“You must see Saw”, exclaims some cheesy tabloid on the poster of the 2004 Horror film.
Don’t take their word for it. The film Saw left me feeling kind of empty- the ending didn’t quite make sense to me- and I couldn’t face the prospect of sitting through the whole thing again to figure it out. The main reason for my passivity was that the filmmakers seemed more interested in shocking us with the violence than actually telling a story. They were more driven by the need to make us cringe rather than think- this cringing resulting from either graphic depictions of visceral dismemberment or bad acting.
Director James Wan didn’t quite pull off the infusion of moral conflict in the way that David Fincher did in Se7en- both are films in which the victims of the grizzly murders are, in some way, guilty themselves and due a punishment.
However, Se7en is not the only film that leapt to mind after watching Saw.
Towards Saw’s climax, Gordon (Carey Elwes) realises it’s not the chain that his captor wants him to cut through with the hacksaw- it’s his own ankle.
To factors suspended my disbelief at this point. The first is realism. Gordon has just blunted the hacksaw’s teeth on the chain. The chances of this tool then being used to cut through flesh and bone of ankle thickness, without the blade snapping, is nonexistent. This doesn’t matter though, as he would have passed out and probably bled to death after he cut the femoral artery in the ankle- long before he had a chance to cut himself free.
There is a second factor preventing my immersion in the fictional film world of Saw. As well as the seminal thriller Se7en, Saw was blatantly inspired by the climax of classic Mel Gibson movie Mad Max.
Max, after accosting road hoodlum who murdered his wife and child, chains the perpetrator’s ankle to the twisted wreck of his own car. He then places the bomb in the driver’s seat and offers the guilty man a hacksaw- similar to that featured in the movie Saw.
Max explains that the bomb will detonate before he could cut through the steel. If said hoodlum wants to live, he had better get to work on his ankle. Max assures him that dismembering himself and escaping can be done within the available time. Suffice to say, the car explodes with the perpetrator still inside.
All the creators of Saw did was to say, ‘Well, hey, let’s see him do it.’
In conclusion, do not bother watching the Saw films. If you want decent horror that is frightening, and makes sense, try Ring and Dark Water (of course, I mean the Japanese originals by the world’s scariest director, Hideo Nataka) or Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. Now that is benchmark horror.
These films substitute gratuity for suggestive horror, being more discreet in their images and allowing fear to manifest in the most terrifying place of all- our own minds. More importantly, Nataka and Roeg know how to suspend our disbelief. The makers of Saw do not. This can be particularly difficult in the genre of Horror, as the issue of ghosts (as featured in Ring, Dark Water and Don’t Look Now) is less believable than the premise of some nutter torturing people to make them see the ill of their ways (Saw series, Seven etc.) But Nakata and Roeg managed it: The creators of the Saw films did not.