JULY 3, 2012
It takes balls to do a Saw ripoff that specifically seems to be aping Saw V, the all but universally decreed worst entry in the series, but the hook of Death Tube is identical to that film’s “twist”: each game is designed to allow ALL players to survive if they cooperate, but it wasn’t realized until it was too late. In Saw V’s case there were only two left by the time they figured it out (after starting with six), but here someone points it out before the film’s halfway point.
Of course, his directions aren’t followed, or innocent mistakes happen and people die anyway, but it’s still a decent idea, to the extent that I wish it had worked ONCE so that everyone could pass that round and prove he was right. As with Saw V, it’s all based on a big IF, because we never see how it would have worked, how the villain would react, etc. It’s like they came up with something cool (or stole it from a Saw sequel, either or) and didn’t want to go to the effort of figuring out how it would actually work. Kind of weak. Likewise, there’s some lip service about how we WANT to see everyone fail in order to see some kills, but then they introduce a subplot about their loved ones seeing the show and trying to save them from the outside world. As it turns out, our main character’s fiancé finds out that he’s there and tries to do something about it, but is quickly stopped by henchmen. OK, but is she the only one to try? Did the other 7 people not have any friends or loved ones to be concerned about them? Again, it’s a half-assed implementation of an intriguing idea.
Anyway, the movie itself is 40 minutes too long to succeed in its attempt to be a really goofy version of a Saw/Cube type movie, in which a bunch of strangers are forced to solve puzzles in order to proceed closer to freedom. But unlike those films’ inventive traps and (in Cube’s case) advanced mathematically based puzzles, the games our folks have to solve are just silly kids’ games: hopscotch, “hot potato”, Rubik’s cube, etc. It’d probably be more fun if they were presented with riddles like in Die Hard With A Vengeance, because part of the fun of that film was laughing at the silliness of Simon’s games but also trying to figure it out and thus feel superior to John McClane (if only for a moment…). But here, there’s no sense of viewer participation – my ability to stack some blocks and walk 10 feet without them tipping over doesn’t mean shit, I just have to watch and see if OTHERS can do it.
As you can imagine, that might get a bit tiresome. There’s no plot, no mystery to solve, etc, so it’s just a movie about watching other people play games. And that would be fine if it was 75-80 minutes long, but at just a hair under 2 hours (the end credits play over the movie, so you can’t even round up), it wears out its welcome long before the characters get to the final game, where a few minor twists come into play. There are three, the first is pretty obvious (someone is purposely getting people killed), the second is just pointless and extends the run time (someone returns from the “dead”). The third is cool, but it just twists the knife about the final outcome, which is at odds with the rest of the movie.
See, it ends on a bit of a downer, but the movie as a whole is pretty damn goofy. Our villain is not some Jigsaw-esque madman or even a creepy puppet, but a few guys in plush yellow bear costumes who dance around like low-rent team mascots while the victims play out their high stakes games. The instructions come from Pakincho, an animated version of the bear who cheerfully explains the rules, sounding like the announcer for Bust-A-Move more than any sort of scary horror villain. Sure, there’s a slight bit of creepy surrealism to it, but like everything else it just gets dull after a while; by the 75 minute mark it’s no longer “whoa, weird” OR funny. Instead, any sane viewer will wonder why the 3-4 people still standing don’t simply overpower the guy in the costume (who we see has trouble doing simple hand actions with his costume on, which means he probably can’t fire the gun he’s waving), as there’s nothing built in that would require them to play along that I can discern – no poison that they need to find the antidote for, or countdown clock to an explosion or whatever. Seems like they can just hang out and there wouldn’t be much the glorified Pikachu could do about it except try to shoot them with his giant plush fingers.
On that note, here’s a screenshot to prove I didn’t make this movie up:
Because oddly, there’s no IMDb page for the damn thing, even though it’s been out for nearly two years and released on DVD through legitimate channels (Cinema Epoch for Region 1). I don’t know if they purposely kept it off there to play up their “snuff film” angle, but if so it’s (again) at odds with the movie’s childish MO – if anything they should be embracing social media and websites and creating a “WTF sort of insanity IS this?” buzz. But what do I know?
Epoch’s disc has English subtitles, no dub option. The subs are OK I guess, but some things bugged me, such as the fact that the word “Clear” was always capitalized for some reason. They also miss some stuff; there are inspirational messages written on the walls, and at one point we’re CLEARLY supposed to be reading what one says as a character performs an action (they rack focus from his face to the message), but no subtitle comes up to tell us what it says. Also, the game is being broadcast online (the title is made up in Youtube’s font), and throughout we see messages from people watching, most of which are hilariously mean-spirited and inane – but we only get some of them. Three or four will flash by but the subtitle guy will only bother to do one, which is a shame since after a while they’re the most entertaining thing about the movie as it drags out to its conclusion. The reason, usually, is that they need to put the subs in for the actual dialogue (it’s a very talky movie), so there’s no room – another reason to want a dubbed track. Not sure if that’s how it is all over – it’s the sort of information an IMDb page would probably provide, natch.
Since the Saw films were noticeably low on (intentional) humor, I’m all for a sillier take on this material, but like any comedy it needs to move along and get us out of there in 90 minutes (or if it’s an Apatow movie, give us a decent, relatable story to justify the runtime). At 116 minutes, it’s LONGER than any actual Saw movie (save for an extended cut of Saw III), which makes this a tough sell. There’s a sequel, however – maybe they got it right that time. I’m sure I’ll eventually find out.
What say you?