Two strangers wake up in a room chained to the wall and with no recollection of how they got there or why. The two soon discover they are pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer eager to make them earn their life that he believes they’re wasting.
Amelia: I could have happily gone my whole life without seeing a Saw movie. With the exception of Hellraiser, I don’t do movies with abundant gore and I really don’t do torture flicks. You know the type I’m talking about whether you’ve watched them or not. The movies that show people doing sick and twisted things to other people for the sake of shocking the audience on volume of blood and guts alone. They’re the movies that the dreadful Eli Roth produces and then (no doubt) jerks off to. Billy only sat me down for the first Saw on the promise that it was more psychological than what I’d heard the future movies became. And while it wasn’t the goriest thing I’ve ever seen, I’m not happy I watched it. It’s like I said before, I could have happily gone my whole life without seeing a Saw movie.
Billy: I remember Saw differently than this. When it first came out in 2004, I thought it was the coolest horror movie I’d ever seen. Obviously the soundtrack holds up. No question. Michael Emerson is pitch-perfect as Zepp and set the stage for his real breakthrough role as Benjamin Linus on LOST a year later. The first time I watched Saw I was floored. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was smart, edgy, and intricate. The times I watched it after were like seeing how a puzzle was put together. I revelled in the details. Going back to it today, I don’t think it’s aged too well. It’s still a marvel of an independent film, but I don’t admire it like I used to.
Probably the biggest issue I have with Saw is the legacy it spawned. Starting with the second film, every move the Saw franchise made was diminishing returns and a downward spiral into gore porn. If you take this movie on it’s own, it’s almost charming in comparison. Yes, there are horrifying and unsettling images described throughout the film, but never really seen. Watch Dr. Gordon cutting off his own foot. It’s the mildest effect imaginable. I pulled off an effect like that in my high school drama class. Most of the big “gore” moments are only inferred, and that’s because of budget issues. It makes this a much more watchable movie than its sequels, but I wish that had been on purpose.
Amelia: Here’s a weird and very personal story, but I’m telling it because it all ties into my feelings while watching this movie. When I was in grade nine, this eleventh grade guy named Joseph was all over me. He, a seventeen year old, followed me, a fourteen year old, around like a fucking crazy person talking about how I should go to his house and we could get drunk and watch his favourite movies. His favourite movies in the whole wide world were Saw and its sequel. And I’m sure he loves the rest of the series too, but thankfully, they’d yet to be made and I didn’t have to hear about them while he clumsily tried to pick me up. Now, what’s the point of this story? Well, I could tell you my theories about men that say things like Saw are their favourite things to watch, but mostly it’s to give you a little more perspective into why I’m so vehemently against this franchise. Besides my dislike of watching fellow human beings getting tortured, these movies make me remember this older teen boy trying to manipulate me into going to his house alone.
To tie this together even more, that there, what I just said about possible high school date rape is scarier than the movie I just sat and watched. I’m not scared of things like this happening in real life. Death puzzles because I don’t appreciate life enough? Fucking A I don’t appreciate life enough – life fucking sucks! Just look at the 2016 American election if you’ve got any doubts about that. Seriously, I’d lie down and die out of spite!
Billy: The limits of the movie are where it thrives, and what still makes it stick out in my mind as an incredible feat of low budget film making. The lack of exterior shots makes it feel claustrophobic. You’re always inside, always trapped. A lot of scenes are padded with still photographs as a last resort, but like in The Blair Witch Project and other low budget hits, it also allows your imagination to fill in the gaps. The surveillance footage? Body doubles to fill in editing gaps, but it adds to the feeling that they’re constantly being watched! All great products of having to think creatively rather than throw money at a problem, and it’s a huge reason why I got interested in filmmaking as a result.
Amelia: I did not want to believe that the tricycle I saw parodied in Scary Movie 3 (or 4, I don’t remember nor care enough to look it up) was a thing within this series. How could that ever been anything but parody? Apparently really easily because it’s here. It’s fucking here! Combined with that stupid fucking puppet, what the actual fuck is going on here?! I just don’t get how it fits with the tone this movie is going for.
Unless they were going for contradiction as their tone, because I’d buy that. Like, Jigsaw thinks that he’s helping these people because they’re wasting their lives and he’s a white dude with a God complex, but what about the guy that the drug addict woman has to cut up to solve her puzzle? How is this helping him learn his lesson? And then there’s the theme of humans are ultimately evil vs humans are ultimately good. He seems to be trying to prove one or the other throughout but which is it if he thinks they’re wasting their lives and need to be saved but then he makes them mutilate themselves or others? PTSD is a thing and that woman survivor might be off drugs now, but I bet she wakes up screaming whenever she goes to bed. Yeah, that’s real fucking helpful.
What I end up taking away from all this is fuck white dudes that think they know best.
Billy: Here’s a negative that I do remember from when I last watched Saw. Cary Elwes is truly awful in this movie. Like, I even thought that when I liked it! There are sections near the end of the film that I always compare to Will Ferrell. It makes sense. Elwes wasn’t really at the peak of his career here, and before it became a worldwide hit, you could imagine Saw as something he thought he’d do for a week and then forget. Cary Elwes wouldn’t even be involved with the franchise again until the final sequel in Saw VII, and you have to feel it’s because he was initially embarrassed by his performance. Adam is less ridiculous, but you can tell he’s not an actor by trade. He’s one of the writers of Saw if you didn’t know, and you can kind of tell by the natural yet unimpressive job he does here. At least Danny Glover is here, right?
Amelia: One old man with a God complex in a ridiculous hooded cloak out of ten
Saw kicked off the self-mutilating, tonne of blood but no thought, torture porn craze, and a creepy old guy used it as a means to try and get into my fourteen year old pants. I can’t ever give it a fair, unbiased review with that in my mind. But on top of that, I just don’t think it was a great movie. The acting was pretty awful in places and some of the camera work was so immature. I just… don’t care. I did, however, learn something from Jigsaw. Life is a precious gift that I shouldn’t take for granted. So never again will I watch this franchise.
Billy: Five old men with a God complexes in ridiculous hooded cloaks out of ten
Like I said, I remember the movie differently. The points it gets are points I’m giving it because of those memories and the thought that it fostered at the time in regards to how I thought of stories in film and the way movies are made. It doesn’t totally hold up. I still laugh at Cary Elwes near the end of the film way more than I sympathize with him. But on the other hand… Michael Emerson is still fantastic, and there is still nothing like that score. Hello Zepp is a classic, and if nothing else in the film is remembered fondly, Charlie Clouser’s work on that track should be.