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A few review-ish type things

October 24, 2009

It being Halloween time, horror movies seem to be en vogue.  That and my wife loves horror movies.  Not me.

I did love the first Saw movie.  Brilliant, people fighting for their lives in Jigsaw’s twisted games.  Then they made another.  And another.  Now the well is dry so they send the bucket down and pull up the mud, bottle it, and sell it like it’s going to satisfy thirst the way the well did in the beginning.

Yes, I saw Saw VI yesterday.  It wasn’t a terrible movie in and of itself until you look at the characters.  To be fair to the writers, some of it was the acting, particularly the brooding, mouth-breathing replacement for the series’ long deceased killer (Costas Mandylor).  To be fair to the actors, some of it was the writing.  There are still clever ideas in the script, but more of them are simply brutal and sadistic.  The last minute or so — involving the new killer — is fairly clever and sets them up to do something different with the next film.  Will they?  Who knows.

I am mainly disappointed withhow far the movie has diverted from its original warped morality.  For instance, there is a part of the movie where a man must choose which two out of six employees will live.  Another where he picks one of two to live.  In the first movie, everyone was supposed to have a chance and they were responsible for their own survival.  More and more, the Saw franchise has gotten away from this.  Twisted morality was what made the first film such a viral success.  With the morality lessened, it’s just twisted.  What’s unique about that?

The style and composition of the movie are also very different in ways that lessen my enjoyment.  If I ever sit through the film again (not likely), it will be to tally the number of flashbacks.  Most are flashes to previous movies.  It has become a soap opera, not a film.  The attempts do not make this movie a stand-alone film.  You have to have seen the others — all of the others, by my calculation — to appreciate what’s happening in the plot.  What’s more, some of the flashbacks actually weaken the morality of prior movies.  I understand a movie based on a dead character’s ideas is going to have flashbacks.  A house with cats will have a litterbox, too, but that doesn’t mean it has to reek  of urine.  It was exhausting to try to keep up with the twists and turns and doubletalk.  Just rip someone’s head apart and get it over with.

In summary, I didn’t like it.  (Did you get that?)  Not the worst film I’ve seen this year, but in the lowest quartile.  C-.  It was good enough that I didn’t feel like I flushed my money away, but bad enough that I wonder which doors in that hallway would have been better investments.

While I’m at it, I’ve been reading WotF XXV (lots of Roman numerals today).  Only three stories so far: Jordan Lapp’s “After the final Sunset, Again”, Emery Huang’s “Gardens of Tian Zi”, and Gra Linnaea’s “Life in Steam”, those being the three that really leapt out at me based on outside experience.  Jordan’s a friend, Emery is a message board acquaintance, and Gra is…out there somewhere, so these will not be scathing reviews.  They wouldn’t be anyway since all three stories were quite good.

The question that most entertains me is “which of the three was the best?”  It should be an obvious answer since Emery won the Gold Award, Jordan’s story placed first, and Gra’s was a third place finisher. Apparently that means nothing.  I found “Garden of Tian Zi” a bit derivative with the secret society man with super-speed and super-strength…  Still, the setting and backstory and such were quite unique (frogs for computers?) and interesting.  But it didn’t scream cream-of-the crop to me.  “After the Final Sunset, Again” was more out of left field (where all great ideas come from) and had me revetted through the first two-thirds.  The Phoenix idea was inspired and the Phoenix charactyer was breathtaking.  The ending blindsided me and left me staggering, muttering “what?”  I think I needed just a touch more twist to it resonate in my palate.  Nonetheless, a great story.  As for “Life in Steam”, I was thrown by the ancient-theory-as-science in the beginning, but I suspect that’s a favorite steampunk ploy, reminiscent of Moorcock.  Once I got into things and met Wood, I was swept away bby the storytelling.  A bit more poetic than I’m used to.  On the downside, the protagonist made the rest of the story almost moot since it was obvious where this was going; I feel like there might have been more interesting ways to get there.

All three stories were fantastic, but none flawless.  (When’s the last time you read a flawless story?  Really?)  Their quality gives me great hope for the rest of the volume.  I intend to select my own “Gold Award” (Bear Claw Award?) winner (not that they’ll get anything but some comments here) and I’ll be surprised if it ends up being any of these three.  I think a strong, surprising ending is what I look for most in a story (probably because endings give me so much trouble), and I didn’t feel like any of these endings wowed me enough.  But who knows.  Congratulations to all three writers on their excellent stories; I expect great things from all three careers to come.


One Comment leave one →
  1. April 25, 2010 12:57 am

    I’d have to say that the story that really stands out to me as “great” is “Gone Black” by Matthew S. Rotundo. Great, great writing; particularly for a first major publication (I’m guessing here). I enjoyed Garden of Tian Zi a great deal as well, but I felt that the story that most intensely held my interest was “Gray Queen Homecoming.” It had a certain coldness to it, a PhilDickian quality that is a mixture of unabashed strangeness and clever philosophical undertones.

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