It can be sawed again: The controversial torture cult “Saw” is entering a new round. This time too, weaknesses and strengths of the series come to light.
[Berlin -] If a film character has to decide whether he prefers to give up his tongue or let himself be crushed by a subway: Then it can only be a new (the ninth now launched) part of the “Saw” series. The series, which started in 2004, is controversial, but commercially very successful.
She tells of a killer named Jigsaw. Again and again he designs torture machines with which selected people are “tested”. It’s about the not exactly small question: live or die? About how great the survival instinct of the tested actually is.
With a filming time of less than three weeks and a rumored budget of just over a million, the first “Saw” alone was able to bring in over 100 million dollars worldwide. The strip, released from the age of 18, was a highly ambivalent experience, stressful for even the toughest horror fans.
What was also shown in the reception: The renowned US critic Roger Ebert stated that “Saw” is an efficiently made thriller, but “after all, it is not worth the ordeal that it makes us go through”. The German film magazine “Cinema” judged: “Macabre rejuvenation for the serial killer cinema”.
Around the year of publication of the first “Saw”, the label “Torture Porn” (for example: Torture Porn) made the rounds: A drawer that was also used for other films such as “Hostel” and a mostly critical description of the supposed fact that films like “ Saw “is about nothing more than the senseless excitement of explicit screen violence.
The “Lexicon of International Film” found clear words for the third part: “Disgusting violence and disgusting film …”. The criticism did not diminish the success: “Saw 3” (2006) flushed over 160 million dollars into the coffers worldwide.
The focus of the new, ninth “Saw” is now a policeman named Zeke Banks, embodied by Chris Rock (“Grownups”), who is burdened with all the corrupt machinations of his colleagues. The fact that his father, played by Samuel L. Jackson, plays an important role, doesn’t make things any easier for Zeke.
In addition, there is a mysterious series of murders that one law enforcement officer after the other falls victim to. It’s up to Zeke to solve the riddle. The colleague who is at his side is still quite inexperienced. But for the victims who are bestially tormented, it is said again and again: “Live or die, the choice is yours!”.
It is unclear who is behind the orgies of torture and revenge. The mastermind, however, is an extremely cunning imitator of Jigsaw (he had died in part 3 of the series).
Good horror strips point beyond themselves, point beyond what is shown on the screen. Think of a classic like “Night Of The Living Dead” from 1968 (director: George A. Romero). The zombie slaughter shown there contains allusions to the Vietnam War, the racism of the time.
The recently launched “Saw” (whose crude story, you know it from its predecessors, is not always convinced) makes you think of the racism and police debates of the present day in more than one place: That several main characters are black (in the horror genre still always not a matter of course), plays just as important a role as criticism of a police apparatus riddled with corruption and violence.
What distinguishes the “Saw” series above all, and probably accounts for a large part of its appeal, is the ingenuity with which the filmmakers (Darren Lynn Bousman is directing the current film) come up with new ideas over and over again.
Even in horrible moments, the new “Saw” succeeds in pointing beyond what has been shown: One has to think, for example, of politicians who are stuck in decision-making dilemmas and all too often faced with the choice between plague and cholera. And so it is precisely the bloodiest moments in which this rightly controversial series sometimes succeeds in hinting at something like its philanthropic core.
Saw: Spiral, USA 2021, 93 min, FSK from 18, by Darren Lynn Bousman, with Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella [dpa]