61 Days of Halloween: Saw (2004)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

Saw (2004)

So, yes, this is a new one to me this year. Whenever something as well-known as Saw goes unwatched for so long I feel compelled to do a little explaining.

In 2004, I was still in school and not only busy, but also picky. I wasn’t as into horror as I am now, not that I didn’t like it, but just that I hadn’t gotten around to it. Things like Saw weren’t on my radar screen yet, not really.

The easiest thing in the world to do is not watch (or be properly exposed to something) and then pin a label on it to dismiss it. I’ve seen things “worse” or more graphic in execution since this came out, made both before and after it. The label that gets tossed about here is, of course, torture porn.

If one looks at the dictionary definition of pornography it can be applied to any number of things, one of the most popular and dismissive Letterboxd reviews of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close merely cites it. However, the connotation is almost solely sexual. So when something seems to revel in a certain motif it’s called [blank] porn: food porn, torture porn and the like.

There’s been no embracing of this moniker by almost anyone in the horror community, and nor should there be. It’s meant, based on every instance I’ve heard it used in, as a slanderous remark. Like calling a big-budget, high-concept movie you disliked slick.

While I’m sure the series, as any must, ups the ante. How it starts is with much more suggested violence and gore than expected; as well as more intricate storytelling and more focus on the characters than one would expect. Something like Hostel, which I saw before this, is more befitting a negative label like that because aside from the abuse the stupid tourists, who don’t necessarily deserve it, suffer there’s not a lot to redeem that film. Not much else to it at all.

Would I have gotten around to seeing this now had it not been for James Wan and Lee Whannell going off to make the Insidious movies to show they can wield a different brand of horror? Maybe. Just maybe not as soon as I did. I nearly picked up the whole series cheap and used a few years ago but balked.

My reticence is not so much being repulsed such that I can’t watch, that’s scarcely happened since I came of age, but rather of their being nothing else there like say in Cannibal Ferox. What works brilliantly in Saw is that you get a very full portrait of the villains method, and some of his past, but by the end of the first installment you barely know him so that’s a great jumping off point for the second film.

There are probably some other, bigger horror titles I should knock off my to watch list, but this one’s time had come and I’m glad I got around to it.

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