Through my four years of college, I’ve had one tradition that hasn’t faltered yet. It’s not ending up in handcuffs on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not failing every math class I attempt to take. And it’s not watching the University lose a bowl game. All right, it could be that last one, but it’s not. It’s the “Saw” series.

My freshman year, I piled into a car with some kids from my hall I barely knew to go see two men try to escape from a locked bathroom. Now, three years later, I’ll be together with the same people, who I still live with, ready to do it again one last time for “Saw IV.” In these middle years, I’ve realized one thing: The “Saw” series has much to teach us. It reveals nearly every problem plaguing modern movies, and all others should look to its example. And I’m only half kidding.

I know this is in direct violation of the “Things Daily Arts Hates” list from a few years back that included the “Saw” series, but Daily Arts’s tastes and I go together like a shit and tuna sandwich (“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is a legitimate movie, by the way). I ask you, and them, to stay with me here. Here’s what we can learn from that creepy little trike-riding doll:

It’s original: When was the last time you saw a movie that wasn’t based on a book, a comic book, a video game, a play, a TV show, an old movie, a movie from another country or a child’s toy? All you’re left with in the past four years is “Ratatouille” and “Saw,” the latter being the most original horror film of my generation.

Did you know they’re remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” now? How about the futuristic horror-thriller adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz”? Oh, it’s coming. Hell, expect to see “The Godfather” remade before too long starring Milo Ventimiglia as Michael Corleone. It’s a sad state out there as even best-picture winners (“The Departed”) are stolen from other places (Hong Kong’s “Infernal Affairs”) and nobody even seems to notice.

It’s cheap: Here’s the budget for a “Saw” film: Scrap metal – $1,200. Fake blood – $400. All cast and crew salaries – $100,000. Marketing – $800,000. That’s how you make a million-dollar film, and like “The Blair Witch Project” before it, the “Saw” series has raked in an insane amount of money despite its minimalist style.

Contrast that with, say, “Spider-Man 3.” The movie is about 90 percent special effects, and its production costs were so enormous it needed to be the third-highest-grossing film ever to recoup them. Sure it did, and the film was huge, but producers forgot to pay for important things like competent screenwriters and a sane director. A $300-million turd may be very shiny, but it’s still a turd. Now repeat this example for “Pirates,” “X-Men,” “Transformers,” etc. Hell, even “Evan Almighty” cost an estimated $175 million.

It’s consistent: Every year I hear the cries of “Really, there’s another ‘Saw’ movie coming out?” Yes, damn it, and it’s great. Every Halloween, without fail, I know there’s going to be a new “Saw” movie, like the sun rising or the leaves changing color. The fact that we’re at the fourth movie may make a few people skeptical, but you’re forgetting they made like 46 “Friday the 13th” movies wherein Jason goes everywhere from space to hell to Elm Street. The last time a film saga was “Saw”-like consistent was the annual Christmastime viewing of the new “The Lord of the Rings” movie.

I saw previews for “Pathfinder” at least four years ago. It was released near the beginning of this school year. The result of the massive delays? They managed to shape it into one of the worst movies ever made. Not an easy feat. And don’t get me started on “The Assassination of Jesse James,” which was delayed numerous times just to be released with an added extra hour of Brad Pitt sitting on a porch, staring into space.

So even though a new 15-minute short film of a guy taking a dump released every Thanksgiving could’ve satisfied all of the above criteria, I chose “Saw” because, well, I like it. Oct. 26, I’ll be there for one last time in college, watching the cybernetic ghost of Jigsaw pit new victims against each other. If you want, I’ll save you a seat.

– E-mail St. Paul the Philistine Tassi at tassi@umich.edu and listen to his gospel.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.