Saw 7

Every beginning must have an end and so it is with the Saw series.  Supposedly the ‘final chapter’, hopefully Saw 7 doesn’t make a mockery of this promise as others have.  Going all out in upping the terror, it puts all of the pieces of its own jigsaw together to create a horrific portrait.  With 3-D helping it along, it goes out with a savage flourish that would have met with its lead villain’s sinister approval.

After years of mentally and physically torturing his victims, Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) diseased tenure appears at an end.  With his black widow Jill (Betsy Russell) and crooked detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) fighting for his legacy, his satanic grip on power slowly slips.  Like any wicked genius, he has one last trap in store.  With the survivors of his previous ghoulish games banding together to crush his acolytes, Jigsaw gives friends and enemies alike a final endurance test where the final trap is usually the deadliest.

If there was ever a star over the entire series it would have to be the special effects.  Given a bigger budget, the team responsible for making scenes of horror uncomfortably realistic certainly put it to good use.  Coupled with that unsightly effectiveness is a script giving answers long-time fans have been expecting.  That’s what made the franchise so potent even during its worst hours – its ability to maintain a consistency to its mythology whilst moving the story in fresh directions.

Although suffering from mediocre 3-D work and occasionally dud acting, Saw 7 gains interest when focusing on its established characters.  When the survivors group together and discuss how their experiences have changed them, it actually becomes almost compelling – a mood missing from most recent horror films.  It’s saying something that this strand plus some genuine surprises makes this one of the franchise’s better entries with its R rating well deserved. 

As the red curtain descends on the series for the last time, it can’t be said it’s been a ‘pleasure’ viewing it.  Some may be sad it’s over, although Saw 7 gives an appropriate coda to a hugely successful series which should live on in dubious memories – at least until its next instalment.

Rating out of 10:  6

The Social Network

Seeing David Fincher’s name attached as director of The Social Network initially appears perplexing.  Known for producing works exploring the darkest facets of human nature, its story of a computer billionaire sounds less than riveting.  Being the analytical type, he digs under this superficial facade to unearth a tale just as black as his previous endeavours.   His unique perspective brings a hard edge as it underscores the motif of the noblest of intentions having less than stellar beginnings.

In 2003, Harvard college student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) decides to wreak revenge on an ex-girlfriend.  A computer whiz, he designs a website devoted to belittling her throughout the campus.  Becoming a sensation, his efforts attract the attention of others who ask him to create a social interaction site for the college.  Naming it ‘Facebook’, his concept puts him in touch with Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).  Seeing his cyber-space construct become a powerful phenomenon, Mark’s ambitions are sorely tested under the weight of lawsuits, lies and insurmountable egos.

It’s fascinating in the way Fincher shows how a website devoted to forming friendships was born out of the disintegration of others.  Whilst the viewer shouldn’t accept what’s shown at face value – due to it being an over-dramatization of events – the personalities and conflicts shown make for captivating watching.  Most of this is due to a story structure weaving the narrative back and forth in time to reflect the slow demise of the character’s relationships.

Issues of loyalty, greedy opportunism, selfishness and ambition are given intense focus under Fincher’s astute direction.  What he presents is a typical morality tale dressed in hi-tech attire with the irony being the one who creates such an influential communal tool ultimately becomes alone.  Although some characters are drawn too ‘black and white’ to be genuinely realistic, actors such as Eisenberg and Timberlake add spark to what could have been one note roles and convey the arrogance of genius with chilling style.

The Social Network is a bleak film in many ways although it is never less than engrossing.  What the real-life players would think of their lives being portrayed so harshly would be as interesting as this document on how this century’s latest form of social networking was created.

Rating out of 10:  8