time in the sun! I wonder what he'd do for his 13th movie-actually go to NY?, Try for a rematch Mortal Kombat style against the psychic girl?, Clean up, get a job and finally be a respected administrator in a successful business corporation? These questions need to be answered, STAT!

    Oh,'s November the 6th and I still haven't posted my last Halloween review...though at least I have the excuse of having had a dead internet connection for a few days...

  6. Man, I HOPE Jigsaw takes Manhattan soon! Especially a clean post-Guiliani NY because that somehow would make it even more hilarious. Would love to see a series of traps set in big chain restaurants, preferably ones that involve deep fryers or unlimited breadsticks.

    And funny, I was just talking about the future of Freddy Krueger and how I don't see any studio doing anything with the material for a few years. Jason is a little looser. I HATED the remake, but it didn't really affect anything in the world and I *think* did financially okay, so I could totally see someone (ay, Platinum Dunes) randomly deciding to do another. I WISH they'd call it part 13, but my doubts of such are high. About as high as the chance that Jason will begin part 13 with an existential crisis or cubicle monkey day job.

    I love when dead Internet connections can be spun into good things.