Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

A comedy/horror film is a rare hybrid, but when they work – they’re incredibly enjoyable. TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL is one such film. It’s got plenty of blood and scares, but it’s also self-aware and surprisingly cute. The film feels fresh, and it makes great use of tired horror tropes to elicit some big laughs. It’s certainly not perfect, but it is a fun ride.

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The Fly

If there’s one thing that THE FLY is, it’s self-aware. The plot of THE FLY is nothing new – it’s been lampooned for decades. The film doesn’t pretend like there is a big mystery to be unveiled – in fact, the audience is along for the ride. We know that, by the end of the film, the main character will have turned into a giant fly-like insect. THE FLY rightly understands that, if the destination is known, a compelling journey toward that inevitable ending is needed to keep the audience engaged.

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Jigsaw

One of the freshest aspects of the SAW franchise is that the films were an annual tradition. The films were intricately connected, feeling more like a serialized television show than a film franchise. But it was also that connection that eventually led to the downfall of the franchise – mired in its own continuity and bloodlust. It took seven years for a new sequel to be created. For a series that had most of its loose ends wrapped up so neatly, JIGSAW is a great entry point into the series for newcomers and a welcome return for fans of the series.

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Saw: The Final Chapter

After a strong start, and a reinvention after killing its lead character, the SAW franchise has hit rock bottom. Billed as the final installment, SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER ends the series with a disappointing whimper. The film is more concerned with tying up the final remaining loose ends than it is in telling a compelling story.

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Saw IV

SAW IV is the point in the SAW franchise where the films become impossible to view without having seen the previous films. It makes for compelling storytelling, to tell a sequential story that builds upon the previous films, but it also runs the risk of alienating more casual viewers. SAW IV is certainly in a difficult position. The climax of SAW III sees Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) murdered, and SAW IV opens with his gruesome autopsy (shot with a brilliant use of color to make the red blood stand out).

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Saw III

SAW III represents a huge tonal shift for the SAW series. Whereas the first two films straddled the fine line between thriller and horror, SAW III abandons all pretense and fully embraces the horror genre. It’s intriguing how different SAW III feels from the previous films, even though it is a direct continuation from SAW II. The difference is that it has a gratuitous amount of blood and gore. In the first two films, the bloody results were rarely fully shown. Even the infamous scene where a man saws his foot off is surprisingly light on blood. Yet in SAW III, audiences are treated to scenes of brain surgery, limbs twisting until bones pop out, ribs being ripped out… and it all unfolds right before our eyes. It’s actually somewhat disappointing. The heavy use of gore somehow makes the film feel like it is catering to a lower denominator.

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Saw II

With the right execution, sequels can be a lot of fun to watch. Whether they raise the stakes or put familiar characters in unfamiliar situations, sequels can be extremely enjoyable. What makes SAW II such a great sequel is that it is integrally connected to the first SAW. It plays out like the second chapter to a book – so intertwined are the two films.

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Saw

Despite its reputation, SAW isn’t much of a horror film. In fact, it’s essentially a thriller that masquerades in the trappings of a horror film. There’s very little gore to be found in SAW, and the elaborate traps that the franchise is known for only exist here in their infancy. Instead, SAW focuses its narrative on an intricate storyline that is woven with flashbacks to create a story that is completely compelling from start to finish.

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