We all have them. That one horror flick that resonates because of an intensely personal memory attached to it.
For me, it’s not one movie, but a franchise.
From the moment Tobin Bell rose from the floor until the final “game over” from Cary Elwes, Saw has signified far more than a lucrative horror series. My love for fall turned from crisp temperatures, the baseball playoffs and Halloween season to something deeper in October 2004.
It’s not rare these days to hear guys calling each other “bro,” but when I first started saying it, I meant it. My boy Dan is like a brother to me. We’ve known one another for nearly twenty years; we’ve worked together, lived together and been through a lot of shit together.
It was a bond that began with a mutual love of movies, and that has never changed. We can have entire conversations that are nothing more than lines from our favorite flicks.
That shared passion eventually brought us to a beautiful creation borne from the minds of Leigh Whannell and James Wan.
Every October for seven years we made our way to the theatre to absorb John Kramer’s complicated lessons about appreciation of life, and in an odd way, that’s exactly what happened.
Other friends who weren’t quite as keen on horror would wonder why we continued to venture off for the latest Saw installment because it was the same thing over and over and the main character died three movies back.
Our response became standard, “We’ve come this far.”
I don’t need to explain to anyone that life has a way of changing things. The responsibility of careers and families are the catalysts for time apart extending from days to weeks and finally to months.
For Dan and I, it wasn’t only about careers but geography, and the fact that nowadays he goes from his regular job to the gaming shop he purchased about three years ago. While I’m glad Dan’s “living the dream” as he’s apt to put it and I still pop in from time-to-time, it only makes me miss the old days when we had more time to spend together to binge watch Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight and of course, Saw.
We enjoyed the series for very different reasons. While each of us loved the deeply woven, interconnected stories, he dug the traps while I declared that Bell’s intensity was always worth the price of admission.
For as much as I adore horror, I’m not big on gore. Unfortunately I’m a bit too adept with regard to putting myself in the shoes of the characters, so each time that the series upped the ante with the traps, I squirmed in my seat more and more. In turn, Dan laughed at me more and more.
Hell, the year IV came out, we went right after work and decided to grab some sandwiches to sneak into the theatre so we could have dinner. I was uncertain about it because like I said, not a fan of gore, especially when I’m eating. Dan looked over and casually noted, “You’ll probably have most of it eaten before the trailers are over and even if you don’t, it’s not like we’re gonna see flesh getting peeled off somebody right away.”
When the autopsy began and the doctor started to pull Kramer’s face off of his skull, I shot a death stare and “Motherfucker” in Dan’s direction, who was doubled over in laughter as I dropped the last few bites of my sandwich on the floor. The film was in its second night, so of course I accused him of having seen it already, because how in the fuck did he know that was going to happen? He denied it with a chuckle then and denies it to this day, but I’m still not sold.
By the time what was supposed to have been The Final Chapter rolled around, it became an event. We got together for a marathon viewing of the first six movies so that we could pontificate and determine how Saw VII would draw to a close. I would like to say that we were proud to have called Dr. Gordon’s return, but I’m sure we weren’t alone with that conclusion. The key placed behind a dude’s eye and what was supposed to have been Jigsaw performing the surgery on tape limping from the camera to the operating table was probably pretty obvious, but it was still a fantastic way to spend the day.
The baseball playoffs were actually in full swing at the time. In fact, the eventual World Series champion Giants were hosting the Braves in San Francisco and the woman I was seeing at the time texted me to join her and some friends at a bar for the game. I rarely miss a postseason contest, but had to decline. She wondered why I would rather sit and watch a bunch of old movies instead of watch baseball and drink with my girlfriend.
But she just didn’t get it, we’d come this far.
On the night, Dan and I headed for Buffalo Wild Wings and the Saw grand finale, but while we were pleased that we had, in fact, called it, neither of us were necessarily happy with the send-off. We felt that such an epic saga couldn’t have ended there.
A journey that began with kidneys on eBay concluded with the final curtain dropping on Picket Fences, an unsatisfying finish to a race that had sprawled out over seven Octobers.
Shortly thereafter, I took on a more demanding job. Dan bought the shop. I moved.
There were the occasional get-togethers and we still travel to Comic Con in Minneapolis each May, but as it so often does, life got in the way.
Another seven years have passed since our last Saw excursion, but there will not be an eighth. Legacy will hit theatres this October.
When I got the news that Saw would officially have a Part VIII, I immediately texted my brother to say “I want to play a game. Again.”
Dan’s response was simple, “We’ve come this far.”