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Posts Tagged ‘horror film’

Altitude (2010)

06/20/2011 2 comments

Some cryptozoologists have described accounts of creatures called “atmospheric beasts”, non-winged creatures that dwell in the antmospheres of planets. Carl Sagan proposed that such creatures could potentially live in the atmosphere of gas giants like Jupiter, while more esoteric thinkers have speculated that UFO sightings might actually be eyewitness accounts of atmospheric beasts in Earth’s stratosphere. Well, if people can imagine it, other people can make a movie out of it, and this one decided to pass this phenomenon through the Lovecraft filter. How well did it do? Let’s find out.

Altitude is a Lovecraftian horror film directed by Canadian comic book writer and artist Kaare Andrews. It stars Jessica Lowndes, Julianna Guill, Landon Loboiron, Ryan Donowho, and a big tentacle monster.

When Sara was a little girl, her mother was killed when the plane she was flying crashed into another plane in midair, also killing two of the three passengers. Nobody knew where the other plane had come from, and it would remain a mystery for years. Fortunately, the threat of random ninja planes has not dissuaded Sara from getting her own pilot’s license, and years later she plans to fly herself and four friends to Montreal in another small plane. Sara’s boyfriend Bruce is nervous about the flight, but the others (resident douchebag Sal, his girlfriend Mel, and Sara’s cousin Cory) are excited about the trip, so Bruce grins and bears it for Sara’s sake. However, midflight a bolt in the tail comes loose, jamming the elevator and sending the plane into an uncontrolled climb. As Sara tries to regain control of the small plane, their trajectory sends them into a storm, where they lose all radio contact with the ground. This would be bad enough, were it not for the tentacle monster living in the storm…

I found this movie fairly randomly on Netflix, and when it arrived this weekend I mentally shrugged and said, “what the hell”. I’d seen some good indie movies from Canada (Cube comes to mind), and I was a fan of well-done Lovecraftian horror (see also Event Horizon). However, this movie had two strikes against it right off the bat. First, it was a direct-to-video feature. I’d seen some entertaining DTV movies in my day, and while many of them were entertaining, the overwhelming majority were hilariously bad. Secondly, director Kaare Andrews is better known for his comic books than his movies – Altitude being his first feature film. While this means that he has a good sense for visuals, Frank Miller has shown us that being a bitchin’ comics guy does not mean you will necessarily be a bitchin’ movies guy.

The story did hold some promise, in a Twilight Zone sort of way, offering a weird random phenomenon that could not be adequately explained by the laws of science, but in actual execution it fell flat. We are given only the briefest characterization for the core cast before the story unfolds, not nearly enough to make the viewer care about these people even in the last third when the really hinky stuff starts happening in earnest. While this movie is relatively short – only about an hour and a half long – most of the parts that did not involve solving the plane’s malfunction or the plane and its passengers being tentacle raped by the cloud monster felt like padding. In truth, a lot of this filler could have been trimmed out, and the result shown as an episode of Tales from the Darkside or The Twilight Zone. When things start getting really twisty at the end, I was left feeling less like, “Oh, that was clever” and more, “Where the hell did that come from?!” There are good twists and lazy twists, and this felt like a lazy twist. This, coupled with dodgy special effects, left me feeling like this could have been a much better movie is more effort had been put into it.

I will be the first to admit that it is difficult to make a good Lovecraft pastiche, but in the case of Altitude, it started out in the real world, set a course for Lovecraft Country, but overshot and crashlanded in the Twilight Zone. It’s a badly assembled collection of parts that might have been good, but ended up mediocre. Give this one a miss.

Final Destination 3 (2006)

06/13/2011 1 comment

One of the most intense fears humanity has, one that is almost unique to our species, is the fear of losing control. This fear can run under the surface of many disorders, like OCD and its milder cousin, the “control freak” instinct. Of course, no matter what people do to control their environment, to make things as safe as possible, all that gets tossed out the window when Death points a bony finger in your direction…

Final Destination 3 is a horror film directed by James Wong, the third movie in the Final Destination series. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche, Alexz Johnson, Sam Easton, Jenne Moss, with Tony Todd providing the voice of the Devil (no, really).

