Spiral: From the book of Saw is the latest addition to the plethora of gore trials by Twisted Pictures and this one does not disappoint. Starring Chris Rock and Samual MF Jackson, this Tarantinoesque romp through the macabre joins us years after the events of the previous Saw films and brings a great new energy to the franchise in Chris Rock’s performance.
Right off the bat the dialogue feels playful and realistic that mixes in perfectly to the environment the film sets itself in. Moving at times more like a buddy cop flick, Spiral holds its own by not feeling as cliché as some of its previous films at times calling such things out.
The one thing that these films stray away from is any sense of realism when it comes to the traps, which is a strategy that allows these films to continue to entertain audiences, where the gore is used merely as a magician would a gimmick; to heighten the story. By making the traps more torture device than actual trial of moral values it checks all the boxes by making us wince when its just right and not any longer.
Samuel MF Jackson plays what feels more a cameo than lead role but his charisma slots him in well to this role, constantly making us second guess what we previously thought mere seconds before.
The traps may be full of blood and gore, just like the films before, but underneath that tortured skin, lies a story within… not an amazing one, you’ll probably pick up who the “butler” is pretty quick… something you can see coming yet I do not think that is the element to focus on here. This may reinvigorate these films to now include more heavy hitting names and change the emphasis to be more character driven than ever before. Looking forward to see what gory things they come up with next time!
100 years ago the Roaring Twenties came into effect with a social and economic boom that pushed the boundaries of experimentation and exploration dubbing it the crazy years.
Cinema has evolved greatly during this time and spawned Robert Miene’s silent horror in German Expressionism, which is still considered a classic among some critics.
While the tides have shifted and the boundaries of what is classified as horror has twisted through the years, moving numerous debates and discussions along the way, we come to a time when originality can be hard to come by, or perhaps the audience has become too critical and our perceptions have changed.
Can the films of today cause a deeper development in the genre that we’ve come to love and like the films that were born a century ago stir the insanity again and break new ground in the process?
Let’s look at what 2020 has in store and see if indeed it will deliver.
This film has led some early reports to compare it to Alien but in the ocean deep instead of the far reaches of space. It does boast Kristen Stewart in the cast who may divide audiences and has been a bit hit and miss of late in her film choices but she is supported in this instance by Vincent Cassel, who is known for choosing experimental films. Does this then mean that this team of underwater researchers will uncover not only a few beasties but also break new ground in the process?
Prediction: Neither sink or swim. A drifter that will entertain some but not cast anything new into the cinematic landscape.
Jan 24 – The Turning
Based on Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw and produced by Steven Spielberg, it stars Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) and Finn “Can my hair grow any longer?” Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and bears close scrutiny as director Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep) is set to release an interpretation of the novel in Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, his follow up to the successful The Haunting of Hill House.
Prediction: Director Floria Sigismondi will no doubt bring some artistic visual flair that is evidence from her music videos, but could possibly fall foul of “popcorn syndrome” – Light, fluffy with a bit of crunch and serves the masses, but ultimately has no substance.
Initially I was really excited about this release, being a fan of the Ju On franchise, plus Nicolas Pesce’s work with The Eyes of My Mother, and Piercing. Both movies have pushed the boundaries of comfort and shot in stylistic fashion that I was keen to see where Pesce would take The Grudge. Early reports haven’t been favourable however, so it could be another disappointment in the first month of the new decade.
Prediction: Could be another franchise instalment too many. The name alone will pull in the numbers, yet may not hit the mark on the scare front.
Jan 31 – Gretel and Hansel
It’s been over 200 years since The Brothers Grimm fashioned the fairy tale about a cannibalistic witch that kidnaps two children roaming in the woods. The fact that it is still resonates today is a testament to the strength of the storytelling and it will be interesting to see the story told from the perspective of Gretel played by Sophia Lillis (IT) who has already proved compelling as the young Beverly Marsh.
Prediction: Better than your average fair without necessarily offering anything new or compelling with the horror genre.
Some may argue its place in this list, but it is billed as a psychological horror and director Robert Eggers has already made a name for himself in the artistic expressionism world within the genre with his debut feature, The VVitch, a film that also divided audiences. American audiences have already seen the movie too as it was released there last year, but as yet Australian audiences are still to see Eggers’ sophomore outing which pits Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson against one another in a battle of wills and sanity in a remote and confined island.
