Back in 2004 there was a debate between my father and I as to what we should see as part of or Halloween horror movie tradition. The films choices were The Grudge or Saw. At the time one of my friends raved about both, but she said that Saw was one of the best horror films she had seen in a long time. More intrigued by Saw than The Grudge we ventured into the theater that Halloween afternoon and sat closer than normal as we waited for the film to begin. A film about two men stuck in a room trying to understand how they know each other. Initially, this made me wander a simple question. How is this going to keep anyone’s attention for almost two hours?
Little did audiences know about that surprise ending yet, but as the credits began to roll I knew I was in love with Saw. I absolutely adored the idea behind it and began to research to see if there would be more of them to be released. Earlier on, before all the sequels were produced, I read there would be at least six films, but they were aiming for seven to wrap the entire series. A new horror franchise. This had not really been seen since the Final Destination films. At least no franchise worthy of seeing in its entirety in the theater.
From the very first Saw film, I knew the next six years our Halloween movie would belong to the Saw franchise. If you have not viewed this film yet, please come back once you have because my synopsis is rather detailed and not even remotely spoiler free.
Saw is rather simple film. Two men, Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), wake up in an abandoned, and quite disgusting, room chained by their ankles to nearby pipes on opposing sides of each other. To make matters worse, the two men discover a dead body in the middle of the room lying in its own pool of blood, loosely clutching a tape recorder and a handgun.
Shocked, the two men lose composure before realizing that the they both have tapes in their back pockets big enough to fit the player in the dead’s man hand. They each play the tapes and each are revealed tasks. One is threatened, but the other isn’t. Dr. Gordon is the one who must kill the other man by 6:00 in order to free his wife (Monica Potter) and daughter (Makenzie Vega) before they are murdered.
Soon audiences realize that these two are the two newest victims of a serial killer by the name of Jigsaw that police have been trying to capture for a couple of years. We learn of how heinous some of his previous crimes have been in flashbacks and realize there has only been one survivor of his tasks. A woman by the name of Amanda (Shawnee Smith).
Audiences also discover that despite the fact that Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover) has been discharged from the police force, he is still is doing research on Dr. Lawrence Gordon who he believes is the actual Jigsaw killer. The film boils down to if Detective Tapp isn’t right then who is the man the police call Jigsaw?
In addition to being one of the most well written horror films in quite some time, performance wise Whannell and Elwes are absolutely brilliant. While Whannell had been in a few things before Saw, this is his breakout role. He was also apart of the short that convinced producers Saw should be made, which he also wrote. Whannell created a horror phenomenon and did not even know it at the time. He also gave the performance of a lifetime as Adam. Scared out of his mind, not sure what was going to happen to him and knowing there was only one option, after his original option is later discovered not to exist anymore, Whannell is exciting to watch.
Elwes, as fans of his earlier work know, is always a pleasure to watch on screen. As a determined, desperate man, his portrayal as Dr. Gordon is stellar. A man up to his wits trying to figure out how to get out of his situation without actually committing a murder is absolutely outstanding, and in my opinion extremely underrated.
The rest of the cast plays their respective roles equally as amazing, but Whannell’s and Elwes’s performances will always hold a special place in my mind. And of course one would be a fool not to mention the amazing performance given by Tobin Bell. With a few simple lines we learned all about John Kramer and instantaneously wanted to know more.
Ultimately, I think the Saw franchise and film gets a bad rap at times. To me these films are not merely a torture film, neither are the others, but something far more complex to the mind if one allows them to be. Saw is one of the best theater choices I ever made and I am not afraid to admit such.
When a film can genuinely shock one by the end these days that film is well made and well directed, especially in the horror world. There are so many horror films that lack a true twist ending anymore. Those that do deserve all the praise in the world and that along with the incredible acting and story, Saw will always remain one of my favorite horror films of all time.