Suggested Audio Candy:
 The Dillinger Escape Plan “One of Us is The Killer”
 Charlie Clouser “Saw”
 Steelers Wheel “Stuck in The Middle With You”
 Levi Stubbs, Michelle Weeks, Tichina Arnold & Tisha Campbell-Martin “Suppertime”
 Charlie Clouser “Saw (Reprise)”
We all possess a killswitch but most of us will never be required to learn what triggers it. What lengths would one go to in order to survive with our backs against the wall? Would we retaliate final girl style or simply curl up in a ball and await the inevitable falling axe? None of us really know the answer unless we’re placed in such a situation but this is where inner strength often astonishes us. I often envisage such a quandary and ponder whether I’d actually have the cojones to snuff out another life, even in a kill or be killed scenario. No matter what response I give, the fact is that I don’t know what I’d do. Should a loved one be coming to harm then, no question, then I’d summon all my resolve to protect their honor. If it was just me at stake however, I cannot give a definitive response as I haven’t been placed in that precarious position and long may that continue.
This time out we’re going to take a look at self-preservation, instances where the tables are turned back on the antagonist, and all calls for inner-resolve are answered. Sometimes in horror this isn’t achievable, more mean-spirited works deny our heroine any kind of reprieve and we close with a complete wipeout. In slasher, a sub-genre littered with endless annual sequels, it’s par for the course that the villain comes a cropper as they will invariably be defibrillated and dusted down by the time next year’s festivities are upon us. They say you can’t keep a masked marauder down but it’s not for a lack of trying.
Jason Voorhees has a reasonably shameful track record for such a formidable foe. Every time he gets his ass handed to him in one way or the other and has been floored more over the years than a glass jawed boxer. That’s not to say his for-against ratio is poor, ordinarily he’ll take around a baker’s dozen with him before that one plucky virgin finds her mental testicles and sends him back whence he came. He didn’t taste defeat in the original but, in a cruel twist of fate, drowned of his own devices. One rubber ring round his gargantuan head would have prevented it all. Without it, he sank quicker than a grand piano on quicksand.
Regardless, it seemed only fair that those easily distracted teens bear the brunt, starting with Adrienne King. She took a blade to the Shirley Temple at the very start of Steve Miner’s sequel as Jason hit the ground running. Indeed, it took a plucky Amy Steele and Pamela’s decomposed head to halt him in his tracks and, one marvellously canny impression of mommy later, she earned herself final girl status. However, possibly the most bizarre manner in which Voorhees hit the skids was at the close of John Carl Buechler’s Friday The 13th Part VII: A New Blood. Any semblance of realism had long dissipated by this point, and it was only to get more ludicrous as it introduced Tina Shepard to the fray.
Tina had clearly spend her summer at Scanners school and, just like Creepy Carrie White, she was endowed with an exclusive ability to move objects at will. She leveled up after watching her mother perish and any previous spoon shifting shenanigans was replaced by bringing the entire building down around her aggressor’s ears. While up close and personal, Tina was weaker than a raft made up entirely of tissue, at range she was more potent than the scent of a snow leopard’s diarrhea. FX man Buechler ladled on the grue for the sixth sequel but, alas, the censors took exception to the extreme violence and neutered practically every dispatch in the process. Perhaps Tina’s telekinesis would have been better utilized against the MPAA.
Teenage tear away Corey Feldman proved he had the mettle during Joseph Zito’s The Final Chapter. He even shaved his bonce to say a big “fuck you” to all the other child actors posing little more than unwelcome distractions with their grating presence. Tommy Jarvis showed from the offset that he was to prove a constant thorn in Voorhees’ side, confusing the hell out of Jason as a different actor played him in every installment. When he was presented his opportune moment, Jarvis took it gladly. He didn’t simply drive that machete in, turn away, then drop it beside the fallen juggernaut’s cadaver, only to stroll away slowly. Nope, he kept on chopping…and chopping…and chopping until his aggressor resembled a plate of lean mince. Voorhees learned a valuable lesson that day, that being don’t fuck with a goonie.
You see, one needs their wits about them at all times when navigating the Camp Crystal/Manhattan/Outer Space assault course. The rule-set is quite clear on the don’ts; sexual arousal leads inevitably to an early bath, any outdoor types who wish to walk off their indigestion are mere cannon fodder, skinny dipping is punishable by death, the customary jokers in the pack are destined to have the joke placed on them, and absolutely anyone in possession of a penis is done for. Should your hymen be intact, your make-up sparse, or your look dowdy enough, then you qualify for a stab at final girl duties. Act at all slutty, however, and he can smell your sex like a sniffer dog in a crack house, and will soon rue your wayward sobriety.
