In Bruce Campbell's book If Chins Could Kill, one picture shows him wearing a T-shirt that spoofs the Godzilla ad campaign of "Size Does Matter" with "Plot Does Matter." Knowing I will probably catch heat for saying this, I must say that the plot is the reason why I paid good money to see Saw V in the theater this weekend.
Reading Nathan's review of the film the day before, I wasn't swayed. Based on what he wrote, I figured if you hated the previous Saw sequels, you were going to hate this one as well. The same went if you loved the sequels. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit and thought the entire series could end with this film. (Not so, Saw VI, the apparently final film is already in the works.)
All the earmarks that have made the series a bankable box office and DVD franchise are there. I still don't enjoy watching torture or excessive gore, but since I know it's actors with makeup and CGI, I'm able to suspend belief and not be weirded out. And knowing that, I came to this realization: a horror film franchise like this would have never happened in the 80s or even the 90s.
Maybe we can thank (or blame) plot-intensive shows like LOST and CSI for this, but it's very safe to say you can't watch and fully understand what's going on in Saw V without seeing the previous four films. There are so many characters, set-ups, and backstories at this point. This, as opposed to the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween (except for the first two), Friday the 13th or Sleepaway Camp series. In other words, I'm compelled by the overall plot of the series to see each new one.
Maybe the rose-colored glasses are creeping up on my eyes, but basically what I gather with the mindset of splatter franchises in the 80s was this: the plot is irrelevant because all you need are the same earmarks that made Halloween and Friday the 13th box office hits. But there's a reason why the original Halloween and Black Christmas still hold up and so many of their imitators don't (and also why Student Bodies is still a genius film): there's actually more to the story than just scares, gore, and nudity.
That's why I say, with a slight defensive tone, that the same applies to the Saw films. Groan all you want about the so-called "torture porn" aspect, but to me, these films are more gory noir films with a twisted moral logic than just brainless splatter flicks.