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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

the sick ‘Saw IV’ Chamber of Torture promo

I’ve gotten into arguments with other critics who don’t like the term torture porn — they think it’s demeaning to the films it is deployed against, which astonishes me, because I can’t imagine how mere words describing the content of a movie could be more demeaning than the content itself.

And I think here we have the ultimate evidence that the Saw films — or at least those after the first, which had a sly subversiveness that the sequels don’t bother with — really and truly are intended not merely to fetishizing pain and suffering but to inure audiences to it: The Chamber of Torture, a British Web promo for Saw IV. (The site was apparently live for Saw III as well, which I’m glad I never knew. I learned of the site now only because my email address has somehow ended up on the press list of a British PR agency. They keep inviting me to critics’ screenings in London, but they never offer to pay my airfare, the louts.)

Here’s what the Chamber of Torture offers:

Are you sick of the celebrities dominating the pages of your newspaper and magazines? Has a friend, enemy or ex really got your goat recently? If so, you’ve found vengeful nirvana at my chamber of torture.

You can select a celebrity from an ever growing list of A-Z list celebs. You will also be able to upload a photo of your own friends, families, colleagues who deserve retribution.

And then you torture them with an array of power tools and things with sharp and/or pointy edges.

People love this, apparently. According to the press release in which I learned about this site:

Following over half a million sick tortures last year, the game has returned to celebrate the release of Lionsgate’s Saw IV this Halloween. With more celebs, improved graphics and gameplay, and some unlucky celebrities to hack on, it’s a real nasty piece of fun.

Once selected, the celebrities are strapped into a chair, ready for the torturer to cause some damage by using weapons ranging from an old-school baseball bat with nails attached, to the more extreme bone-grinding circular saw and the old favourite meat cleaver.

(The default celeb at the moment is Britney Spears, the poor thing. I’m sick of hearing about her too, but perhaps if anyone is deserving of torture, it’s the TV and magazine editors and execs who keep making her a story.)

The absolute worst aspect of this whole deal? There’s a Nintendo Wii version coming soon.

Sick. Sick sick sick.

I fear for what we’ve become.

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  • MBI

    I find myself increasingly enjoying the Saw movies, and I’m actually excited for the next one. The first “Saw” is actually my least favorite of the series — it’s not any more or less brutal than the others, but it would make a good episode of Retarded Plot Twist Theater. I’m sorry, everything about that movie is lame, and I’m gonna have to disagree that it’s subversive — they weren’t actually trying to make such a bad movie, and even if they were, it’d still be bad. (Not a fan of Cube, either.) But, hey, it does have some nice violence in it, huh? The other two movies are nice in that actually features a few humans amidst the deathtrap fodder (certainly Donnie Wahlberg has never been better), although it never figured out a way to rid itself of the retarded plot twists. Nowhere near as good as the fantastic Final Destination franchise.

    But I watch those movies as an exercise in masochism, not sadism (though they’re both, obviously). This game seems to be just an exercise in the latter. I’m not going to full-on judge, as I haven’t sampled it for myself, but I’m not that interested in doing so, let’s say.

  • I liked Saw, didn’t much care for Saw II, and thought Saw III may have been the best of the lot. Saw III really pushed the morality play angle, because it was all about the futility of living for revenge. Rather than simply put people through physical torture, the villain forced the captive father to let go of the memory of his son and forgive the people who caused his death, while forcing the woman to perform surgery to save his life, since she was a mortician who spent all her time with dead people. There was a good bit of physical torture, of course, but the main characters’ ordeals were much more psychological in nature.

    That said, I thought the franchise ran its course, particularly since the villain died. Yes, he may still have traps out there, but it seems phony at this point. As long as it makes money, they’ll keep making them, but I’m afraid that in the future the moral angle will be ignored while the physical torture will be pushed further and further.

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