Mascott’s Movie Rewind – Saw

Originally posted October 28th, 2010

saw-poster

SAW
2004
DIRECTED BY JAMES WAN

And here we are.

The last movie of the month of horror flicks here at the Rewind.

With me watching the last movie on Earth that I ever wanted to watch.

SAW came out in 2004, when I was twelve – I was in seventh grade, and there were three or four (latchkey) kids that had older brothers or parents that didn’t love them that took them to SAW in the theatres. They talked about how awesome it was. How gory it was. And I could not have been less interested by their descriptions. I didn’t watch many horror movies as a kid, and I was scared simply at the vivid details they could gave about the insides of a person after seeing this movie. Because of what I heard in seventh grade, and after seeing horrifying trailers for the subsequent sequels, I made a silent vow to myself to never watch SAW or any of the sequels. I just didn’t want to create and peek inside my head’s “murder porn” door.

Also, every time I see this box set in WalMart, I wonder, “How much respect could anyone have for a series that sells five feature length installments, including one that came out just two years ago, for $20?” After some contemplation, I come to the conclusion of, “Yeah, not much.”

We need to get this out of the way, it being the last week of horror flicks.

I know that it’s been said that I lived a sheltered childhood, which is arguably due to the fact that when I was told not to do something I actually listened, (Oh, don’t worry, I kicked that habit the day I turned sixteen, when it got important.) but the main thing is that I just don’t like horror movies. They’re not my thing – I didn’t grow up watching them like a lot of people, I was too engrossed in watching STAR WARS at least twice a week. I mean, I’ve seen the essentials and a few of their sequels, but I won’t be going out to the theatre to see the new PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, or HALLOWEEN XX: DOS EQUIS. I really can’t explain why I don’t like horror movies – I like movies that make me feel something, and a well made scary movie is going to do just that, but I won’t actively pursue a horror movie. Yeah, I know; I’m strange.

SAW starts off with two unrelated men waking up, chained by their legs to the walls. and trapped in an empty room together with no knowledge of how they got there. Well, it would be empty if it weren’t for the dead guy between them.

"I Know Why The Caged Bird Absolutely Loses His Shit"

They find tapes in their pockets, and learn that they have assignments given to them by their captor. Adam’s assignment is to escape the room, or he will die there. Doctor Lawrence, however, has been instructed to kill Adam by six, or his wife and daughter will be killed. Adam finds a bag containing two saws, and Lawrence comes to the realization that they aren’t expected to cut through their chains, but through their legs. Lawrence then tells Adam that he thinks he knows who their kidnapper was, someone named The Jigsaw Killer, known for putting unsavory or sinful people  in situations where they are forced through either psychological torture or self-mutilation in order to survive. Lawrence was once questioned as a suspect in this case by police detective David Tapp (played by Danny Glover), and therefore knows more than he would like. Tapp is chasing the Jigsaw killer with all of his being, and allows himself to be consumed by the case. The movie then begins switching between the men and Tapp, telling each of their stories individually to give you a better idea of the world. (I’m finding it hard to tell when to stop the plot description so as not to waltz into spoiler territory – I’ll just stop there.)

I love that, in this movie, there are always two or three stories being told at once. There’s Adam and Dr. Lawrence in the room together, there’s the story of Detective Tapp and his partner, there’s Lawrence’s flashbacks, there’s Adam’s flashbacks, there’s Tapp’s interactions with Lawrence – the different storylines intertwine with each other in interesting ways, and they have a way of making you want to know more about the world and the characters.

There have been people that have criticized SAW for being too gory – that it’s nothing more than a “cheap snuff film.” This is exactly what I thought of it before I saw it – I’m fine with blood in films, but real genuine gore is infinitely unsettling. It’s why I didn’t want to see it in the first place, thinking that there would just be too much gore for me to watch it. While there are a couple of points in the film where any sane and non-murderous person would be bound to say to themselves, “Oh, wow, holy shit that’s disturbing,” but it shouldn’t be enough to ruin the movie for you. It’s really not that gory a movie. In fact, the reason people say it’s so horrifying isn’t the gore, it’s because of the way it builds tension upon itself.

Also the Clown Puppets.

Here’s how the movie works, on a basic level. Like any thriller, there’s meant to be a lot of tension. SAW builds up tension by threatening bodily harm on the two main characters trapped in the room. (Moviegoers have bodies, so generally they can understand this.) Then, on top of that, a second level of bodily harm is threatened upon someone else in a flashback. The tension gets tighter and tighter in this flashback until it snaps. This heightens the tension for the two men in the room. Another flashback plays and the cycle repeats. It’s a fascinating way to pace and move a movie forward, and it works this way until the tension in the room becomes so tightly strung that their story starts to drive itself along. SAW builds tension very well.

