Halloween on a Wednesday blows. Sorry. Halloween should be like Thanksgiving, except always on a Friday or Saturday. I’m sure some of you are going to Halloween parties this weekend, but it’s such a cheat. Such a cheat. Still, I’m going as a sexy Ghostbuster on Saturday and Wednesday. Should be sweet. It was a hard choice between that and going as a sexy nurse.


Three years ago Lionsgate put out a film that turned out to be a surprise hit: Saw. The 2004 film had a mixed reception critically, but some fans (Michael Tolkin called it one of the better films of the year in Film Comment), but it played well, making $55 million theatrically and found an audience on DVD for what amounted to a very cheap investment. A year later came Saw II, which made $87 Million, and spawned 2006’s Saw III, which made $80. Both sequels had over $30 million dollar opening weekends. All done on reasonable budgets. This expediency is also nothing new, most of the horror films of the 80’s came at a quick clip when money was ready to be made from an icon.

Some have classified the Saw films under torture porn, which to a certain extent is fair, as that was the hook from the start. But then what will Nicki Finke say when this opens huge this weekend? Is torture porn dead? I have a couple pet theories, plucked straight from my anus, that I’d like to share.

Growing up in the 1980’s as I did, we had Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers, with a sprinkling of Leatherface, a smattering of The Boogeyman, a taste of The Prophecy bear, and a dab of Joe Spinell’s Frank Zito. Since that time, the boogeymen have been scarce. Can one latch on to the self-aware creation of the Candyman? Scream offered no central villain, just a string of “gotcha” killers. I Know What You Did Last Summer tried to turn the Van De Kamp fisherman into a killer. Final Destination tried to turn death itself into an invisible figure of vengeance for not wanting to die.

So for anyone who grew up in the 90’s or more currently, most of the icons have been recycled. There aren’t those spooky campfire stories of recounted slasher films left to the imagination. At least not until recently.

Granted, there’s nothing all that special about most of the ones I grew up with. Freddy Kruger was a clever dream monster, mostly original but also mixing a taste of Dracula with Michael Myers. The rest were unstoppable killing psychos that were a variant on Norman Bates with a taste of Vietnam thrown in, and maybe some Bava and a smidge of Hammer. Everything comes from something. And so for a new generation, it should not be all that surprising that they might embrace a horror icon of their own. Embrace the Saw saga as their own. And so the success of Saw and its sequels strikes me as marked terrain no matter how much critics or Nicki Finke want to trickle down their yellow vengeance.

Just a theory.

As for Torture Porn, in a world of Abu Ghraib, I’ve always thought that torture, and the rise of real world unfortunate situations (often based upon Ugly Americans intruding on foreign cultures) was much like the Vietnam commentary of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This, though, may have run its course, but horror is so malleable, and often determinate on tapping into the current fears. The industry sees that with films done on the cheap (as is most of the best of horror) with hungry filmmakers, that results can be made. But horror may be the hardest genre to crack as scary and horrific is like comedy – everyone knows it when they see it. Unfortunately, for the horror artist, as Brian de Palma so pointedly noted “They punish you for being good at your job.” In a world (in a world) where you can download videos of people’s real heads being chopped off, it’s hard not to go to extremes to deliver something resonant. But if you can’t scare people with ideas, a severed head or two will at least make them jump.


The theaters, is coming like a ghost town. All the movies have been closed down
This place, is coming like a ghost town. Oh, wait, where am I? Well, my point is stretched, but here’s the thing, everything previously released is pretty much dead (dead meaning making less than 8 Million this weekend), and it’s not like all the studios gave the weekend to Saw, but next week things start picking up, and the Saw number should be good, but not so great that the 60-70% hit it takes next weekend will make anyone reconsider their strategy.

Dan in Real Life is alternative, whilst Darjeeling and Lars and his Real Girl expand. This weekend, theatrically, besides being a ghost town, is the sorbet of the year, the palette cleanser as begins the other big season of the year. This one lasts half as long, though.

1. Saw IV - $34 Million
2. Dan in Real Life - $9 Million
3. 30 Days of Night – $8.5 Million
4. Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married - $7.4 Million
5. The Game Plan - $6.1 Million

And then Sunday I’ll teach Filipino prisoners the choreography to Thriller.