An Interview with Alan Jones.
With SAW VI out on DVD and SAW VII imminent, Deadly Movies had the opportunity to talk to horror journalist veteran Alan Jones about all things SAW as well as the future direction of horror, Alan’s personal favourite new horror movies, bankers, Eurovision, and all things in-between.
Alan is best known for his 28 years with seminal magazine Cinefantastique, his work on Italian Giallo and Dario Argento, and perhaps most of all (within the horror fraternity) for being a co-organiser of the fantastic ‘Fright Fest’. Alan is currently talking to various websites about his thoughts on the latest SAW release on DVD SAW VI, which is where we began:
DM: How do you think SAW VI fits into the SAW series?
AJ: I actually really liked SAW VI. I think it got the series back on track. Like everybody I liked the first one, thought the second one was OK and I was really bored by three, four, and five. They became too convoluted, I actually got to the point, before I’d see a new one, where I’d have to watch the others just to actually fix in my mind what exactly was going on. They are really confusing I think.., but six gets it back on track. I like the story, I thought it keyed-into what’s going on currently.., what with the whole banking and insurance plot, which I thought was a clever move on their part to bring it back to reality, and the director Greutert did a good job of putting in the usual scares, making them quite nasty. The carousel game I thought was particularly good. So for me SAW VI was a real step in the right direction. (for the full interview click ‘more’)
DM: They are very sequential films aren’t they? You always know you’re watching a SAW film without having to see Jigsaw or a torture scene…,
AJ: Absolutely. They have that particular brand don’t they? I do find it funny that Tobin Bell has been it more since he died, as the character Jigsaw, than when he was alive (laughs). In the first films I don’t really think they thought they would to be SO successful. As a result of that they’ve had to do a lot of mythologising from Part 2 onwards. And they’ve done a good job of that. They are unique in their own way.., The whole torture porn thing, which I hate, I don’t really think applies to this, I just think it’s more and more grande setups to see how far they can go. I don’t find then upsetting or gory in any way, I think most people look at these.., a horror fan looks at these.., and thinks, “how inventive are they going to be?”
DM: It’s a playful violence isn’t it?
AJ: It is. I don’t see them as gruesome or shocking in any way I don’t think.
DM: How do you think SAW has succeeded where so may have tried and failed.., in achieving a multi entry sequential franchise the likes of which we haven’t really seen in cinemas since the 1980s?
AJ: It’s become a tradition. A Halloween tradition…, “Let’s all go and see the new SAW film”, irrespective of whether it’s any good or not. I don’t think any other film has really done that, the other franchise movies opened at various times of the year, whenever they were ready, they never really had a slot where they would particularly open up and I think the SAW films were one of the few to do that. It’s like the Eurovision Song Contest on a very gory level! They are very clever at making sure of that, I could set my watch by Lionsgate getting hold of me, and thinking “oh Yeah. It’s that time of year again”.
(There’s a quick segway onto the SAW ride and how I’m not very good at roller-coasters)
DM: I’ve read your book ‘A rough Guide to Horror’ in it you mention the importance of both the industry and fictional icons that influence the genre. In time will Jigsaw become as revered as the Jason’s, Pinhead’s, and Michael’s? Does he have that kind of genre impact?
AJ: I don’t know, until I’m prompted into talking about Jigsaw he doesn’t immediately come up. When you talk about horror icons you’re still talking about the ‘biggies’, the Jason’s, the Michael’s, the Freddy’s…, those types I think. Jigsaw you’d go “Oh yeah yeah he should be up there”, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think that’s a lot to do with the fact that these characters are made from the audience, you can’t manufacture that sort of thing. And I think they’ve tried to that [with Jigsaw] to a certain point.., “He’s an iconic image etc”.., whereas it’s the audience that will make him that way and I think that’s the difference. So no I wouldn’t put him in the pantheon of horror icons.
DM: Well we’ll see how his legacy grows again this year. Speaking of which, Patrick Melton suggested this month that SAW VII will be the last of the franchise. Whilst in horror you can never say never, do you think the timing is about right to bring it to a close?
