Saw Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

This year marks the 10th anniversary of one my favorite film franchises, SAW. A low-budget film that took the horror genre by storm and spawned 6 sequels. It’s also sort of responsible for the genre shift into more grotesque torture horror for a while. Let me be clear, the saw series isn’t necessarily that good. I think it does a lot of things right that make you overlook and accept its short comings. The saw movies do a good job of establishing a continued world, the world of the jigsaw killer. Each movie isn’t a random off shoot capitalizing off the style and name of the franchise. Your constantly gaining insight and learning about previous instalments from the new ones. I recently went to watch the 10 anniversary showing of the film and I still love it, so here is my review 10 years late but better than never.

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Saw follows the story of a serial killer nicknamed by the police as Jiggsaw. Accept that technically he is not a killer at all. Jiggsaw actually gets his victims to kill themselves. He accomplishes this by placing them in elaborate games themed around a deadly trap. If the victim can solve trap they will live, but it usually comes to great cost like physical pain or even another person’s life. The motivations aren’t exactly clear for Jiggsaw, but he accuses all the victims of taking life for granted. He views his games as therapy in a lot of ways. If they survive his game, they will have a deeper appreciation for being alive , and if they fail.. they don’t deserve to be alive anyway.

The film primarily concentrates on Jiggsaw’s latest game. He traps two individuals in a basement dweller like bathroom. Dr Gordan portrayed by Cary Elwes and Adam portrayed by co-screen writer Leigh Whannell. They are chained on opposites ends of the room with no knowledge of how they got there. In between them lies the corpse of an unidentified man who shot himself in the head. Soon they locate two readily available things. The first is a tape recorder that explains the rules of the game. Jiggsaw informs Dr. Gordan that he has kidnapped his family. Gordan has 4 hours to try to kill Adam. If he fails to do so in the alloted time, Jiggsaw will kill his family and leave him there to rot. Adam’s game is much simpler, he must survive and escape. The second item made readily available are two rusty hand saws. It doesn’t take them long to realize the saw is too weak to cut through the chains that bind them. It’s intended purpose is to saw through their own foot to free themselves.

Another story line of the film follows the group of detectives that are attempting to catch Jiggsaw. You’ll see them go through other crime scenes/games that Jiggsaw has played. In one instance, you get to learn about the only person to ever survive a Jiggsaw game. While the toll the games play on the victims is obvious, it is also having an effect on the detectives trying to catch him. They are literally always on the clock, often arriving too late to ever save anybody.

The film was shot with a low budget of 1.2 million. This didn’t leave much money for anything , which is why the film primarily takes place in this single room. Most of the rest of the story are told in these flashback sequences. They are done in pretty good taste, usually to offer perspective on the protagonist as they attempt to make sense of their situation. They also go a long way to illustrating Jiggsaw himself. You’ll learn some information about his former victims and the games they failed to win. All the while, his identity remaining a secret. This is a pretty good tactic film wise because the flashbacks serve a dual purpose. The first for character exposition and the second to provide clues to the audience in an attempt to figure out who the killer really is. With this, Saw walks a path least traveled and becomes more of a murder mystery / suspense film than a horror film. Saw really isn’t about the scare factor , it’s the mystery it tries to hang its hat on. Not only with the primary game itself but in every game. Jiggsaw speaks in riddles and the rules of the game are concise but still air on the side of vague. The traps take a life of their own as well. Traps like the reverse bear trap or the razor wire maze are simple in concept yet horrifying in their application. While Jiggsaw always explains to his victims a means to defeat the trap, there always seems to be more to the story. Alternate solutions, that while not mentioned by Jiggsaw directly, if the victim would have perceived it could have saved their own life, or at the very least a significant amount of torment. These get illustrated much more in the sequels but you see the groundwork for that stuff laid here in the original.

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With any low-budget production, there comes some obvious cons. You gotta make up for the short comings. For one, there is a hilariously bad car chase in the film. The effects also leave much to be desired, using a lot of shaky cam / fast pace editing to fabricate tension. Even the gore, which the franchise is primarily known for. Not much of it actually appears in the original, most of it occurs off-screen. Though, I have to give credit where it’s due. It didn’t need to show it, for you to feel it. The film does a good job of just making you think about what happened, and truth be told… your imagination is enough to drive that point home. It all culminates into an ending that easily brings the film up severely notches. When you watch enough movies, you get pretty good at predicting plot twist. Which makes ones you didn’t see coming an awesome experience. I had heard there was a twist ending, and even with my senses on the look out this one had me by complete surprise. To put it in perspective, this movie is about 100 minutes long. 97 of those minutes are objectively mediocre , a little great here.. a little bad here. Those last 3 minutes completely pump the movie up at least 2 notches. It’s so good, not only does it unquestionably save the movie, its probably responsible for the 6 sequels that came after it.

Saw in the end creates another iconic horror story character. A villain that some how gracefully carves his own space between the physicality of Jason, and the sadistic nature of Freddy. Those classic villains were predicated on the fear born of being powerless in the face of evil. Jiggsaw fear is perpetuated through the slippery string of hope. Jiggsaw gives you the tools to your fate, literally testing your will to live.  It’s a scenario that I believe the folks who created this film wanted you to consider. If I were in this “trap” could I have done whatever it was to survive?  You don’t need to think about it too long, even if the thought was brief, that’s still a win for the director. Thats a feeling you don’t get in your typical horror movie, thats why Saw lasted as long as it did.

B

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKPy5RWuqNA]

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