Straying from Crystal Lake, and through the dense forestry to Camp Stonewater, old man Cropsy was busy pruning the numbers at summer camp. As we reached our conclusion in a dilapidated mine shaft, Cropsy had managed to remain ambiguous and fortunately the aroma of his charred flesh hadn’t given him away. However, he hadn’t figured on Alfred. The frail curly locked peeping dweeb of the piece gave the caretaker a right regal runaround before the climactic melee ensued. Unbeknownst to Cropsy, Alfred had been training the whole time, skulking around the girls’ shower cubicle to catch a heavenly glimpse of Sally’s pyramids. The little imp was rumbled on that occasion and hadn’t learned his lesson by the time his opposite number pinned him to the wall like the tail on a donkey, while he prepared his spit-roast.
Enter goody two shoes Todd who thoughtfully abandoned any attempts to finally slide his hand down fellow counselor Michelle’s blouse and galloped gallantly through the shrubbery to the boy’s aid. After a minor scuffle and strategically placed runaway mine cart, Cropsy finally conceded to the sharp edge of Todd’s chopper and took one in the brow. Meanwhile, Alfred was freed once more to go and sniff the panties of another group of menstrual co-eds while Todd ended up wanking himself to death in that old mine. Evidently, Michelle’s cherry is still in tact to this very day.
Jigsaw made a habit of pitting his victims against one another in a frantic race to the finishing line as many of his traps required a Herculean degree of kill or be killed to stand the vaguest chance of succumbing. Kevin Greutert’s solid sixth installment placed insurance executive William in the position of judge, jury, and executioner as six of his employees took a dubious ride on the shotgun carousel. Only two could survive in order for him to progress and some of them made his decision considerably easier. Actually, looking at the options, the entire right-hand column would be shit out of luck. However, if his quandary was comparatively mild, then David Hackl’s previous entry provided a far more heinous game of death.
Dishing pain on others to assure your own survival is one thing, but inflicting it on yourself is a totally different proposition. Two dithering dupes were caught up in a particularly grisly round of Pints of Sacrifice and it was requested they give up half of their blood supply each before their stringent fifteen-minute deadline. The human body consists of ten pints, making this strictly a tag team affair, and much of their time was spent bickering before they eventually began siphoning supplies. Fuck that for a game of toy soldiers, the prospect of feeding myself to a whirring blade just doesn’t bear thinking about. I would have koshed my team buddy over the head and offered them to the machine instead.
The Coffin Trap from the same film worked against Agent Straum in spectacular fashion as he believed he had gained the upper hand on Jigsaw’s apprentice by bundling him into a glass casket; only to offer his adversary a front row ticket as the walls came closing in around him. This devious scene called to mind the old trash compactor from Star Wars but this time Chewbacca wasn’t on-hand to save Straum’s hide as he was compressed like a gnat in a printer’s press, while his spectator smiled smugly from his secure vantage.
The Mausoleum Trap from Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw IV pitched two men against one other and it was a severe case of the blind leading the dumb as one had his eyes sewed shut, and the other, his mouth. To add a little urgency to their plight, they were both connected to a massive steel mechanism via chain shackles, and had to locate the key before being pulled limb from limb. This was a wonderfully ironic trap as only one of the men could even see the lock in question, making release a troublesome endeavor.
Marvin Kren’s installment for The ABCs of Death 2, R is for Roulette, did precisely what it stated on the tin as two guys and a girl were forced into firing blanks with gradually diminishing odds for survival whilst hiding away in a basement. What started as a 5 in 6 chance of beating the shrapnel ended up a 100% bona fide opportunity to blow away your cobwebs and the question was who would bite the bullet once push came to shove. This middling entry was a one time deal as its mild twist doesn’t hold up well to subsequent views. Russian Roulette always fascinated me since primary exposure to Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter but maybe it would have been more savvy to take a leaf out of Robert De Niro’s book and bag themselves a Nazi. Just saying.
