Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bookmonkey Saw: Day 2

Okay, so today let’s look at the first film of the series, Saw (2004).  Created by Australian filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannel, the story is actually quite simple.  Two men wake up in an abandoned bathroom, chained by their ankles to pipes on either end of the room.  In the centre of the room is the body of a man who appears to have shot himself in the head.  In its hands are a tape records and a gun.  The two men manage to acquire the tape player and finding cassettes in their pockets which say “Play Me” (Obvious shades of Alice in Wonderland here), are informed that they have approximately 8 hours in which to escape, which will only occur for the one left alive at the end.

There is also a sub-plot focusing on two police officers who are hunting down a serial killer called “The Jigsaw Killer” who places his victims in horrible hurt-yourself-and-escape-or-do-nothing-and-die traps (such as they one our two leads are in).

As with many horror/thriller films, there will be plot-twists and discoveries, but I’m attempting to write without spoilers so I’ll go light on those.

In terms of the Horror genre in 2003/2004 when the film was released at the Sundance Film Festival and later released throughout North America , here is what was going on.

2003 Was filled with a lot of sequels and remakes, Dawn of the Dead (Remake), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Remake), and Freddy vs. Jason (considered parts 8 and 11 of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises respectively), as well as Van Helsing an homage to the classic Universal Monster movies of the 1930s.  Keep in mind that the Horror genre is one made of sequels and remakes; usually the producers and directors are working on their first or second film and horror films have always packed kids into theatres.

Saw worked in a very different way than the other options horror fans had at the time.  To begin, the killer is off screen for almost the entire film, second there is no female lead (one of the two men in the bathroom has a wife, but she is on screen for less than 10% of the film, mostly in flashbacks), and finally, although the story clearly owes concepts to both Mad Max (1979) and Se7en (1995 – which also focuses on cops trying to find an incredibly clever killer) Saw wasn’t an obvious remake or sequel.

Watching it myself I have to admit that the first film is kind of clever.  The on-screen violence is fairly minimal (you don’t see any severed body parts for example), and the story seemed innovative and quite smart for an incredibly low-budget film.  In the end, the movie did so well at the box-office a sequel was ordered with a release date set for the Friday before Halloween in 2005.

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