Late to the Party: SAW (2004)

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“A guy saws off his own foot to escape his chains. It’s gory. It seems gross. So what? I don’t need to see a movie about a guy just stuck in a room who saws off his own body parts. Gore for the sake of gore is just silly.”

Oh, the things I would say when I was younger. I think I’ve written about this before – I’m almost positive that I did somewhere – but when I was less experienced in the horror genre, blood and guts wasn’t appealing in the slightest to me. Maybe I grew a tolerance for it. Maybe I got tired of the same old monster movies. Whatever the reason, there came a time when I needed something stronger. Something more extreme.

I started seeking out films that would test my limits. Films that exist simply to disturb and disgust the viewers, to visually and mentally assault them, much like in The Human Centipedewhich I wrote about back in May for this column. I actually saw that before I watched James Wan’s genre-pusher Saw, so I believed I had primed myself enough for the experience. I figured I’d be able to handle the gore and the guts much easier if I had put myself through the disgusting experience that Centipede had to offer.

I was correct, but only in part. There wasn’t much blood or gore to speak of in Centipede, but it reaffirmed me that I could probably handle a lot more. Saw is much more of an exercise in tension and mystery than the aforementioned film. Yes, it does contain a lot of gore – effective amounts that will shock and disgust – but the overall story is really what makes the film so popular. Maybe it’s the depravity of it all. Being able to imagine people stuck in a situation so vile because of one person’s sick machinations must give people a rise. Or, maybe it’s the hope factor. The thought process that, yes, this situation is horrible, but maybe there’s a way out.

My original impression that the film is merely torture porn was entirely incorrect. Though the film is a challenge to sit through (many must grit their teeth and bare it through some harsh scenes), the mystery of Saw is really what carries it. It’s much more in-depth than a movie such as Hostel – a movie I enjoy, but thoroughly admit to being torture porn. The psychological aspects of Saw are heavy; there’s a sick fascination with seeing these people play Jigsaw’s games.

It really is amazing how everything comes together at the conclusion of the film. There seemed to be so many twists that my head almost spun right off. And let us not forget that damn puppet rolling around on that damn little bike. That’s a horror icon if I’ve ever seen one, right there. You best believe it.

Though the later films would focus more on bloodflow than compelling stories (I have since watched every single one and enjoyed them all besides the seventh), the original is a remarkable piece of horror cinema. As usual, I regret waiting so long to watch this film. But that’s just how these things seem to go, isn’t it?

Stay tuned next week for the horror comedy classic, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN!

 

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