IHAO on ... Saw
The Saw franchise for a long time, seven years in fact, was synonymous with the Halloween season. When the films were in the theatres going every year ... well, let's just say I was equally opinionated about films but way less learned and objective. I was not at that point yet a critic, working hard to bring to you all my specific blend of pure opinion and objective eye for details and skill. I watched the first two films at that point, then decided "gore is stupid" and had enough. I stuck with that opinion for a very long time, until I started to earnestly get into film critically. At that point I found a bunch of critics I liked (and a lot I didn't, to be fair) online. One, Welshy, talked with great fervor about Saw as a franchise. He did what I was trying to do, which was share his complete opinion, but back it up objectively. I tend to have more separation of church and state, if you'll permit the metaphor.
The other impetus for doing these reviews was my roommate, who loves the films. We talked about the Saw, and his fervor really made me want to watch the films again. So, lookie lookie, they put out all seven on an easy to collect, great price blu-ray collection. So I got them. And I'll be reviewing them all this month, about one every three reviews.
Ok, so the first Saw. This was director James Wan's debut, and Leigh Wannell's writing debut. And they created a phenomenon! They have worked together a whole lot since then, creating amazing horror films like the Conjuring and some really fun run of the mill ones like the Insidious franchise. But they started out the Saw world. They didn't define it, not really, and I'll get to that in the next review, but they set up the pieces for others to knockdown.
The schtick is that two guys, a doctor and a photographer, wake up locked in a bathroom together, chained to the pipes, a dead man in the center of the room. They are given instructions to play a game, and from there we learn the secrets of both men, their inner sins, and how they are connected. We also learn the history of Jigsaw, the serial killer who puts these death-traps together. It is as much a thriller as it is horrific, and it was really good.
There are some problems. James Wan has become a much better director when it comes to pacing and coaxing his actors to do what he needs. And Leigh Wannell is not an amazing actor by any stretch of the imagination. There's some strange editing and some slow bits. But the concepts, and a good handful of individual scenes are amazing. It is like they got scrapbooked together just slightly poorly. This is these guys' first "scrapbook" so there isn't quite as much precision. The make-up looks a little cheap in places and the actors aren't quite reigned in strongly by the director. But both Cary Elwes (did I forget to mention he was in this?) and Wannell do a good job.
The movie isn't great, but it was the beginning of something that became great, historically. The film itself used to be my favorite ... but now that I've dived into the franchise some ... well ... I'll get there.