Saw - where did it all go wrong?
It’s the first of October 2004, it’s a cold Autumnal day in the United Kingdom, but the weather is not the only chill in the air. On this fateful day, Saw dropped, and the rules of the game seemed to shift somewhat.
There’s a lot that’s been said about James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s low budget horror flick, about how it’s reflective of a post-911 world, where the nature of horror itself has shifted it’s bloody, sinister eyes to new depths of human fear. Indeed, there is a lot more that can be said about what is without a doubt the best Saw film in the series, and there certainly seems like no better time to address the series, and how the first one stands head, shoulders, and severed arms above the others given that we’ll be treated to a new film next year.
So let’s break it down into 3 key segments.
Stretching too thin, like blood spread over too much floor space.
One of the major issues I’ve had with Saw films, post the OG is that they’ve always tried to spread themselves too thinly. Saw, at it’s very core, was a ruggedly simple film. One room. A handful of characters. One solution. One twist. And, my god it was beautiful. By keeping it as simple as possible, the film allowed time to form a relationship with the characters, and empathise with them as we learn more about them, and as they suffer.
The later entries in the series never really managed to make me care as much about the characters as the first. 2’s cast was expansive, 3 was overshadowed by Jigsaw, and each other film, every character felt too transitory, or maybe we’d just learned not to get too attached to them by this point. By making keeping the cast and locations as minimal as possible, the first Saw is beautifully claustrophobic and trusts it’s actors to deliver great performances, which they undoubtedly do.
Gore as the second course, not the entrees.
I’m going to begin this section by saying I get it. Saw waded into a gory arms race from the moment it came out, in which it was largely competing with itself. I think it was inevitable that Saw would have to take this direction - it made commercial sense, but it’s still a shame that the story had to compromise so much for gore.
By the 5th film, I would argue that the series had fallen into minor story elements to tie together gory set pieces with increasingly grim fates for the characters thrown into those situations. I mean, the intricate series of traps in Saw 5 are a long stretch away from the single foot chopping scene in the first.
The revolving door effect.
Even though i’m not a huge fan of any of the sequels, i’m generally willing to give 2 and 3 a pass. The reason for this? We’re pretty much just dealing with one guy who’s a bit nuts and wants to teach people to cherish their life, and his warped side kick who got the memo, but only skim-read it. From here onwards, we’re left with so many people who want to fill Jigsaw’s boots, given his untimely death in 3, that we’d have to suspend our belief high enough to have to declare it to air traffic control as a potential hazard.
I mean, you’re telling me that no less than 5 others were totally up for JIgsaw’s games? No. I get Amanda, but none of the others. By overcomplicating their villain, the main story suffered as a result.
Where do you think the Saw film went wrong? Do you agree with me? Let me know!