With Hostel 2 crapping out at the box office this past weekend and Eli Roth steadfastly declaring beforehand that he wasn't going to make another sequel, it appears that what figured to be an exploding sub-genre of horror (torture porn & gore) about to be filled with dozens of ripoffs and competitors has wilted down to its progenitor already.
Sure, there are still horror flicks out there to see and more coming every year, that genre itself won't be going anywhere anytime soon, but with the unlikely financial success of Saw 1-3 and Hostel, we all figured a half-dozen or more people would jump into the fray trying to out gore everyone else one disgusting flick at a time until Congress threatened to regulate, audiences threatened to stay home, and I threatened to vomit all over my couch.
Turns out it was much ado about nothing. Hostel 2 didn't bomb, but it didn't set the world on fire either, and Roth said he's done with that material either way. Saw is on its fourth installment and there's not telling how much longer it can go, but I think they should get out while it's still bringing in decent returns.
I wouldn't be surprised if people shirked Saw IV already making this feature one too many.
Either way, I made you suffer through all that bullshit just to tell you that Saw IV has in fact finished shooting, and is officially entering post-production.
Over on his MySpace blog, director Darren Lynn Bousman proclaims, "Saw IV shot - and onto editing!!! HELL YEAH!!!!" Based on all the capital letters and exclamation points, I take it the dude is just a tad excited about the whole thing. And why wouldn't he be? After helping kick-start this whole "torture phase" that the horror genre has been in as of late, it's the only franchise still alive and capable of making a killing at the box office.
Well now, I don't think I'd quite go that far. I haven't seen any of the Saw movies except the last half-hour of the first film - which wasn't bad, scary, or gross by any means - and if that is anything to make a judgment from, there wasn't much torture anywhere to be seen. I liked what I saw even though I generally dislike gore, pain, and suffering movies when they exist just to exploit those things. They must exist to service the story, not the other way around.
I have seen Hostel, and comparing the bits of one to the entirety of the whole, I'm sure that I'm probably missing a lot here, but if one of those two "kick-start(ed) this whole 'torture phase'", it was Hostel, not Saw.
That said, I've written several times about Saw's financial success at the box office. It can't help but be so, when we're talking about budgets under $5 million (though the most recent two I think went over $10, which is still pocket change.) To give you some idea of just how cheap that is, a summer tent-pole film like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End probably send upwards of $30-50 million in marketing alone, piled on top of it's $200+ million production budget.
Even if Saw XX only makes $40 million, that's a big profit margin when it only cost $10m to make. So far, every single Saw film has been profitable, which all by itself warrants yet another sequel, and who can blame the studio for taking that kind of attitude?
They say that only one of of every ten films makes a profit, and so that one film must be a blockbuster to make up for the losses generated by the other failures. Films like saw won't make $250m in the theaters, but if they guarantee you a profit every single time out, a couple of them per year can serve as insurance against those nine other failures when your planned tent-pole extravaganza disappoints.
An interesting bit of information that has eluded me until today, Saw IV was written by partners Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (seen at Cinematical) which could be good, and could be really bad. Melton and Dunstan won project Greenlight not because they wrote the best script in the competition, but because they had a top three script and gave the best pitch of those three.
If you didn't see it, it was really obvious that there were two camps dividing the decision makers. The first group was concerned only with the quality of the script, and therefore the ultimate quality of the film. They wanted the best script so they could make the best film. That group included Wes Craven, Matt Damon, and Ben Afleck.
The other group consisted mostly of producers and studio representatives who were also producers. They were enthralled by the pitch that Melton and Dunstan gave, and I was pretty impressed as well. They identified with these guys because they were spewing the kind of bullshit that studio execs and producers eat up. High concept, not a lot of detail.
Because the creative group won out of the past few competitions, the studio guys won out this time. The first two movies were probably very well done, good quality, great cinema, but they bombed at the theaters (which had more to do with zero marketing, a small opening, and a cast of unknowns than it did with the quality of the movie.) So the studio guys said to hell with the best quality script, they wanted something they thought they could make money with, which is exactly what they get with Dunstan and Melton.
Unfortunately, there's a divergence here in reality. That's what they thought they were getting from the writers because that's what the writers sold them on, as opposed to looking at the top three scripts and evaluating them objectively on their merits. The producers did what typical producers and studio execs did, they let themselves get sweet talked into a bad deal.
Feast - the film that came out of Melton and Dunstan's script and the Greenlight contest - wasn't very good. It was entertaining, I laughed my ass off at times, but really, it did stink up the room. There were other scripts in that competition that would have made better films but lost out to greedy profiteering.
And this is an indication of what you're going to get from Melton and Dunstan on Saw IV. These guys are not the pinnacle of literary achievement in screenwriting, these guys wanted to make the next Evil Dead 2, not something that was going to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Maybe that's for the best, I don't think Saw is the kind of film that goes after that audience. Maybe they are perfectly suited for this -- hacks hired as hit men to produce bad horror films. We'll have to wait and see.