I love overanalyzation.

It’s obvious that the people who made SAW really have a love for the genre they’re working in. At the time their movie came out, they were answering a trend that was arising in the early-2000s. If you remember, there weren’t that many scary movies that came out then, just SCARY MOVIE, its sequels, and movies that wanted to be SCARY MOVIE  but really weren’t. (At the time, SCARY MOVIE was genius – I just wish it hadn’t kind of ruined the genre for a little while.) SAW was the antithesis of SCARY MOVIE. A real horror movie with horror people hadn’t seen before. It was the first time in a long time that people were seeing something that really was new to them; something that wasn’t “the slasher down the block” or “teenagers doing naughty things get punished with knives.” Real horror in films always comes from things people can relate to, things that exist in the real world – While Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees were scary as hell in their first movie because they are just real people who decide to kill a whole bunch of other real people. In the sequels they become unkillable demons. In SAW, Jigsaw is just some dude, and that’s why he’s so scary, in the same way that Buffalo Bill or Hannibal Lecter are believable and realistic. I’m glad I brought that up, actually, because if you’ve watched HANNIBAL RISING, you can clearly see the influence SAW had on the entire genre. While SAW has certainly been railroaded into the grountood with the belief in the everlasting genius of its concept, most movies are still playing catch up to have what SAW had in 2004.

Favorite Part – The very end, as in the last minute or so. Let’s just say that there’s a twist ending that you would never think to expect. It’s a mindfuck almost on the level of  THE USUAL SUSPECTS, or THE SIXTH SENSE – I can compare it to those movies but I can’t actual give away their twist endings…. Actually, know what? I have no pity for you people. BRUCE WILLIS IS A GHOST.

Best Actor – Micheal Emerson as Zep Hindle.

Has he ever played a character that hasn't ended up being kind of a dick?

Zep is an incredibly complicated character, which doesn’t become evident until the very end of the movie. To a certain extent, it’s another one of those, “to say you’ve watched it, you really should have watched it twice,” movies. I didn’t even know this guy existed before I saw him on LOST, I always assumed he had just congealed from a vague idea J.J. Abrams had after waking up from a fever dream.

Honorable Mention – Danny Glover also does a great job in this. He lends the film that “hey, you should pay attention to this,” thing that it wouldn’t have had otherwise, sort of like what Helvetica did for JACKASS. SHAMELESS NONSENSICAL PLUG.

Most Thankful For – A pretty damn good theme song.

These days, it’s rare that you find a good theme song in a movie. Everyone thinks that more instruments doing more things creates depth, and while it can certainly sound pretty, it loses any chance of being recognized later. (“I know I’ve heard that song somewhere…”) The key is to keep a core melody and to build around that, like John Williams’ themes. Charlie Clouser followed this school with his own flair. He keeps the theme for SAW simple but very engrossing. It’s repetitive, but always changing itself up. He absolutely crams inspiration into the theme, and it really works.

What Date You Should Watch This On – You have to be entirely sure that your date is cool with movies like SAW. Gory thrillers like this are not something you want to show to someone squeamish. However, if your date is “sort of on the fence about seeing it,” it’s not a bad choice for a fourth or fifth date. It’s not going to put anyone in the mood, though. (I mean, it might, but you don’t want to be on a date with that person.)

While Watching This Movie, I… – kept waiting for something that would make me squeamish enough to want to turn it off. Hey! Didn’t happen!

While Writing This Article, I… – briefly considered watching the sequels, but decided against it after being informed that those are actual murder porn. Good to know.

Thing That Angered Me Most – When you write about SAW, you can’t say that you saw it. Or that you went to see it. In those cases, you either “saw SAW” or you “went to see SAW.” Goddamnit.

Recommended? – While watching the movie can get hard at some times if you’re not accustomed and okay with moments of gore, it’s still a very solid thriller. It’s got little quirks and issues, but they’re almost entirely ignorable. This first installment, at least, wasn’t what I was expecting at all from the series. As I said, all I knew about SAW was what I was told and what the trailers looked like, and it seems to me that after this first movie, the entire series just loses focus, and instead of making good films, just relies on the sustainability of the mental illnesses of America’s youth. This first movie in the series, however, is commendable for being very good at what it is trying to be – It has a way of getting its claws into you. Recommendation achieved.

Pictured: Claws

Pictured: Claws

Mascott once wrote an ‘Escape the Room’ style point and click game that was described by one commenter as “hellish and convoluted.”You can criticize him for it at mascott@infamouskidd.com, or follow him on twitter at twitter.com/mascott.

Leave a Reply

  • the mascott tweets

  • Archives