What with the naturalistic performances, explicit sex scenes, low-key cinematography and lashings of nudity, Dogtooth is about as arthouse a movie as one could expect to find this side of a Lars von Trier. We know that it's arthouse because none of it is really arousing and they do it with their socks on. And as such, the movie's not very accessible nor is it particularly interesting to lovers of plot or things happening. With not much happening in Dogtooth, it would be remiss of me to spoil that which actually does. It may not be horror proper, but there's enough here to disturb and peak the curiosity of even the most hardened horror fan. The incest is a bit much though. It's the inaccessability and lack of purpose that holds Dogtooth back from greatness. Somewhere towards the end, it seems like it's amping up towards a big happening - but not much does. It sort of just, well, ends. Like this.
The whole thing trundles along in its usual way, towards a predictable climax (come on, there was no way Hoffman would ever be caught. Strahm was always destined to die the same death of all Saw heroes) intercut with various tortures and false promises of some sort of meaning. Not even the normally quite likeable Julie Benz can elevate this episode. She plays a boring, uninteresting and unlikeable businesswoman type, trapped in an underground dungeon type thing with a host of other disparate, boring, uninteresting and unlikeable people. Their big game plays out like a team building exercise, with the resounding moral message being that teamwork overcomes all. Meanwhile, Strahm was fucked from the start. His final test is unwinnable really, as the franchise needs its heroes to keep dying in order to keep going. It's very lazy and very predictable. Just for once, the twist should be a Happy Ending for all; Jigsaw and his cronies left dead and run out of silly games.
"You won't believe how it ends". My dear Saw, I couldn't give a fuck.
Destroying any hope that Saw IV might resurrect Jigsaw as a zombie, Jesus or Frankenstein, the movie opens with everyone's favourite grumpy cancer patient lying dead on a table. A pointless autopsy scene ensues, apparently only present in order to outdo the previous movie's brain surgery bit. A mini tape cassette is found in his stomach. Jigsaw wants to play some more games. Well, at least he's persistent. His addictive personality is the least of his problems now though, being dead and all.
The tape is handed over to Detective Hoffman (Mandaylor). Thanks to The Girl Who Loves Horror for reminding me of his name. Considering he's supposed to be the series' villain now, he's one forgettable motherfucker. Not only that, but I have trouble telling him apart from supposed hero Detective Strahm (Patterson) so it's little wonder that I get these last three instalments all mixed up. It doesn't help that neither man has a jot of charisma to share between them. Saw IV brings us the most boring and bland gathering of protagonists and antagonists since almost ever. Gone are the bits of fun casting like Ben from off've LOST, Danny Glover or that other bloke from off've LOST.
But at least Donnie Wahlberg is back! He has hardly anything to do in his limited screentime, but for me his presence is the only worthwhile thing about Saw IV. When your movie's watchability is saved by Donnie Wahlberg, well, that's when you know you're doing something wrong. Alas, his re-introduction is rendered ultimately pointless since he gets his head smashed in with an ice cube not too long afterwards. The Saw franchise thus far reads like a giant "fuck you" to Donnie Wahlberg. Way to waste your series' best character, Saw people (yes, Whalberg's Detective is actually and unironically my favourite character). Whilst all this happens, one of the remaining cops from Wahlberg's squad is playing a game of his own. This translates into failing to save anyone from dying and then getting himself killed at the end.
There's a twist, which seems complicated but actually isn't. I suppose it's clever in its own not-clever sort of way, with the timelines and stuff, and also Hoffman is revealed to be Jigsaw's apprentice, fuelling a further bunch of instalments. Next up: Strahm is on Hoffman's tail, Julie Benz plays another stupid game and there's a flashback to Jigsaw bitching. Again.
An actual plot point in Devil
But where it fails - and fail it occasionally does - is in its terribly cheesy cut-scenes, ridiculously hard psychopath boss battles, underpowered guns, strict deadlines and a map that takes ages to traverse. Its save point system will annoy some, although it's reportedly better than that of the original Dead Rising, and the controls can be a little fiddly at time. The whole thing is nearly derailed by the sheer amount of load screens which pop up at frustrating regularity.
Best of all: it comes with a full money back guarantee should you die by zombie within 30 days of its purchase.
Yes, do tune in to Issue 173 for my interview with Emma Watson, a Rachel McAdams/Anne Hathaway face off and lots and lots of uncredited untyping jobs. Transcribing exclusive John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper interview tapes is a highlight of this idiot horrorhound's life so far. Plus I think I might be ever so slightly a lot in love with Emma Watson. So yes, go out and buy a copy now. I'll love you forever.