Some horror films are good enough to warrant a sequel or two. But few manage to make it to a fifth, or even sixth installment – unless by that time the releases are low budget ‘straight to DVD’ sequels.
Saw is one of the few ideas which has shocked and fascinated us all enough to keep us coming back for more. And when taking the opportunity to re-watch the original, you are reminded just why they have been so popular.
Two men wake up to find themselves imprisoned in a window-less room. After a bit of exploring, they find tape-recorded instructions telling them that they will have to do horrific things to one another to survive.
What follows is a disturbing journey into the human mind; twisting and pushing; making you question what you would do, and most of all, making you powerless to turn Saw off – much in the same way that these two men are powerless to escape their fate.
Things progressively get worse as people linked to the pair are effected, more individuals become involved, and the web grows wider. The ordeal becomes all the more complicated and terrifying.
Jigsaw is a deranged killer. Rather than murdering people, he drugs them, abducts them, and puts them into a situation and/or device which will leave them fighting for their lives. Tough choices have to be made, often at a heavy cost. ‘Would you sacrifice an arm to survive?’ etc.
And all because Jigsaw feels that people take their lives for granted. It has to be said, there’s nothing like a brush with death to make you appreciate things more.
Jerky editing; dark, grimy film sets; torture; blood; guts – all elements that are commonplace nowadays. But Sawwas one of the first that was willing to take the idea of torment a few steps further, inspiring others (Hostel et al) to do the same.
Since Hellraiser first took our hand and led our imaginations into a new, darker place, it seems that nothing in horror is taboo anymore. Saw is the perfect example of this.
It tests your psychological limits and the strength of your stomach in an unrelenting way.
For a Saw virgin, it’s easy to see the 6 episode series as another over-played idea. But, interestingly, Saw is one of the very few franchises that manages to keep the viewer guessing. And although references to earlier films are always made, each film could easily stand up on its own and be interesting (and nasty) enough to keep any horror fan glued to the screen.
Adding to the appeal are some compelling performances.
In this first film, Cary Elwes and Danny Glover immediately help the viewer to immerse themselves in the fear and desperation.
And throughout, just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, the story twists and winds like the rusty gears in one of jigsaw’s death machines, taking you even deeper.
Recently there has been a fair amount of criticism for this genre, now commonly known as ‘torture porn’ and one has to wonder if it really is healthy to be exposed to this ultra-violent content.
But that shouldn’t take anything away from the original Saw film, a genre defining journey into the dark places that we usually dare not visit.