The Final Destination series hardly fires my furnace although it scrapes by on some wonderfully inventive and typically herring strewn demises. However, for the purpose of this exercise, I believe it only right to take a look at Devon Sawa’s idle hands as the entire franchise could have been avoided with just a dash of forward thinking. As he took his seat on the France bound charter flight in James Wong’s original and prepared for his cross continental field trip, he was gifted with a premonition. Once the realization sank in that he wouldn’t ever see those air miles should he buckle up, Alex decided to cause a scene and promptly saw himself and a bunch of similarly ill-fated stragglers ejected from the jet. Maybe the words “there’s a bomb on the plane” would have been preferable to “I just dreamed you’re all gonna die horribly”. Again, just saying. Evidently, his fellow passengers didn’t ever reach the Eiffel Tower, while Alex enjoyed his view to a kill from the arrivals lounge. The word culpable springs to mind.
Tommy DeVito knew a thing or two about killing but, in Martin Scorsese’s dominant gangster lean, Goodfellas, he learned the true meaning of cause and effect as becoming a made man ultimately didn’t live up to its protective billing. If you ask me, he deserved his ceremonial slaughter for busting two caps in hapless skivvy Spider. One in the metatarsals was bad enough but, after Spider grew a pair and blatantly disregarded the fact that DeVito was a one man reckoning, there was one less arachnid in the world.
To make matters worse, the penny didn’t drop for Joe Pesci as he returned five years later to practically reprise his role, this time under the guise Nicky Santoro for Scorsese’s Casino and didn’t take the hint, despite the fact that De Niro was also on-hand as constant reminder to play nice. It wasn’t that Santoro didn’t interact well with the other children, but a bag of marbles would have been wiser than letting him loose on an industrial vice. This time his punishment was far less fleeting as he and baby brother Dominick were duped into a meeting at a Vegas cornfield and battered like a pair of haddock, before being shown to their shallow graves. Still, Pesci didn’t take the bait and, two years later, he was seen strolling around town with 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag. Some wise guys just never learn. Perhaps if Alex Browning had attempted to board that jetliner with the same hand luggage, he wouldn’t have the death of hundreds of frequent flyers on his conscience.
Mild mannered Seymour Krelborn would have benefitted from a change of vocation as he was made mother nature’s bitch as a result of his green fingers. Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors was open for business daily but the currency demanded by Audrey II was to the tune of a little harmless human sacrifice. I wonder what part of “I’m a lean green mutha from outer space” was so hard to grasp. Seymour wasn’t the sharpest hoe in the tool shed and one look at the plant’s geranium bearing hips should have seen him straight in the nearest benefits office but Rick Moranis had nothing if not a burly pair of Spaceballs and toughed it out until the weed killer kicked in.
Clive Barker’s Hellraiser placed Julia in a similarly portentous set of circumstances as her beloved Frank misplaced his epidermis after mistaking his Rubix Cube for a far more complex receptacle and releasing the cenobites. Frank had precious little reason to follow medical advice, thus continued with his twenty a day smoking habit, while his woman shook her tush in local bars and invited all manner of reprobates back for a quick hand job and breast fondle. It turned out that Frank was something of a voyeur as well as a home-wrecker as he sat there jerking his skinned gherkin and smoking a Marlboro while she did all the hard graft. Speaking of grafts, Frank soon began to return to factory settings, while his poor lover looked increasingly haggard. What a bastard.
That’s all the killing we’ve got time for kids. Right now I’m off to have some unprotected pre-marital sex, smoke some pot and investigate that strange rustling sound coming from behind those trees. Should it all be a cunning trap then fret not as I cut Jigsaw’s brake cables before his planned Sunday morning tricycle ride. Unlike Pesci, I have learned my lessons from horror and, should it all come down to kill or be killed, then I believe there is just enough space in that duffel bag for head number nine.
I still haven’t appraised a solitary Saw movie and there is a method to my madness. After a while they all bleed together and are best tackled one trap at a time than through way of Jigsaw marathon. I will say this however: seven entries in and the apple never strayed far from its tree and, for that, I offer a clutch of kudos. There were no duds and neither did it compromise its goals as each outing shoe-horned in progressively more sickening scenarios and upped the grue ante without question. Box office tills rang in unison and, despite the fact that none of the Saw films would make my all-time top fifty, all seven of them would feature in my top 500. While that may appear something of a back-handed compliment, I would remind you that I’ve watched a lot of horror. You have to give credit where it’s due and the whole torture porn thing had its run on account of James Wan’s resourceful original. Here are some other Saw highlights and it’s quite the roll call, let me tell you.