Prediction: Will wow audiences looking for the alternative and alienate those more into the mainstream. Either way, both audiences will applaud the performances and Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke will paint a stunningly beautiful canvas.
Feb 13 – Fantasy Island
Blumhouse Productions are about to shake things up again by breathing new life into a cult 70s tv series. With a star-studded cast – Michael Pena (Crash), Maggie Q (Nikita), Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), and Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). On an island where your fantasies come true, only to turn into nightmares and the guests must figure out its mystery in order to survive.
Prediction: Another success for Jason Blum and the team which will connect with the cinema-going public. If it’s played right, it could offer a fresh take using a blend of fantasy and horror that could also spark a franchise
Feb 21 – Brahms: The Boy ll
This one is a bit of an oddity. Whilst its predecessor was a middle of the road affair and proved to be better than expected. It did feel like a one-off movie that didn’t necessarily warrant any further journey into the world of Brahms. A sequel is here though and will pick up with the doll being discovered by another family.
Prediction: A flop that will fall by the wayside and may not even make a blip on the radar.
Feb 27 – The Invisible Man
Another Blumhouse movie, this time in collaboration with Universal to resurrect their monsters franchise after the abysmal Tom Cruise vehicle from a few years ago. In what is potentially a ripe and current topic being explored in domestic violence as its central theme The Invisible Man boasts a cracking cast with Elisabeth Moss taking lead duties. It’s also in great hands with director Leigh Whannel steering the ship following his successful movie Upgrade from last year, plus Whannel is a storyteller, so expect a decent script to boot.
Prediction: The first big success of the year bringing the Universal monsters franchise back on track and paving the way for future projects with The Bride, Renfeld, The Invisible Woman, and Frankenstein.
Mar 20 – A Quiet Place Part 2
The question is whether director John Krasiniski can repeat the winning formula from the first movie. This War of the Worlds style feature with an audio twist is more sci-fi than horror, but with the family in plight scenario held a strong connection with the audience. How will this translate now that there is an absent father?
Prediction: Cillian Murphy will provide some much needed gravitas to the narrative which will be strong enough to lift the audience through with some decent ups and downs to wrench up the tension.
Apr 3 – The New Mutants
Since Disney took over Marvel operations, The New Mutants has been stuck in production, deemed a little dark for the House of Mouse questioning how to distribute it. The feature comes across as The Dream Warriors crossed with the X-Men and centres on 5 young mutants held in a secret facility against their will. It also boasts a cracking cast with Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch, Split), and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things).
Prediction: Despite several delays I feel that this film is gonna connect in a big way and pull in a lot of people. It just depends on how dark Disney are willing to go with it.
Apr 17 – Antlers
Little is known about this movie other than it is based on a short story by Nick Antosca the creative mind behind the Channel Zero anthology series. The screenplay must have some potential to have caught the eye of Guillermo Del Toro and put his name down as producer.
Prediction: With Keri Russell in the cast to provide the fantasy elements in reality, this could well be the surprise hit of the year.
May 15 – Saw reboot
Currently titled The Organ Donor starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella this reboot of the Saw franchise will see the return of the Jigsaw Killer, but without Tobin Bell… I think? With director Darren Lynn Bousman at the helm once more following his turn overseeing parts 2-4, he is no stranger to the world.
Prediction: Will put bums on seats for the shock gore factor alone, but will the buddy cop drama approach pay off? Time will tell.
Jun 11 – Candyman
This is gonna be a tough one to watch for me as I am such a huge fan of the original movie and like Freddy, Candyman would haunt my dreams for a long time after viewing. A lot of that has to do with the strength of Clive Barker’s short story coupled with Tony Todd’s personification of the titular character. Part of me is willing for this to be a success though as I can see room for the movie to be delivered to a modern audience using folklore and mythology at its core, and the storyline itself can transcend easily through the ages. It will be interesting to see a female perspective in director Nia DaCosta to follow Helen’s journalistic investigations.