Six years have passed since the Flight 180 tragedy (see also Final Destination). A group of high school students visit an amusement park as a last huzzah before graduation, and they decide to ride a roller coaster called the Devil’s Flight (with a giant fiberglass devil out front hawking the ride). Control freak and school photographer Wendy has a premonition that the ride will crash and kill everyone aboard, and freaks out enough to get herself and a bunch of her fellow riders removed, while her boyfriend rides on in another train. Hilarity ensues as she foresaw, and as she mourns the loss of her boyfriend, life goes on. She plans to pick up her diploma and get the hell out of McKinley and its tragic memories, never to look back. Of course, this being a Final Destination movie, the laws of physics and narrative horror have other plans in mind, as the people scheduled to die in the roller coaster crash start getting picked off in the order they would have sat on the roller coaster train, Wendy finds herself in a race against time to unlock the clues in her amusement park photos and save people from the laws of physics…

The overall concept of the third movie remains sound within the FD-verse, opening with the roller coaster as a metaphor for loss of control and the “safe” scares of horror movies in general. This time, though, the cast of victims are unconnected to Flight 180 aside from knowing about the events surrounding it (whereas the bunch in FD2 had been saved in roundabout ways by the initial survival of the cast of the first movie), and therefore their place in Death’s plan is incidental at best; they were supposed to die, and they didn’t. Regardless, Death seems to be getting a little peeved at people surviving the disasters he cooks up, so the deaths are becoming more brutal: death by burning in a tanning booth, an engine fan to the back of the head, death by nailgun, and so forth. After the engine fan death, Wendy even notes that the accident seems pretty vicious. It seems that this time around it is less about balancing Death’s books and more about punishing the escapees. Cleverly, though, if you pay attention during the opening, an alert viewer will notice that every single death is foreshadowed at the amusement park, and not just through Wendy’s prophetic photos.

Of course, escalating the level of violence in a horror movie can still work, if you have a good cast of talented actors portraying sympathetic characters. Here, you have three fairly sympathetic characters (Wendy, her sister Julie, and her boyfriend’s best friend Kevin) alongside a couple of snobby Paris Hilton clones named Ashley and Ashlynn (urgh…), an oversexed douchebag with a video camera named Frankie, an arrogant football star named Lewis that cares more about the game than the harbingers of doom, and the Wonder Goth Twins Ian and Erin, who call each other Zip and Pip. However, amid the expected failures in failsafe devices and basic common sense, Ian is briefly redeemed by following basic safety procedures on the forklift at the hardware store where he works with Erin, narrowly avoiding turning that sequence into a rehash of Forklift Driver Klaus and instead turning it into a freak-accident shout-out to The Nailgun Massacre. Then he snaps out after Erin’s death and we start waiting for him to die horribly. However, while FD3 tries hard to put the fear of freak accidents into its viewers, and at least one of the death sequences does offer a nod to urban legend (the tanning bed sequence), it appears that the Final Destination franchise is starting to lose steam in this installment, relying more on gore and shock value for its scares than building suspense.

While Final Destination 3 is starting to show signs that the franchise is going a bit stale, fans of the first two installments and slasher movies in general should largely enjoy this contribution to a world where mechanical safeguards can be rendered moot by a force of nature. Afterwards, why not go to a park this summer and ride the roller coasters? After all, they’re perfectly safe…

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

04/19/2011 1 comment

Some horror movies work because you don’t know why things are happening. Of course, humans are curious creatures, and when faced with terrifying, inexplicable phenomena, we try to figure out what is going on and why. This is both a minor failing and a major boon for the species, as it helps us understand the world when we risk getting eaten by it. A number of horror movie sequels try to explain what happened in the first one. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. How does this one fare? Let’s find out.

Paranormal Activity 2 is a supernatural horror film directed by Tod Williams, serving as both a prequel and a sequel to the original Paranormal Activity. It stars Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Seth Ginsberg, Sprague Grayden, and Micah Sloat.

