As a film critic, I'm obliged to approach every film with an open mind. In practice, this can sometimes be difficult, especially when I'm asked to see, say, the latest Saw movie.
Don't get me wrong, I'll watch nearly anything, and my editor knows it. I even see certain movies specifically so he won't have to.
Still, I wasn't required to view Saw V, and when Lionsgate Films declined to screen the picture for critics, it was no skin off my back — we'll leave that gory detail for the unfortunate victims in the movie.
There was a time when I would have lapped up this stuff, having gorged on a steady diet of horror films and Fangoria magazines in my early teens, during the slasher-flick heyday of the 1980s. Since then, I've developed a distaste for the so-called torture-porn genre and its fetishized acts of realistically rendered mutilation. I actively avoided the latest releases, after viewing a few of the early pioneers (Eli Roth's Hostel films, The Hills Have Eyes remakes, and James Wan's original Saw entry, the only one of that set I'd seen) of this fairly new trend in onscreen horror.
But, being a professional, can I write off an entire genre, sight unseen? In fairness, I can't. So, at the extreme risk of torturing myself, I decided to attend "Saw Fest" at the AMC Loews Boston Common two Thursdays back. Beginning at 4 pm and ending well past the witching hour, concluding with the midnight debut of the most recent film in the series, the five-movie Saw marathon didn't quite play out as I'd imagined. Most unexpected? How massively unpopular it was.
Of the 654 available seats, only 15 were filled, not counting the pair occupied by Alanna — a self-professed Saw fan I invited along for good measure — and myself. I was briefly concerned that the outside food and drink that she showed up with might preclude her from making it past the ticket-taker. Chinese food is one thing, but a bottle of wine might be pushing it.
Once inside, my reactions bypassed the expected repulsion, progressing instead from mild bemusement to catatonic boredom. By the point at which sometime–New Kid Donnie Wahlberg's head was liquefied between two battering rams near the conclusion of Saw III, I had yet to drink the torture-porn Kool-Aid, but with more than four hours remaining, I was reaching for the vino.