Prediction: Jordan Peele has attached his name to this project and is clearly passionate about the story, but one can’t help but feel this is one step too far in rekindling the old flame that resides within the Candyman story.
Jul 2 – Ghostbuster: Afterlife
I know it’s technically not a horror film, but I’m including this in the mix for its nostalgic value in me the original movie paved the love of horror that I have and opened the door to many more glorious visions in the genre ever since. The original team will return in some shape or form, but primarily the film centres around a mother and her two children who set up on a farm only to discover something paranormal lurking in the town.
Prediction: Another film that will be resting on the merits of the first film, and while it’s great to see Jason Reitman take on the franchise following in his father’s footsteps, one can only hope that there will be enough comedy, horror and sci-fi to capture that old magic, but I think it will just be a glimmer rather than that sparkle.
Jul 10 – The Purge 5
Supposedly returning for the final instalment the 12 hour no holds-barred, crimefest ignited something in the movie-going audience. It has seen five feature length instalments and 2 seasons.
Prediction: More of the same, so if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll love it. I for one think the films are fun and enjoyable and it will be interesting to see how James DiMonaco will conclude things.
Jul 30 – Morbius
Sony has promised to take the Marvel universe into dark territory before with Venom and here they intend to do so again with Morbius, the Living Vampire. Jared Leto will no doubt bring the goods for the titular role and is in good company with Matt Smith, Jared Leto, and Tyrese Gibson.
Prediction: Director Daniel Espinosa provides great entertaining and solid movies, such as Safe House and Life, and I see no change here to his formula, but still question if they can go dark enough to make it compelling for horror fans.
Sep 11 – The Conjuring 3 aka The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Conjuring universe has progressed in leaps and bounds since its initial release in 2013. There has been the odd blips, but essentially the films continue to entertain and scare audiences. This latest film will once again see the Warrens at the centre of proceedings, this time with one of their most publicised cases that bore witness to Arne Cheyenne Johnson claiming that he was possessed when he murdered.
Prediction: Solid acting, tight storyline, but may fall down with its delivery and exposition. Unfortunately Director Michael Chaves didn’t deliver with The Curse of La Llorona, so I fear that this may end up in a similar way, but am still willing to give it a chance.
Sep 17 – Last Night In Soho
Not much known about this one, but Edgar Wright has a knack for tapping the pulse of classic films and adapting their essence for a modern audience. This time around the psychological horror is inspired by Don’t Look Now and Polanski’s Repulsion both high in my all-time favourite lists
Prediction: A killer cast in Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp, this could be the ‘big hit’ of the year.
Oct 15 – Halloween Kills
In 2018, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jason Blum attempted the impossible, the resurrection of Michael Myers that would connect both fans of the original and connect with a new audience. By delving into the subject of trauma and the impact that this has on its victims, Myers became both topical and harrowing. His sheer brutality and the force in which he attacks his victims made his carnage all the more disturbing.
Prediction: The name and sheer presence of Myers will bring the audience to the screens, but can they still make him relevant? They can’t rest on the nostalgic nods this time around. It’s a fine line to walk on, for if they get it wrong, they could find their final instalment, Halloween Ends a tricky sell.
TBC – Army of the Dead
For sheer shits and giggles, and action-pumped mayhem from visual storyteller Zack Snyder, about a group of mercenaries who decide to rob a casino during a zombie outbreak, this film concludes our list.
Prediction: Starring Dave Bautista, Army of the Dead will be entertaining if nothing else. A perfect answer for those just wanting to get their kicks and not have to think too deeply.
Strip away all the torture devices and wash away all the blood-soaked, gore-infested mayhem that the franchise has become synonymous for and some of you maybe questioning what’s left? But with James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s original film that kick-started the whole Jigsaw frenzy the audience were treated to an exercise in constrained drama, flickered with tense, psychological elements that quite rightly projected the writer and director partnership into the Hollywood limelight as a result.
Part of Saw’s brilliance comes from the low-budget constraints that were placed on the making of the movie. Once the creative duo realised that the cheapest way to shoot a movie would be to have two actors in one room, this germ of an idea developed into the final product and the birth of Jigsaw and his twisted vision of justice.