I don’t think this will be the end of it. Even if they go with a straight to DVD series they’ll still do it. They can streamline the budgets to get maximum returns because there will always be people who want to watch it. Until they really do lose money badly.., that would be the end of it. For Producer Mark Burg it’s a cash cow, he’s not going to kill that golden goose fast, so I think it’s a case of carry on. No.., I really think SAW VII will not be the end of it. With the 3D entries to come I think you’re looking into going up to SAW X easily.
DM: Or maybe an 80s style ‘Friday the 13th’ TV show?!
Maybe who knows.
DM: The SAW franchise always has reminded me of a gruesome type of CSI
AJ: Absolutely, from SAW III onwards, I know exactly what you mean there.
DM: Authors and scholars like to talk about the social and cultural connotations of horror. Do you think any parallels can be drawn between SAWs popularity and the amount of human rights violations and torture allegations that we hear so much about in the media these days? Perhaps a desire to see what we hear about?
AJ: Although I can buy into certain social elements when it comes to horror.., I don’t know. Look.., I like seeing these things, I still love seeing horror movies, I want to be scared, I want to jump, I want to have my imagination tickled, that’s what I want. Yes there is the shared culture, we’re all sitting there together, and yes it is horrible in the world at the moment, and yes we do go to the cinema to have a cathartic jolt that we can control, as opposed to the stuff going on outside that we can’t, but to me I always find that whole thing so knee jerky. Because of my work with Fright Fest I see the crowd, I know what it’s all about, I can judge what people are coming to see, and it’s about entertainment in the end, It’s about clapping a fantastic death that you see on screen, it’s about saying “wasn’t that great, I wasn’t expecting that”.., That’s what it’s all about. People can go on about social relevance all they like but I’m not so sure. I think It can touch those places, like SAW VI does, I mean we all hate bankers at the moment and it was great seeing them get their just desserts, but there’s only so much you can go down that route with. I’ve always said to anybody that’s asked me that I just like to watch violence on-screen! I don’t see that you need to justify yourself and if people want to judge me on that I couldn’t care less (laughs!).
DM: Do you think it’s a case of keeping some people in publishing deals?
I just get so bored of those scrambling from explanations of things. If I weren’t writing about this stuff I’d never consider those issues. I’d just be watching the movies because I want to watch them, because I’ve always been a horror fan, I want to be scared, I want to jump, I want to see how good the makeup effects are. That’s it! If people can’t accept that then too bad.
DM: So what next then, If horror comes in cycles? You could say we’re in a remake glut at the moment…,
It’s terrible isn’t it? Although saying that, the ‘Crazies‘ remake was good. But every once in a while you see a movie that comes along and (sighs).., the lack of imagination on Hollywood’s part is just staggeringly awful. Just because it’s got some sort of name acknowledgment with fans they think you’d want to watch it again. So I’m not sure. They keep saying vampires are back but if they’re all going to be like ‘Twilight‘ then forget it, I don’t want to see them. And then they said the classics were coming back, that ‘Wolfman‘ was going to start the Universal’s again, but after the cost of that and the disaster it was, then if we’re supposed to see ‘The Creature From the Black Lagoon‘ or ‘Frankenstein‘ again…, well, lets see. There’ll be a film that comes along soon that’ll change everything again, and then they’ll all be made like that. So who knows what that’s going to be. However at the moment, aside from the whole remake trend, the genre is in a fantastic place. I’m seeing more movies that are broadening out what we consider as horror. I’m seeing so many new ideas. All exciting stuff and of course none of it is happening in Hollywood!
DM: What about Scandinavian horror? That’s where I’d put my money on Hollywood looking next.