In the year 2006, new parents Kristi and Dan Rey find themselves faced with a chilling event: their house has apparently been burglarized, with every single room ransacked save for the nursery. However, the only item that has been taken is a necklace belonging to Kristi’s sister Katie. Justifiably spooked, Dan installs a number of security cameras around the house, through whose neutral eyes we witness the events that unfold throughout the film. Over the next few days, Kristi and Ali, Dan’s daughter from a previous marriage, start to hear strange noises and see items moved by an unseen forces, and their housekeeper and nanny Martine is convinced that they are being tormented by evil spirits. Dan is skeptical, and fires Martine after her repeated attempts at spiritual cleansing. All the while, though, the security cameras continue to record, until it becomes apparent that the spooky activity is centered around baby Hunter, and it might be connected with a secret in Kristi’s family’s past…

I enjoyed this one about as much as I did the first movie. In haunted house franchises like this, too often the attempts to explain or justify the haunting makes it something lame, but not so here. While the collective plight of Katie and Micah from the first movie is given an explanation, the reason behind it makes their situation seem so much worse. This, paired with the stinger at the end, combines to chilling effect as you see the ultimate result of Dan’s final decision. Watching the first one along with this one helps a lot, especially as the timeframe of the second one is established relative to the first. The ending definitely leaves you with an “Aw, crap!” feeling that sticks with you.

As with the first, the characters here feel like real people. Dan’s attempts to reckon with the mysterious activity mirrors Micah’s from the first movie, but he’s less of a dick about it and he genuinely comes off as wanting to protect his new family. The role of poking the demon with a stick falls to older daughter Ali, who believes in the paranormal but doesn’t recognize the danger of the hauntings until much later, and her boyfriend Brad, who thinks the whole thing is a joke. Ali parses out a likely reason for the demon to torment their family through her research, and in the context of the tale it appears chillingly plausible. Her attempts to contact the thing with an Ouija board get half a pass here, as she had no psychic to warn her against such a thing, but even so she seems like she should know how stupid that would be. At least she doesn’t make their situation (much) worse with her messing around.

If you liked the first Paranormal Activity, you will likely enjoy Paranormal Activity 2. It expands on the overall story and explains some of the unseen spectre’s motives, without ruining the perceived menace. I do recommend watching the first movie before watching this one, so things make sense, but this one is a pretty spooky movie in its own right.

Species (1995)


I find it ironic that the first entry in former model Natasha Henstridge’s body of Hollywood work is a movie in which she, well, shows off so much of her body. While the “aliens mating with humans” type plot is hard to pull off successfully (and without resorting to tentacle rape), especially in a serious movie, this one also boasted semi-famous actors and a decent plot. Did it succeed? Let’s find out.

Species is a sci fi horror film directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Natasha Henstridge, Marg Helgenberger, Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker, and creature effects by H. R. Giger.

When SETI was established decades ago, it sent out a polite “hello” to any intelligent races that might be listening, in the form of information about Earth and its inhabitants, including info about our DNA, hoping that someone would say “hi” back. Twenty years later, they got a reply, in the form of information on the creation of an endless fuel source. Cool – they’re friendly! Naturally, when they send their next transmission, a sample of alien DNA and instructions on how to splice it with our own, a government team is set up to see what happens when Tab A is spliced with Slot B. Led by Dr Xavier Fitch, the team tries following the instructions in the transmission, deciding to make the result female in order to avoid any natural aggressive tendencies of a male specimen. Out of a hundred fertilized ova, finally one of them survives gestation, producing a hybrid named Sil, resembling a human girl. She grows quickly and appears to be highly intelligent, but she has violent night terrors which appear to be flashes of genetic memory of home. Her outbursts during these nightmares lead the team to judge her dangerous, and they try to kill her with cyanide gas. She escapes the lab, and a team is assembled to track her down and destroy her before she can mate with a human male, producing more like her and possibly eliminating the human race. Naturally, she has reached sexual maturity since escaping, and is now on a mission of her own – booty.

With a plot like this, one might expect Species to be nothing but softcore porn with only the vague sketches of a plot and shitty special effects to string the sex scenes together. Surprisingly, the movie actually works as a serious thriller. The opening scenes take the time to lay the groundwork for the story, rather than saying, “Here’s a hot alien chick, look at her boobs and don’t worry about the plot.” The story unfolds realistically, with the plot playing out in a logical fashion, winding up to a conclusion that feels genuinely tragic despite its necessity. Sil’s lack of a nudity taboo meshes naturally with her background – she is a creature of instinct, raised in a lab, with heightened senses, greater strength and agility, and the ideal appearance for attracting a mate. She acts and feels like a genuine organism looking for a suitable mate rather than a space slut willing to shag anyone.