Apparently the Jigsaw character began when Whannell feared that he had a brain tumour and pondered the notion of what he would do or need to do if he were only to have a year or two to live. This was the leaping point into the dark recesses of Jigsaws’ mind.
It’s this tightly shot, well structured movie that allowed Wan to develop his technique for manipulating lights and shadow to trick and deceive the audiences’ eye. He would harness this skill further with his sophomore film Dead Silence before working on his masterpiece, The Conjuring.
It wasn’t that easy getting budget for the movie though. With no luck gaining interest from their homeland in Australia, Wan and Whannell tried to taut their project in Los Angeles, but even then had to shoot a short feature to provide a proof of concept before getting any decent interest. You have to applaud their bravado to. So intent were they in getting their vision made, they insisted on having both directing and acting duties respectively. In the end it took newly formed production outfit, Twisted Pictures to give them their desires and have been behind every Saw movie since.
So with one half of the acting team already cast in Whannell as the photographer with a complex past, the team needed a decent actor opposite him as Dr. Lawrence Gordon, a Doctor with an equally dubious past. In steps Cary Elwes, normally associated with his comical roles but proved worthwhile in this serious performance, more than holding his own and providing gravitas to the scenario.
The masterstroke comes with the casting of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw aka John Kramer, who simply owns his role and has propelled himself into horror movie history with his performance as the disturbed yet brilliant mind behind the various traps and tortuous devices throughout all the Saw movies.
So with the narrative played out with Adam and Dr. Lawrence wake up in a bathroom, chained to the floor with nothing but a corpse, a revolver, and a tape recorder to guide them on a journey that will test their metal and push them to the very limits of their intellect and perception.
Saw would be released in front of a Sundance audience for its initial premiere where Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights and the rest is history.
Since then, Wan has established a firm career in the director’s chair to the point hat he has been given the chance to give DC movies some decent crowd with Aquaman, and Whannell more recently carved his own success with Upgrade.
So for those who may have been apprehensive about checking out the origins of Jigsaw, before the bloodbath began, I’d recommend going back to the original source as you maybe pleasantly surprised by this outing with a clever, psychological thriller that is an example of how to shoot a low-budget movie with a lot of smarts and a decent narrative to keep the audience hooked.
It still stands strong 15 years on and my bet is that this will still be the case in another 15 years.
So here at Surgeons of Horror we thought that we would look across the years at the movies that helped shape the horror movie genre in our Southern Land.
So without further adieu, here’s our definitive list, let us know if you agree.
Night of Fear (1973) Dubbed the first Australian film of the renaissance, (and closely resembling Texas Chain Saw Massacre in style, released another 2 years later) you can see why this movie is well respected among horror movie lovers.
The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) The legendary director Peter Weir would debut with this fantastic comedy horror that he also wrote. Set in the fictional town of Paris where the towns inhabitants forage off the remains of car accidents, the movie has established something of a cult following.
Long Weekend (1978) One of my favourites on this list and fittingly released on the year that I was born. Long Weekend wasn’t initially well received upon its initial release, but has a strong message from director Colin Eggleston, where nature fights back on a disrespectful couple. It has since been remade in 2008.
Patrick (1978) The first of two films by Richard Franklin in our list, this science fiction horror is often cited by fans of the genre. Part of the Ozploitation movie scene, Patrick tells the story of a comatose boy with psychic powers.
Alison’s Birthday (1981) It’s got all the right ingredients for a horror movie, with ouija boards, spirits from the beyond, demonic possessions, and that killer ending. All good reasons why this independent movie makes the list.
Roadgames (1981) It’s the movie most noted more recently because of its vocal nod from Quentin Tarantino. Starring Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis it follows a truck driver and a hitch hiker who take it upon themselves to track down a serial killer on the loose. Oh and yet another soundtrack from Brian May.
Razorback (1984) Australia’s creature feature and our very own Jaws movie albeit about a wild boar on the loose. Say all you like about it, but this is a classic in its own right.
Bloodmoon (1990) This slasher film may have come late to the Ozploitation, but such was its impact and not necessarily in a good way that it nestles amongst some great titles here purely for its shocking comedy.
So bad, it’s positively good.
