Every night from now until Halloween Matt will be reviewing another of his 15 favorite horror films in a segment called 15 Nights of Frights. Slashers, monsters, aliens, and ghosts will all come out to play in the next two weeks and one day. So, find a safe place and leave the lights on while Matt gives his thoughts on all things frightening. Above The Film presents Ginger Geek Blog's 15 Nights of Fright.
I know what you are thinking here. So far these two reviews feel like such cliches to review for horror films, but that is actually a good thing. Like Friday the 13th before it, SAW was a step in a new direction for horror films that would spawn both a series of sequels that were less and less worth it as they went on, as well as numerous imitators. Friday the 13th had 8 films to it's name in a matter of 10 years, SAW had 7 films under it's belt in as many years, honestly releasing a new one every year, almost to the day, after the original.
It also tricked Eli Roth into thinking he was a filmmaker.
SAW is the story of Adam, a young photographer, who wakes up in a bathtub. As if that's not odd enough he is also chained to a radiator inside some sort of long forgotten industrial bathroom. He soon discovers he is not alone in this bathroom. Across the room, chained to another pipe, is Dr. Larry Gordon and in the middle of the room lays a man's corpse. They discover the corpse has a microcassette player in it's hand and they both have tapes in their pockets. The two have been captured by the infamous Jigsaw killer. The tapes reveal that Adam's task in Jigsaw's twisted game is simply to escape the bathroom, while Larry's is to kill Adam before 6 o' clock, otherwise Larry's family will be killed.
SAW was the brainchild of director James Wan and writer/star Leigh Whannell who wrote the script specifically to be shot on a lower budget. Upon completing the script they set out to film a scene of it as a short film they could use to pitch the full film idea to actors and studios for funding. The short film wound up being a version of Amanda's reverse beartrap story, only with Whannell as a character named David instead.
The thing I enjoy most about SAW was that when I saw it in the theater when it came out I had been expecting it to be gory, and twisted, and all around fucked up. Well, it kind of was, but truthfully a large part of the violence disturbing torture in the film is never actually shown. There is really only one moment of actually seeing something overly gory and that's all the way at the end of the film. This was something the sequels screwed up with by focusing more on what kind of twisted and medieval torture devices they could strap people into and less about people who are in them. The thing I like so much about this movie was that it was a detective story wrapped in the skin of a horror film.
No, dear God, not like that.
While Adam and Gordon do what they can to draw out the time they have left alive and figure out who Jigsaw is, a second story about Detective Tapp runs parallel to theirs. Tapp has been investigating the Jigsaw murders for some time now, even having an encounter with him that led to Tapp's partner's death and him getting his own throat slashed, which he survived. Tapp believes Gordon has a connection to Jigsaw, having found his pen light at one of the murder scenes, and has been monitoring him for some time. In fact, Tapp is doing just that, sitting outside of Gordon's house oblivious to the fact that Godon's wife and daughter are being held captive by Zep, an orderly from Gordon's hospital.
Ah, and there is another one of the parts of SAW that is truly brilliant, Zep. A quite loner who connects with those he works with at the hospital because he knows others won't. Zep is a tragic pawn in this entire game, and sadly the only victim of Jigsaw's that didn't deserve to be in his situation. While one would say none of his victims "deserve" what happens to them, they do in his eyes. There was never an explanation as to why Zep needed to be taught to appreciate life or why he had to make a choice between himself or Gordon's family. In the end, he was used as a pawn and is the first random, senseless death of the franchise.
SAW opened the door to what horror films would evolve into for a new decade and even a new millennium. "Torture Porn," as it would become lovingly known down the road, was built on the back of this little fever dream from two Australian kids fresh out of film school. This film was also what brought James Wan to my attention and made me a fan his work from then until now.