The characters are, thankfully, not a cast of morons. While Fitch’s decision to terminate Sil in light of her violent nightmares seems ill-conceived, it makes sense – she is only likely to get stronger and more agile as she matures, and who knows how she sees the world. The composition of the team gathered to hunt her down is also logical: Dr. Arden to study her behavior for clues about her next move, Dr. Baker as a familiar face that Sil might trust, empath Dan Smithson to track her via her emotional states, and mercenary Preston Lennox for when they have her cornered and the time comes to kill her. Even Sil appears to have genuine motives for what she does beyond “gotta get laid”. While she is deadly, she does demonstrate species-perpetuation instincts, and she is decently choosy about her mates (rejecting one hopeful when she senses that he has diabetes). Though she can and does kill several people through out the movie, she is cunning and discreet, and generally kills only to defend herself or erase a sexual rival – this sort of thing happens all the time in nature on Earth – but as a non-native species there is a higher chance of her buggering up the biosphere.

While Species sounds like it might just be a brainless festival of tits and blood, I recommend it to fans of sci fi horror. Giger’s creature effects are amazing as always, Natasha Henstridge is hot, and the whole thing is overlaid on a surprisingly well-developed storyline. Worth a rental.

Zombie Strippers! (2008)

04/12/2011 3 comments

They’ll dance for a fee, but devour you for free.

Apparently, some time ago director Jay Lee was challenged to come up with the most marketable movie title ever. The title he came up with was Zombie Strippers!, and the movie he wrote to go along with it is, er, about what you’d expect.

Zombie Strippers! is a B-grade zombie comedy written and directed by Jay Lee, and apparently inspired by Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros (… what?!). It stars Robert Englund, Jenna Jameson, Penny Drake, Roxy Saint, and Tito Ortiz

It is a dystopic near-future. How dystopic? George W. Bush is sitting his fourth term as president, alongside Vice President Arnold Schwartzenegger. The United States Congress has been disbanded. Public nudity has been outlawed. The United States is enbroiled in wars across about a third of the planet, and with more wars than they have soldiers to fight them, a secret laboratory has developed a virus to help keep the soldiers on their feet and still fighting even after death. The only trouble is that the virus completely destroys all higher brain functions of male infectees, turning them into mindless, flesh-hungry zombies. Female infectees (through a brief technobabble involving the X chromosome) retain their higher brain functions, turning them into intelligent, flesh-hungry zombies. They’re still working the kinks out, but don’t worry, the lab’s security is second to none, which of course means that there is a containment breach literally two minutes into the movie. An elite Z Squad of improbably good-looking soldiers (including a blonde woman in a bikini top and camo pants the whole time) are dispatched to neutralize the threat, only to discover that their intel on the zombies is slightly, uh, WRONG. In the resulting confusion, one of them named Birdflough (pronounced bird flu, in case you were wondering) is bitten, but escapes unnoticed to a building next door to the lab – which turns out to be an illegal strip club named Rhino, run by a germophobe named Ian Essco who has every reason not to call the authorities, even when Birdflough turns and bites the throat out of a dancer named Kat. Kat dies, but is reanimated by the virus and wants to dance. Essco, concerned about losing his star dancer but unconcerned by the fact that she still has a huge bite wound in her throat and blood all over, lets her. To his surprise, this new, uninhibited zombie stripper is a HUGE hit, and the other strippers find themselves losing customers to the revitalized Kat, and faced with a choice – become zombies to compete, or lose their jobs. The only real complication Essco sees is the zombie strippers’ tendency to eat their customers during private dances, turning them into mindless zombies, but no problem – stick them in the basement. Of course, it isn’t long before things reach critical mass, and the Z Squad is closing in looking for their infected squadmate…

Okay. It’s a movie entitled Zombie Strippers. If you’re looking for high art, go away. This movie has hot, frequently-naked women, the men who watch them strip, flesh-eating zombies, and Robert Englund. This is not even the sort of zombie film you watch for its deep social commentary, or because the zombie represent much of anything. It’s like Shaun of the Dead without all the deep philosophical discussion. There is blood. There is violence. There are bare tits. Sometimes all at once. There is no sex (THANK CHRIST) but there is an implied blowjob gone wrong (executed by a zombie stripper. You do the math), and many of the freshly zombified strippers don’t even bother to clean up before they go back on stage. The special effects are frequently decent but at times hilariously bad, but that’s okay because this movie doesn’t take itself very seriously anyway (see title).