And features music from Brian May.
Again this might not necessarily be a good thing.
Body Melt (1993) The influence of Peter Jacksons early work is evident to see in this satirical horror. It’s got gore to the max and delights in every possible way.
Saw (2003) Yet another Australian horror film that would ignite a genre with horror porn, which some don’t have the stomach for. In this instance it generated a horror icon in Jigsaw with its glorious deadly traps and launched the careers of both James Wan and Leigh Whannel. It also spawned a massive franchise with a success that only falls short of being the best in the entry by The Friday the 13thmovies. All that could change though come the release of the next instalment, Saw: Legacy this year.
Undead (2003) This movie should be better than it is, and goes all guns blazing in the first third of the film before losing the plot entirely. Film critic Roger Ebert to say it’s so bad that it’s bad, but despite its flaws, the film still resonates and is a bit of fun at the end of the day. And it did launch the careers of the Sperig brothers, who have gone on to direct bigger movies with a lot more fan fare.
Wolf Creek (2005) Inspired by the afore-mentioned Roadgames, director Greg McLean has made a strong name for himself in the horror genre with movies such as Rogue, Wolf Creek 2 and the eagerly anticipated The Belko Experiment. Part of its appeal was capitalising on the daunting and dangerous world of the Australian Outback and made Mick Taylor on of modern horror movies most glorious villains thanks to John Jarratt’s chilling performance.
Lake Mungo (2008) One of a couple of movies on our list to adopt the doco style of storytelling, Lake Mungo received fairly positive reviews of a family coming to terms with the loss of their daughter, hinged on a supernatural component. It’s a slow film but worth the wait for its gripping climax.
The Horseman (2009) A revenge thriller with violence dialled to the extreme and may not be everyone’s taste. Personally though, I feel that this film speaks to the fringes of human emotion, evoking rage, heartbreak and empathy all in the space of its 96 minute running time.
The Loved Ones (2010) Sean Byrne is still a director to keep an eye on and I for one can’t wait to see his follow up Devil’s Candy. His debut feature though would gain a huge following with its gender swap of a damoiselle in distress and a female killer played by the delightful Robin McLeavy.
The Tunnel (2011) The second movie to adopt the doco style of storytelling, but through the medium of found footage horror.
The Tunnel shook up the movie industry with its new approach to distribution, allowing viewers to buy frames from the movie as a means to raise the quota to cover the budget and leave room for a little profit.
It was a business model that was both brave and rewarding for the producers, but more importantly, the film itself seemed to echo that sentiment.
It’s a bold movie that keeps you hooked as a camera crew delve into the hidden tunnels beneath the city of Sydney only to find more than they bargained for.
The Babadook (2013) One of the more recent movies to make the list and one that has the Surgeons sitting on both sides of the fence. Jennifer Kent’s debut feature deserves the recognition though as this psychological horror starring Essie Davis tackles a strong subject matter and tells it in a unique fashion.
Wyrmwood (2014) Rounding out our list is this balls-to-the-wall bloody fantastic roller coaster of a movie. There is nothing predictable about this movie about a zombie horde let loose. Rumours are abound that there is a sequel in the works too.
THIS WEEK’S FLASHBACK Friday continues the James Wan theme in recognition of his current movie, The Conjuring 2 in cinemas as we write this article.
Dead Silence would see Wan collaborate once again with Saw co-creator, Leigh Whannel and would be his second feature in the director’s chair.
There would also be the all too familiar signatures that Wan brings to the screen, the obvious one in this instance would be in the puppetry, substituting Jigsaw for Billy, but let’s not forget his strong use of light and shadows combined with the strong build up of tension to play on the minds of the viewer.
Whilst still not his strongest movie, there are some delights to have along the way as he harnesses his skills and sharpens his tools in order to bring some more than adequate scares along the way.
Starring True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten as Jamie, who at the head of the film loses his wife in a brutal attack by the afore-mentioned doll, Billy.
This leads Jamie to venture homeward bound where he unearths the grisly truth of her 101 dolls.
A must-see for horror fans and a director at the start of what would be an impressive upward trajectory into the bloody genre and putting out all the stops to make this a confident if not perfect psychological thriller.