AJ: Yeah they’ve done some good stuff. ‘Manhunt‘ (aka ‘Rovdyr‘ 2008) was good wasn’t it? ‘Dead Snow’ was fantastic, and the ‘Cold Prey’ movies.., but they are basically the Hollywood movies shoved in a Scandinavian suit…,
DM: Very much so, that was going to be my next point..,
AJ: Indeed. ‘Let The Right One In‘ was absolutely amazing and deservedly did as well as I thought it would do. So lets see where it goes. France is doing some great stuff at the moment, I’ve seen a couple of French films recently that I thought were really terrific.., really unusual. Plus there’s the new Spanish lot…, there’s the movie ‘Agnosia‘, that’s the one I cannot wait for, I think that may change things again. It’s by Eugenio Mira, he did a film called ‘The Birthday‘ a few years ago which showed real promise. So who knows. It could go back to Korea and Asia again.., I think they’re about as moribund as America is at the moment, they’re still cloning themselves over and over again. I haven’t seen a half-way decent Asian [horror] movie for a long time. So it would seem that trend has gone. I really wish Italy would get back to normal! The Italian film industry was one of my major loves. I loved everything that came out of there. Then they just completely lost the plot as far as I’m concerned. What’s come out of there that’s been any good at all? Except for last year’s ‘Shadow‘ which I thought would spearhead a new Italian trend, but so far nothing more is going on there.
DM: Do you think you could pinpoint a single new favourite horror film of yours?
AJ: I can! Simon Rumley’s ‘Red, White, & Blue‘. That is one of the best films I have seen for a very, very long time. It is shocking in a way I hadn’t seen for a while. It is really unusual in what it does. We showed Simon’s ‘Living and the Dead‘ a few years ago at Fright Fest and I’ve always known that he was a talent to watch, but I didn’t quite expect it to materialise so soon. He’s come up with something really amazing. It’s horrifying in a way I haven’t seen for quite some time. ‘Kick-Ass‘ isn’t bad, for a comic book movie It’s unusual and different. So we’ll see what the Daily Mail has to say about that (laughs!)
DM: Well hopefully they can give it all the reverse negative backhanded compliments it needs for good publicity!
I’m a member of the critics circle of London and so is ***** (Alan suggests a fellow journalist who I should probably not print!) and to be honest I can’t stand the man! He makes me laugh! He gets so wound up about things that I don’t even see as an issue! It’s going to be interesting to see ‘Kick-Ass‘ reception amongst the tabloid press I have to say (laughs!)
DM: To round things off, firstly let me say thank you very much for your time and…, What title in your DVD collection would you consider a guilty pleasure? The kind of film you wouldn’t want to admit to colleagues and peers that you own and adore?
AJ: To be honest with you when people come around to my place they’re always shocked that I don’t have that many DVDs. I’m more of a collector of film related material. Apart from the Argento’s, the Mario Bava’s, and any Giallos – I’m a massive Giallo fanatic – apart from those, that’s all I collect really. Sometimes you see some peoples DVD collections and they haven’t even opened them! And I don’t see the point in that. So.., what have I got that’s a guilty pleasure? That’s a hard one. ‘CQ‘, is that a guilty pleasure.., do you think? Perhaps ‘The Black Emanuelle‘ series?
DM: I’d say they count..,
AJ: As rubbish as they are.., I’m not talking about the sex ones, I’m not interested in those.., ‘Emanuelle and The Last Cannibals‘ (1977), those types. I just think the soundtracks are absolutely amazing. I play the Nico Fidenco soundtrack all the time. I just can’t believe it’s from the same movie! Or the ‘Mondo Cannibale‘ boxset. For years I remember seeing ‘Mondo Cannibale‘ and thinking it was horrible, I’m just not a fan of it, even ‘Cannibal Holocaust‘, I don’t want to see animal cruelty on-screen really. But when I watched them again, all of them, wow, these are a lot better than I ever thought they were. Because they’re not badly filmed and they’re not that exploitative really.., It’s only what’s built up around them. So I’ll go with those.
SAW 6 is released in the UK from Lionsgate on March 8th on DVD and Blu-ray. Visit www.saw6movie.co.uk for further info