I always felt cheated when I watched The Exorcist or Psycho whereby the true horror never really affected me. Apparently people vomited and passed out watching The Exorcist while when I watched it – don’t get me wrong – it was scary, but the whole ‘ground-breaking’ aspect doesn’t bother someone who has watched Scary Movie 2 prior to watching it. I watched Saw after it was recommended to me by a friend who worked in a cinema (Mike B). He told me the situations people woke up in – ” a girl wakes with a reverse bear-trap on her head, she has 5 minutes to get the key to get it off of her head … the key is in the stomach of a paralysed man laying on the floor”. I was amazed. It sounded incredible. To be honest, I know that my flat mates were unimpressed – many considering my sanity at the time. I think I appeared that little bit too keen – nevertheless, it eventually arrived in Aberystwyth Commodore Cinema and I was ready to go, but was not willing to go. More importantly, no flat mate would join me either. If I recall, Beth was simply horrified by the content and, therefore, this did not impress Alistair much – while Jo, I believe, was watching something else at the Arts Centre cinema (who would think there was any choice in Aberystwyth cinemas?), Rhys J was unimpressed – mostly because his girlfriend was unimpressed – so I was in a sticky situation with no friends to go with. I contacted a different friend – Lawrence – an open-minded semi-Gothic chap who, if he was free, probably would enjoy such a movie. He was free and he joined me. The lucky thing.
Following the movie, I was so scared and, thus, amazed at how scared I was that Lawrence and I had to resort to the local pub and drink. Conversing about how it was made and what was good and bad about it – thus fictionalizing the story, putting our minds at rest prior to going home. In the dark. Alone. I felt that the fear I felt as I squinted my eyes and waited for the flash of the camera to reveal the inevitable enemy lurking in the shadows must be similar to the fear felt by others in a very good horror movie. I had never seen something quite like it – and I was proud to have seen it at the cinema and ‘survived’. (Coincidentally, turns out events at Saw III led to people fainting and vomiting akin to The Exorcist –http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6101704.stm)
Saw and its predecessors have remained with me ever since and, prior to the release of Saw VI it seems only fitting to review them all because, seriously, I think the films are – though cheap and fitting for the horror genre – they are also interesting, ethical dilemmas (“What would I do in that situation?” rather than ” yeah, Jigsaw is spot on with that one”) and gritty, sordid horror movies which – if I may praise such a genre – fully deserve the title of torture-porn. With the dumbing down of certificates, these 18-rated movies, are all thats left of the gratuitous horror that you need to keep well away from the kids – but on a special evening, with the lights down low, with friends or even daring partners, these films give such a rush. A feeling that the fear of the screen and what may be shown may be morally wrong in and off itself.
What I reckon…
The first watch, as I recall, was a complete blur. I was overwhelmed with the horror-rush I was experiencing. I was intrieuged to find out the outcome – and the different situations that was presenting themselves. Obviously, how the Doctor and Adam would escape was an interesting reason to pursue watching. I bought the film to go through the experience again and, just the menu on the TV screen gave me chills, and it wasnt long before I ‘hooked-in’ other friends – Rhys BL, Jo and [at-the-time] my new girlfriend – and on the second viewing I could clearly see some major problems. Namely the acting – which is terrible. Cary Elwes as Dr Lawrence Gordon is simply boring – mundane, monotonous, and uninteresting. While the screen-writer Leigh Whannell played Adam as this hugely annoying, whiney unlikeable photographer. You could argue that this is their ‘characters’ … but then you probably wouldn’t mind whether they died or not.
Nevertheless, having watched it recently I was also interested at how the flashbacks – that are an important facet to the sequels – is solidly placed in the main feature itself. The only ‘escape’ from the room Adam and Dr Gordon are stuck in is these flashbacks. It is also a film that has this – not gothic – but ‘heavy-metal’-anger tone. As Amanda attempts to take of her head-trap (“think of it like a reverse bear-trap”) the camera simply shoots around her – dizzying to watch – while a guitar ‘rocks’ the soundtrack. Not wholly neccessary put clearly suits the intended audience – an audience that is more firmly established, whereby the soundtrack is more profitable. In Saw the score is entirely created by Charlie Clouser with a stunning string sequence that merges into the credits. From Saw II onwards the films end in silence – only to rock-on with the likes of X Japan and Soulidium and whatever hip-goth-rock band is in fashion to play over the credits. Shame because the strings sounded great over the credits.
Anyway, some funny things to consider when you have watched the other films. Namely how the plausible survival of Dr Lawrence Gordan…
Loads of youtube videos and imdb messages posts and forums talk about this. Apparently there is ‘all this footage’ scattered throughout the franchise to show that he survived – from limping Jigsaw accomplices (Saw II) through to bloody rags (Saw IV), not to mention the fact that his status on the official Saw website states that he is ‘unknown’. I guess that pretty much means a cameo at the very least.
Finally, the film is suprisingly different to the later installments. In one sense, its unsure of the tone it wants to set – maybe not unsure, because it still looks gritty and sordid like Fincher’s Se7en – a clear influence. What it seems to do, is have no shame in actually shooting sequences in different settings other than gritty, dingy sets. For example Dr Gordons family live in a very 50’s-esque house – with deep reds and a very plush quality to it, which then accentuates the dirty nature of every other set – the ‘room’, jigsaws pad, etc. Even in the second one, it seems to remain very dark and dirty – horrible police offices and that house falling apart. I question if this simplification in tone in the series may have made them all a little … how to put it … too obvious?
Nevertheless, the twist ending floors anyone not in the know and places this film into a category bracket that few horror films achieve, but I question if the completely flawed acting is bad enough to destroy that status in equal measure. Will Saw remain a classic? If anything, the fact that the Saw franchise is the only longest-running, consecutively released franchise – beating Lord of the Rings – currently – by a further three sequels. So, the franchise will go intot he history books at the very least
The scale of Saw is incredibly small – few characters, small situations which affect few people. But the ante was up the following year. We plow on and watch Saw II …