Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If it's Halloween it must indeed be Saw

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As a kid, I was scared of the dark. But I slowly outgrew that fear, learning that if there's anything I should really be afraid of, it must be things that could actually harm me. The 10th anniversary Halloween re-release of the highly successful horror film franchise Saw reminds us of this. It's not maleficent spirits or blood-thirsty vampires (sparkly or otherwise) we should fear in this world, but people like John Kramer, a.k.a. Jigsaw, the deranged serial killer in the film series.

The first of four 10th anniversary Saw posters

There are seven Saw films, each one released yearly since 2004 around Halloween, the last being Saw 3D: The Final Chapter which I remember seeing with a date four years ago (romantic, right?). The only other installment I've seen prior was Saw II and it was just earlier this year that it occurred to me I should watch all seven. I was on sick leave and had nothing better to do, so I cooked some instant noodles and watched film after bloody film while eating.

Posters of all seven films in the Saw franchise, some of them banned for graphic content

John Kramer was normal once, a civil engineer married to a rehab clinic owner pregnant with their boy...until an accident caused his wife to have a miscarriage. He became vengeful, pushing his wife away and he sank even deeper when he found out he had cancer. After surviving a suicide attempt caused him to appreciate the value of his life, he made it his mission, a sort of philanthropy, to cause others to be "reborn" the same way by testing their wills to live.

Billy, the puppet Jigsaw uses in his tests as a visual representation of himself explaining the rules his victim has to follow to survive

Thus The Jigsaw Killer was born, though it wasn't long until he eventually had to succumb to death too. Even posthumously, however, his legacy of teaching the value of life to those who are squandering it away is continued by protégés. "Live or die. Make your choice," Jigsaw would always tell his victims. If they fail, they die, and by their own hands, as he saw it. They might lose an eye or a couple of limbs, but if they succeed, they're the better for it.

As deranged as John Kramer was, I couldn't help but admire him for his genius, planning everything to the last detail, with every test and death trap tailor-fit for each of his chosen victims. Tobin Bell's portrayal of him was exceptional, "more terrifying than the movie villains in Hollywood's last five horror films put together," a San Francisco Chronicle review had put it, "...even though he's in a wheelchair and hooked up to multiple IVs." That's one guy you definitely do not want to mess with, lest you wake up from sedation alone in a strange room, with the reverse beartrap locked around your neck, threatening to rip your jaws apart in a minute.

The reverse beartrap, the deadly contraption one of Jigsaw's victims Amanda Young was able to survive

There have been rumors of a Saw VIII being in the works and no one has clearly dismissed this as untrue. Leigh Whannell, actor and writer for Saw, has expressed interest in returning to the film franchise, and Saw director James Wan himself has said in an interview, "I think the Saw universe, the Saw brand, is too big to just let it just sit there on a shelf. I'll say that much." So I guess until we finally hear that this next installment is either completely happening or not at all, American fans can just make do with the theatrical re-release of the first-ever Saw in select theaters around them this Halloween.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The McRib and Jollibee's Pancake Sandwich

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I have long given up the habit of eating at fast food joints, only doing so whenever I get a really intense craving for an MSG fix...or when KFC is serving their Double Down, McDonald's their Twister Fries, or Jollibee their Amazing Aloha or Hashbrown Burger. Those last two establishments have just added to their roster of periodically sold food items—the McRib and Pancake Sandwich, respectively—though the former has been around since the 80s in other countries. Because I'm a foodie, I couldn't help but try both of them.

The McRib is barbecue-flavored pork meat that comes either with rice or as a sandwich with onions and pickles. But don't be fooled into thinking this McDonald's offering is actually a rib, as it's only restructured meat, inspired by pulled-pork barbecue. In fact that's what it really is—pork barbecue, only larger and minus the stick, slathered with barbecue sauce to make you think you're eating something grilled.

I would have had a much better impression of it had it been called the McBarbecue, but the deception, obvious though it may be, diminished whatever slight tastiness the product had. So, all that to say I didn't quite like the McRib. Not worth the P110 one has to pay for a sandwich or P100 with rice (both a la carte), or the hype they're trying to build around it by just serving it at a few McDonald's branches.

Jollibee's Pancake Sandwich provided me with a much more pleasant experience. It's strips of bacon (a.k.a. happiness), an egg and a slice of cheese, sandwiched between two pancakes (a.k.a. more happiness), all combining to give you several bites of absolute nirvana. No need for maple syrup, because it tastes delicious as it is. For only P50 a la carte, you can buy two of it and be much more satisfied than just buying one McRib sandwich for almost the same price. The Pancake Sandwich's only downside? Being a breakfast food item, it's only available between 6 and 11 AM. And most stores run out of it fast.

I used to think fast food establishments were crazy for not making their periodically sold items permanent menu offerings, but now I realize it's actually a smart move keeping such things off the public's reach for a while. And from a consumer's point of view, baka pagsawaan agad. Let the people clamor for the food item for a while, like I've been doing for Jollibee's Pancake Sandwich most mornings before coming to work. And then provide us ample time to lose some weight before making us regain it all later.
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