That said, it does take great pains to set things up properly before hilarity ensues, knitting up any loose ends and plot holes with a conscientiousness that so often goes neglected in higher-budgeted films. Most of the girls are pretty hot (escept for matriarch Blavatsky, who seems to be channelling a drag queen’s impression of Natasha Fatale), and they make a token effort for character development by having the newcomer be a devout Christian who is only stripping to earn money for her Nana’s camcer treatment, and one of the more experienced girls reads and quotes the great philosophers. Robert Englund, whom horror buffs will recognize as the normal-looking guy under Freddy’s Krueger’s makeup, is twitchy and perverted and mind of annoying (his comeuppance is satisfying but REALLY GROSS), and Jenna Jameson should be familiar to those who will admit they watch porn as one of the staple actresses of that genre. Aside from those two, there are no big-name actors in this film that I could see, and nobody here would be seen in a production of Shakespeare anytime soon. This is a zombie movie. With strippers. Undead strippers. Like I said, if you pick up a movie like this looking for high arts, put it down and walk away. It’s just a fun romp with a kind of squicky twist on the zombie genre, but fans of the subgenre should have fun.

In the end, Zombie Strippers! was exactly what I expected it would be – mindless fun, exactly what a B-movie should be. Fans of zombie movies should enjoy it as long as they go in there with low expectations and just enjoy the ride. Good stupid fun, but skip the popcorn.

30 Days of Night (2007)

04/11/2011 1 comment

Welcome to Barrow, Alaska: the northernmost point in the United States – so far north, in fact, that there’s a span of about a month where the sun don’t come up at all. Ordinarily that don’t bother most of the locals; those that don’t like it head south for sunnier climes and the rest just hunker down like the hardcore Alaskans they are. This year, though, things are a little bit different, as the prospect of a thirty-day dark has brought some hungry visitors to Barrow, and they’re not feeling too neighborly…

30 Days of Night is a vampire horror film directed by David Slade and based on the comic book miniseries of the same named by IDW Publishing. It stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, and Ben Foster.

As the quiet Alaskan town of Barrow prepares for its annual “thirty days of night” in the middle of the polar winter, Sheriff Eben Oleson notices that someone is taking great pains to isolate the residents, sabotaging the town’s communications and transport. When Eben’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Stella, misses the last plane south, it looks like she is going to be trapped there for the long night as well, which makes things awkward between the two of them as they try hard to avoid each other in a town whose current population is about 200 people. Eben discovers a twitchy stranger in town is stirring up trouble, necessitating his arrest and jailing. the stranger is far from upset about this, saying that death is coming, and he seems to be under the impression that death is gonna help him out for all the good work he did on its behalf. Eben thinks the guy is just a loon until the sun goes down for the last time, and some other newcomers attack the local telecommunication center and power supply, leaving the town dark and completely cut off from the outside world. As Eben investigates, he and the other locals make a horrifying discovery: a pack of vampires has descended on the town, taking advantage of the long period of darkness to feast on the blood of the living. Now, Sheriff Oleson is in the middle of a desperate fight to save the remaining townfolk and last through the darkness, hoping to make it until the sun rises again…

Now, anyone with a decent working knowledge of world geography knows that above the Arctic Circle the sun doesn’t seem to behave like it does in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. There’s a stretch in the middle of winter where the sun doesn’t rise. At all. In reality it isn’t as abrupt as it is in the movie, with a stretch of days where it just gets a little twilight-y without actual daytime, during the period depicted as full dark in the movie. The real-life Barrow is quite a bit more populous, boasting about 4,000 people with State PD rather than a local sheriff, and the airport doesn’t shut down in the winter except during storms. That’s the trouble with naming your fictional setting after a real town – the facts get in the way. But hot damn if the concept doesn’t make a neat vampire story. The vampires look like human-shaped sharks rather than merely pretty, predatory humans, and they’re ruthless and vicious and gigantic douchebags to their food source simply because they know they’ve cut off every avenue of escape. In the comic they get one hell of a smackdown from a master vampire who wants to keep up the Masquerade that this bunch are so happily wrecking; not so here. The solid black eyes and the mouth full of sharp fangs are chilling and psychopathic, and the extreme measures they take to make sure that absolutely nobody gets out is so brutally ruthless that I actually found myself a bit afraid of them. Those eyes have no soul. These vampires will eat your face, and enjoy it.

