In 2004, a promising young filmmaker would release a film that would change the face of horror forever. The film was Saw, and the filmmaker’s name was James Wan who, if you recall previous Friday Fright Club articles, Wan has since then managed to forge himself a promising career and a reputation as a director who manages to scare the pants right off his audience.
As an independent horror film, James Wan had struggled to get Saw made for years before a smaller horror production company stepped in and gave the film a green light. Lucky for us, else the talented Mr. Wan might never have been able to make one of my favourite horror films, Insidious. Wan seems to enjoy telling fresh stories through previously tired or obscure genres, as he did with Insidious; for the first time in two decades, a haunting/possession was terrifying.
Saw, on the other hand, delved into the dark, seedy nature of splatter films and launched it straight onto the silver screens as audiences were shocked and entertained by a level of violence that was very rare for mainstream cinema. However, Wan didn’t only rely on violence to get the job done – he crafted an intricate plot and managed to create the first villain in many years that can stand tall with other classic horror antagonists. I don’t believe there is a single one of you who doesn’t know who Jigsaw is, and doesn’t feel a chill running down your spine at the mention of his name. He was everything a fantastic horror antagonist should be: Intelligent, cunning, mysterious and utterly terrifying, as his only goal is to inflict physical and emotional torture on his victims, by locking them in deadly contraptions that mostly lead to self-mutilation and almost certainly, a sticky death.
If you have not seen Saw before, the film revolves around two men who wake up chained to pipes in a room, with the one man realizing that the only way to escape the room and to save his family from a serial killer named Jigsaw, is to murder the other man in the room before six o’clock. Several other Jigsaw victims are also shown through flashbacks in the film, each dying in overly elaborate and painful ways.
I’ve always seen the Saw films as a double-edged sword. While the first installment in the series is a testament to James Wan’s vision and passion for horror, it opened the gates to not only a string of terrible sequels, it also paved the way for Hollywood to be a lot more open to other, even more vicious “torture porn” films. Between Saw and Eli Roth’s Hostel, the world was about to be inundated with mindless, disgustingly violent romps that I really can’t care for.
Luckily, things seem to have returned to normal as we are seeing the release of truly scary horror again for the first time since the wave of splatter films, but even though things might have been rocky for a while, we have Saw to thank for bringing horror back to the cinema.
Last Updated: May 17, 2013