** This post contains spoilers to films that are a decade old, or more. **
I had no interest in watching the film Saw, released in 2004 and easily ignored in the years since. I am no fan of horror films, finding them to be tedious viewing. With ridiculous premises, nonsensical plots, awful dialogue, and an obnoxious amount of screaming, shouting, and shrieking, I am content to watch almost anything else instead. Despite the work it provides to the many talented prosthetics and special effects crews out there, I am especially keen to avoid the whole gore/torture genre that has arisen.
I do watch the occasional horror, hoping it will not bore me for its duration. Largely, the ones I enjoy are tongue-in-cheek and full of dark humour. An early job after I graduated saw me working on a then-innovative feature, its villains the undead German soldiers of World War Two. A short while later, I was loading-in gear for my favourite band, ahead of their concert that night. Having worked for and with them a few times, their singer enquired as to what I had been up to since he had last seen me at their previous gig. I happily told him:
“I’ve been working on a film about Nazi Zombies. What could be cooler than Nazi Zombies?!”
He looked at me and, deapan, asked “Have you ever seen the film Zombie Strippers?”
I like Outpost, the former of those two, because so much of the menace is hidden in the darkness. It comes across more atmospheric thriller than gory horror, the threat as much in the mind of the audience as visible on screen. Zombie Strippers, the plot blatant from its title, is enjoyably stupid, very entertaining and contains some pointed satire. Robert Englund, the instantly recognisable anti-hero in a series of iconic films I have never watched, comes across brilliantly as the sleazy manager looking out for himself. As he reveals an arsenal of guns and displays his National Rifle Association membership card, he defiantly defends his incompetence with the weapons: “Hey, the law says I can own them, not that I have to know how to use them.”
A good friend of mine loves horrors, and lives close enough that we have had a fair few film nights together. I introduced her to things I love and which I figured she might like, like Clue and Das Experiment, and in return she showed me the new Evil Dead and the second Human Centipede. I had not seen the original, as you will no doubt have guessed, but found the sequel comparatively watchable. Centred around a man so obsessed with the original film that he attempts to recreate it, there was a certain logic to it, at least. I find that lacking in a lot of horror, which contributes to my disinterest in it.
It is this same friend who adores Saw, and who finally convinced me to watch it with her. I held off for years because of the “torture-porn” tag that the franchise gained, picking up somewhere along the route that a character cuts off his own foot. I had no desire to witness that, staged as I knew it to be. However, I was eventually swayed by her enthusiasm and by my discovery that it stars Cary Elwes. He will always be, to my mind, the Lincoln green-clad hero who proclaimed “unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.” When I first rented the VHS of Robin Hood: Men In Tights I watched it thirteen times in two days, and many more times after that. I can still quote vast amounts of it, a seminal movie in the development of my sense of humour.
My friend and I sat down together to watch Saw, ten years after its cinematic release and after a full year of her regularly telling me to check it out. The opening scene shows two men chained separately in a large industrial bathroom. A corpse lies on the floor between them. My friend helpfully explained “You think he’s dead, but he’s not. At the end he gets up and you find out he did it all.”
“Are you joking?”
It took me so long to be coaxed into watching it, and within a minute of it starting she had announced the ending. I was completely nonplussed, a feeling compounded by the recollection of our shared viewing of The Sixth Sense. That is a film with an infamous twist, and I had kept my mouth shut throughout – even when she asked me directly.
“Is he dead?”
“We’ll find out.”
“Oh my god, he was dead the whole time,” she exclaimed at the appropriate juncture.
She punched my arm, momentarily annoyed. “No! You were surprised too!”
In that instance I was not surprised, given that it was my DVD of it that we watched and given how parodied it has been in the intervening years. I will admit to being surprised at the spoiler she casually let slip during Saw though, inasmuch as it was entirely unexpected and I had no idea what to do with that information. I did not foresee that she would instantly ruin the very film she was desperate for me to watch.
Nevertheless, I will have my revenge. She loves Star Wars, but one day I will make her watch Psycho. Or The Usual Suspects. Or Planet Of The Apes. Or The Crying Game. Or Soylent Green. Or – well, you see what I am implying.