As far as the human cast goes, Josh Harnett fares well as Eben Oleson, but the other locals seem to fade into the background as potential vampire snacks, even his soon-to-be-ex who, while pretty handy in a pinch, never offers any clues as to the reasons for their split. The other humans are largely forgettable, and all in all the vampire sharks are more interesting than the townfolk. The dialogue felt a bit hackneyed at times – not so much a problem with what was in the script so much as the delivery. While the plot was mostly engaging, in the end most of the characters felt less like real locals in a real town way up in Bum Frapping Egypt, Alaska, and more like what they were – largely disposable characters in a vampire movie.

While the concept of vampires above the Arctic Circle had promise and the vampires themselves looked great, uninteresting characters and slightly odd dialogue made this more or less a conventional vampire movie in a new and interesting setting. While overall it was engaging as a vampire movie, unfortunately I think the comic miniseries did it somewhat better. Vampire fans should enjoy it, though. Rent it sometime.

Saw III (2006)


According to the Scream series, horror movie installments follow certain conventions. The third movie, for example, tends to be bigger, more shocking, and more over the top than its predecessors, winding up to a climax that will leave you gasping for breath. Saw III is no exception, as torture masterminds Wan and Whannell wanted to wind up the series and end it with a bang. (It didn’t work, incidentally, but the thought was there.)

Saw III is the third movie in the Saw series, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by James Wan and Leigh Wannell. It stars Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus MacFayden, Bahar Soomekh, and Donnie Wahlberg.

Three interweaving storylines unfold during the course of this movie. In one, the police investigate the latest string of Jigsaw-style traps, discovering that these have been rigged in various ways to be inescapable. In another, Jeff Denlon, eaten up by grief over the death of his son, who was hit and killed by a drunk driver, is kidnapped by Jigsaw and forced to perform a series of tests to face his feelings of vengeance against those he sees as responsible for the driver escaping justice with a slap on the wrist. In a third, Dr. Lynn Denlon has also been kidnapped by Jigsaw – actually, his apprentice Amanda. Denlon’s task is to keep Jigsaw, now bedridden from advanced brain cancer, alive until Jeff completes his gauntlet of tests. If Jigsaw dies before then, a trapped collar around her neck will fire shotgun shells into her head, effectively erasing same. However, Amanda has become increasingly unstable since becoming Jiggy’s apprentice, believing that people cannot be redeemed and thus setting up in escapable traps. As Jeff is forced to confront his own demons and Jigsaw’s condition deteriorates, the question of who will survive this twisted game becomes less and less clear with every passing minute…

When I went to see this movie in the theaters, I already know what sort of movie I was getting into. You can imagine my surprise when, while I was waiting for the movie to start, I saw two theoretically responsible adults enter the theater with an eleven-year-old girl. WTF? Thinking that maybe they’d wandered into the wrong theater, I warned them that this movie wasn’t really for kids, but they said they were fine. Okay, I think, your therapy bill. And I was right – this movie is brutal. I’ve seen my share of gory slashers and other horror movies before, but Saw III went for the guts in a way few horror movies have before. Not only are the traps gut-wrenching and physically traumatic, but the story that unfolds with Jeff’s journey makes the audience understand him and sympathize with him, even if they don’t agree with him. He is forced to choose between his vengeful grief, which he has been holding onto for so long that he’s forgotten how to live otherwise, and forgiving those he believes has wronged them. The choices that each room gives him kick him repeatedly in the nuts – he wants vengeance at all costs, but you get the idea that he’s a good man underneath, warts and all. Lynn’s subplot is also hard to watch – kidnapped by a pair of psychopaths, forced to keep one alive even as he’s dying from cancer, while the other one seems to be growing more unstable by the minute. And the climax where everything crashes together in a giant pileup to rival the opening sequence of Final Destination 2, based on the fateful decisions of two of the players in this game, nearly had me on my feet screaming at the screen.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Saw without the deathtraps, and they are accordingly efficient and diabolical. The simplest one would have to be the Meat Locker, in which a witness to the hit and run is chained up naked in a giant freezer and periodically sprayed with water, while the most nauseating is the one where the judge is locked to the floor of a collection vat, slowly filling as rotting pig carcasses are liquefied and the soup poured in. This is obviously not a movie for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The torture happens to so many levels – physical, psychological, and emotional, and would have made an effective ending for the series had the studio execs not decided keep the franchise going for the sake of profits.

Saw III is a brutal film that will leave you feeling queasy and wrung out, and emotional roller-coaster that goes for the guts in ways few modern horror movies have. If you think you can handle it, though, check it out, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.