Friday, September 24, 2010

The Seven Days of Sawdom: Day One

Hello, all, and welcome to the first installment of The Seven Days of Sawdom, my retrospective on the Saw franchise. So where to start with this franchise?

Well... Most of you might not know this, but the first film was actually an expansion of an Australian short film that's only about, oh, five minutes long. If you want to see it... Well, it's kind of pointless to, as if you've been keeping up to the franchise then you'll have seen the short film; it's recreated almost shot for shot with additional lines thrown in during the first movie (it's the trap that Amanda describes when she's in the interrogation room with Danny Glover's character). But, if you're still interested, you can find it at this link:

With that out of the way... I'll just get started with the franchise's first movie.


Lawrence (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell) wake up chained by their ankles to pipes in a lone bathroom with no way out. They find a dead body in the room with them, and in the body of the man there is a gun and a tape player. After finding and playing tapes that were in their pockets, Adam is instructed to escape, and Lawrence is instructed to kill Adam before 6:00 or else his wife and daughter both die. Horror ensues as they attempt to come to grips with their situation, trying to figure out who would put them there and why.

And that's all I can really say, although if you've been following the franchise you know how it all ends. For those that haven't seen the franchise, I won't spoil it for you, but otherwise... yeah.

So... I'll start with my expectations. For how I went into the movie... I was expecting more gore, to be honest. It's partly because of the rating, but it was mostly because of the franchise's incredible reputation for its so-called 'torture porn'. And yet, to be perfectly honest, there isn't all that much actual gore. The gore that is there is almost totally imagined, and somehow that is actually more unsettling than seeing the actual gore.

Actually, very little of it seemed to work on the gore. I remember almost all of the actual tension came from seeing basically everyone victimized by Jigsaw's little game suffer. It's not masochistic in the slightest; we see what Adam, Lawrence, and Lawrence's family have to go through, and some of it is absolutely terrifying to watch. Example: perhaps the most terrifying shot I saw in the entire movie was one of the captors of Lawrence's family doing something extremely masochistic to Lawrence's daughter; he held a gun to her mother's head while checking her heart rate with a stethoscope. I remember feeling horrified (and slightly disgusted) at this behavior, and I think it exemplifies what works so well about the way tension is built in this movie.

What also helps is a narrative that pieces together the entire Saw universe from fragments; basically all the background information is exposited between Lawrence and Adam figuring out what the hell is going on and why they are in their trap. And it only gets more and more horrifying the more we find out about the Jigsaw killer and why he might want them there. It gets complex fast, but it never feels rushed. That sense of not really knowing the complete story helps the tension a lot, and as the pieces come together, the tension only rises.

And a combination of this helps me see why Saw was a landmark horror movie. I don't think there's anything more frightening than being told to do something on threat of either yourself or your loved ones dying without knowing anything about where you are or who's targeting you or even why they would target you. It also helps that there's a huge twist at the end (I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen the franchise, but unfortunately I'll have a hell of a time keeping the spoilers to a minimum for future installments). It's easily a great horror film, thanks to its build-up of tension from what they suffer through (and trust me, it is not portrayed to be pretty at all), and has a high spot on the horror legacy.


Most definitely worth checking out.

Okay, so that's the first one. My thoughts?

Well... The franchise seems to be going downhill already. I can sense the same problem I sensed when I reviewed the Nightmare on Elm Street remake after the retrospective earlier this year; too much focus on the gore. I don't think it helps all that much that the future installments won't be able to rely on the pieced-together narrative as well as the first movie could, given that they already had a filled slate to work with, and that we all know about the Jigsaw killer (and even who he is) by the time the first film ends. So my hopes for the franchise are already going downhill.

Word of mouth hasn't particularly helped all that much. From what I've heard other people say about the franchise, this is what I'm expecting of the other films:

Saw 2: Your Mileage May Vary, edging towards Good.
Saw 3: Your Mileage May Vary, edging towards Bad.
Saw 4: Bad.
Saw 5: Really Bad.
Saw 6: An Improvement, but Your Mileage May Vary.
Saw 7: We'll See When It Comes Out.

But, we'll see.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews, at the sunset of the First Day of Sawdom. I'll see you guys next time, and I hope you'll join me on the Second Day of Sawdom when I review Saw II

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