Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Revisiting Saw

I bought a ticket to see the movie Spiral: From the Book of Saw on opening night this Thursday. I’m a longtime fan of the Saw series, which is one of the highest grossing horror movie franchises of all time, bringing in more than a half-a-billion dollars across eight films, starting with the original 2004 classic. The new movie, Spiral, is not a direct sequel to the previous eight movies. Rather, it’s a spinoff — a standalone movie that lives in the Saw universe that blazes a new trail all its own. Of course, if it’s successful, Spiral could launch its own series of films, extending the Saw legend even further. On Twitter, the official Saw account is doing a movie marathon and live tweeting about it over the next few days. I’m doing a marathon of my own, re-watching all of the Saw movies. Today, I watched the original Saw. Let’s dive in and take a look at what made this movie so special.

I’ve been a fan of horror movies for as long as I can remember, with Halloween, Hellraiser, and A Nightmare on Elm Street being among my favorites. Saw is up there as well. The first movie is an interesting one because it’s not filled with the torture porn that the series is known for in its sequels. And rather than being a straight-up horror movie, Saw is a tense thriller with horror elements peppered in for good measure. It focuses on two men waking up chained to pipes in the same room, wondering how they got there and what they need to do to get out.

Danny Glover was the most notable actor in this movie at the time, with Cary Elwes, of Princess Bride fame, coming in second. Other than Tobin Bell, who we barely see in this first outing, the acting in Saw is pretty terrible . . . but in the best way possible. The quality of the acting is similar to that of the early Resident Evil games on PlayStation: “Don’t open that door!” In other words, campy, but seemingly unintentionally so. When Dr. Gordon yells “Stop the lying! You’re a liar!” with the delivery of Will Ferrell, I start laughing out loud. It’s so ridiculous. And Leigh Whannell, who wrote the movie and plays the other guy chained in the mysterious room, is the worst actor of all. His lines and body language are atrocious, but it gives the film a charm and character it otherwise wouldn’t have, so I appreciate it for that.

The music in Saw was scored by Charlie Clouser, and it’s amazing! Like any successful horror movie series, you need an unmistakable theme and, boy, does Saw have one. Clouser’s score in this film and the sequels is a character all its own. The fan’s love his contributions to the Saw universe, and I’m happy to hear that he’s scoring Spiral as well.

I’m not going to spoil any of the revelations in Saw because that would rob you of a wonderful experience. But I will say this: the ending is as unpredictable as it gets, especially back in 2004. There are plenty of red herrings, and that’s part of the fun. I enjoy watching a movie like this, wondering who the evil mastermind is that’s behind it all. Some have criticized Saw and its sequels for being too heavy handed when it comes to explaining the plot, with plenty of flashbacks to help the viewer connect the dots. While I understand this gripe, I also appreciate being guided to the ultimate conclusion, rather than being forced to re-watch specific scenes to pick up on everything. That said, this movie, and the others, are worth watching multiple times because you will absolutely notice clues along the way. I’m not sure exactly how many times I’ve seen Saw, but it holds up well each time. It’s an excellent thriller that delivers a heavy dose of suspense, and it spawned one of the most epic series of all time, as well as an iconic character in the Jigsaw Killer. If you haven’t seen Saw before, watch it. If you have, watch it again. The game isn’t over. It’s just begun!

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