Today, I am working on a new series I call “Saw-Tober“. It’s a simple premise, really, I will be reviewing each of the SAW films; one at a time. This is both in part because of my love for the films, but also because it’s October. I’ve always had a love for these films, even if they did get progressively bad with their “torture-porn” ways. So let us begin, with the infamous first film that started one of the most successful horror franchises of all time and play a game called: SAW.
SAW is not for everyone, but for those who have seen it, remembers the first time they watched it. I remember sitting in my house and watching this on our “big” – 32 inch – screen TV. I also remember being confused, and amazed by just how crazy the whole scenario was: I mean for someone my age back then, [about 14 years old] this was pretty extreme, even for someone who grew up watching “younger horror.” Of all the “real” horror films I had seen prior to this one, SAW was something different: it felt – at least to me – real.
And it was quite a revolution back in 2004. Back then, the only thing I can remember seeing is remakes of Asian horror films, like The Ring or The Grudge, but SAW was different: it was like a big breath of fresh air. Looking back with the knowledge I have about the horror genre now, I think this was a good thing – especially for the genre as a whole. Before SAW, horror was a dying genre, and without it, I don’t think the genre would have lasted as strongly as it has.
But does it hold up now? Let’s find out.
We start off with two guys waking up in a dingy, dirty old bathroom [see above] because all good horror stories start off as a drunken trip through the backwoods of Europe. [I’m looking at you, Hostel..] Our story follows Doctor Lawrence Gordon and Adam who are chained by the ankle to pipes at opposite ends of the room and have no apparent memory of how they got there or of who the other is. Naturally, the two look around. Between them lies a man in a pool of blood; with a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. As the two men begin to question the scenario they have to face, Gordon, quickly realizes that they may be the next victims of a notorious serial killer known only as Jigsaw.
For those out of the know, The Jigsaw killer never directly kills his victims. He instead places them in elaborate [and] gruesome traps that he claims gives each victim a valuable life lesson – if you can survive, you’ll appreciate your life just a little bit more than you did before. However, chances of survival are usually small, with only one victim having survived so far. Gordon talks about how he knows of Jigsaw: it turns out this is because he was once a prime suspect in the case. Thankfully, he was released after his alibi for one of the murders checked out.
What makes SAW so great is that there is no melodramatic lead-in: it quite literally throws you straight into the middle of the story and doesn’t let go until the final frame. Most of the movie plays out in the bathroom “cell” with all the other exciting parts, other than the final act, being told through flashbacks of various characters. This can and sometimes does make SAW seem stage-like, especially in the extended edition’s opening scene, but for an unusual approach; it works well as the movie never once drags.
Surprisingly, Director James Wan handles everything really well in this debut picture. He doesn’t give anything away too soon, leaving the viewer just confused enough to stay interested without letting them know everything, even if they might think they do. And just when it looks like SAW is going down a road of clichés, it pulls a fast one and leaves you surprised! If there’s anything can be criticized, it’s Wan’s use of hyper fast-cut scenes set to hard rock music to add a sense of urgency to what is going on. These are effective, particularly during the trap sequences; but over the course of seven SAW films it became tiresome and almost overused.
In all seriousness though, SAW is is not for everyone. It can [and later does] be gruesome and extreme, but that makes up a very small part of what can otherwise be considered an interesting psychological thriller. It’s not perfect; but for what it is – and what the franchise became – it is an important piece of horror cinema that has the heart of many.
Now I turn to You – the reader. Are You a fan of the SAW franchise? Or are they “more gore, less story” in your opinion? Let me know in a comment below, and if you enjoyed this review, and are looking for more, go and follow me over on my Facebook page! [we’re at over 150+ likes – let’s get to 200!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been “gone live” online; and I also share links to articles and pictures/videos that will not be featured here on the blog. So go follow over there too!
JOIN ME TOMORROW WHEN I REVIEW MY LEAST FAVORITE OF THE SERIES: SAW II.
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