Saturday, 27 August 2011

Kweeny Reviews...

The Entire Saw Saga: Make Your Choice

WARNING: May contain some spoilers for those who haven’t seen all the films

Yup, I'm crazy. I'm going to post this next review/overview about the entire Saw series, right up to the recent 3D movie. Why would I waste some of my Sat doing this? Because I can my readers. And I bring the madness to you.

The Saw series has become a cult phenomenon over the recent years, starting with the first movie in 2004.  Since then, there have been 7 moves to date, with other forms of media perpetuating the franchise. Like for instance, a Saw video game. From what I hear it sucked, but I haven't played it myself. So I won't knock it until I try it. Unlike so many serial killer-slasher type movies, this series has its own unique flavour it brings to viewing audiences. Some have called it Torture Porn, a label given to a sub genre of extremely violent films that have come out in the recent years. Some might say Saw was the first to have that label stamped unceremoniously on them.

But I’m here to tell you, I have seen the way of Jigsaw, and it’s more than just gore and guts. I see what he sees. Partly because I like puzzles, but mostly because he's got a fucking point. Most people, need a bitch-slap in this world to wake them up. Sadly, only in the movies, and horror movies more often than not, do we ever see people getting there comeuppance for doing shitty things to each other. 

Sure, I’ll be the first to tell you it is a very gory, brutal series. And if you don’t have the stomach I do, you will not be able to sit through it to see the layers. I did an entire marathon of this series with my friend, then re-watched it with my husband who hadn't seen it. That's how much I love the series. Because it’s not Halloween or Friday the 13th level violence. While they are also fun movies and have left a mark on my childhood (Halloween being my first taste of horror and the reason I am the freak I have become) Saw goes one step further. The deadly, ingenious devices these victims get strapped into will and do kill people. And you see it in grisly detail. Part of the point is you see it.

Even I was under the impression that Saw was all about the killing when I first sat down to watch the films. I was so wrong. The label it’s been given of Torture Porn leads people to believe there is nothing else to the series. Just a bunch of mindless killing and neat traps. Some have criticized that it’s just about getting off on people’s misery and nothing else. And I have seen many movies that have been also classified as Torture Porn, like for example Hostel and Captivity. There does seem to be a trend for these kinds of films. But Saw is much more thoughtful than these films. There is a philosophy in Saw. The messages go so much deeper, where these other films seem to fall sort and only give you a shallow message so they can get to the killing. Saw is literally about puzzles within puzzles. It's about the insane mind of a man pushed to the edge and his legacy of revenge and pain he leaves behind. It is a movie about a killer named Jigsaw after all. And I am glad that name is not used in vain. These movies are like ongoing, crime drama soaps with violence thrown into the mix, which takes you for a dark ride into the human condition. Sure, the level of violence is more than say shows like CSI, but I still think the thought put into them is on par with shows like that. I’ve seen all 7 to date, and I can tell you it’s an ongoing story, each movie not really ending the tale. Just when the next one begins and you get answers to your questions, it ends leaving you with more to ponder. I'm not watching Days of Our Lives or anything stupid like that. I'm watching a mad man's plan for getting revenge work itself out. It's wicked! None of that soap opera stupid shit of, "I fucked your mother/uncle/cat and now she/he/it is gone and I wonder if said being is in a dumpster somewhere because they got really drunk when they realized I was rich and not just hawt."

Saw is more classy than that. Honestly.

And there are so many layers of messages in this series. Of course there is the main one of survival that started in the first. How far will people go to survive an ordeal? How much will they sacrifice? People faced with life or death situations will do crazy things, sometimes even stupid things to get out of it. Many times I found myself yelling at the screen because people would not listen to the rules, when clearly they had no other option but to. Part of the fun is that I think. When Detective Matthews wants to die on that ice block I laughed ironically, because I felt bad for the shmoe. He was just so done with all the games at that point that he didn’t care there was another guy tied to the same device he was.  

Another message I find highly intriguing is the one of justice. All of Jigsaw’s victims are chosen because they need to be rehabilitated. It’s not about killing them at all. Even though Jigsaw is an evil mastermind capable of reading people, he knows there is always a chance that his predictions might be wrong, that people may in fact survive (as Amanda, the junkie from the first film proves) and become reborn. What they are reborn as is anyone’s guess. Most become students of Jigsaw. Throughout the series, we find more and more people get recruited to the cause. It’s because of the methods Jigsaw uses. He makes people face themselves and their death, and in that moment, their psyches are re-written. Trauma can do that to people. Sometimes I couldn’t help but think what Jigsaw was doing was a public service, but that was my dark self talking. The point for the viewer really is to question their own moralities, and that of those in his traps. As the victim is being tested, so is the viewer, each and every time.

And I can’t help but ask myself how evil Jigsaw is really. I guess one could call him a kind of lawful evil. While he doesn’t follow society’s rules to the letter of law, he follows a “higher” law in his mind. His purpose is the only time we see him with real emotion, other than when he’s with his X wife. The purpose he serves is quite frankly to make people face themselves and change. If they don’t change, they die. He doesn’t think of himself as a murder, and says so many times. He despises murders. In his mind, he thinks he is teaching people. That they choose their death, and he just gives them the choices he feels they need to wake up.

I also think Tobin Bell is an amazing actor. His portrayal of Jigsaw is deeply moving. The guy does creepy well. And I know I couldn't help but really feel for his plight.

Even though by the third movie Jigsaw dies of cancer, his legacy continues on. His messages keep going. I think the most potent messages of the series are in the fourth and sixth movie. Number five in my opinion was a filler piece that needed more thought put into it. While it tied up a few questions, had a few neat kills, it lacked some of the passion the others had. I am happy to say Saw 6 brings that passion back. I even loved some of the devices and puzzles in this one even more than some of the others I’ve seen. Maybe it was watching it on a big screen. Something about seeing them on the big screen is just more powerful and fun if you’re into these kinds of films. Having people cheer after the first death scene was wicked. And one of the main messages I feel of Saw 6 was that the dead can still hurt you. One of the creepiest lines delivered is all about this message. (When you hear the line, you’ll know what I mean) That and the value of human life. Can you judge who should live and who should die? And if you do are you ready to take the consequences of that choice? Because Jigsaw is after all willing to give you choices.

Of course, Saw 3D was the closer for the series, and some of the kills were interesting, but the only real redeeming thing that it had going for it was the ending. I loved the fucking ending. It tied everything together so beautifully. It was worth it for me, the loyal fan that stuck through the franchise even when it was loosing it's luster. Because the ending was AWESOME! I turned to my husband and said ecstatically, "OH YEAH THEY TOTALLY DID IT! RIGHT ON!" And we gave each other high fives. If you watch the last one, and you see what I mean, just picture me high fiveing you. I totally called it.


  1. That's the thing I love about this series, there's a deeper meaning, a questioning of reality and the mundane that permeates the entire film series. There is this line in society that sane people don't cross, that the safe people don't even talk about, it's about doing what's really necessary to change the world.

    Every one of us, all of us, have the power to change the world, though we don't necessarily know how that change will play out. I could, for instance, murder someone today. I don't really want to, and most people would look at me funny for saying it, but I can. There's nothing truly stopping me. I am free to do such horrible things. That I choose not to, I don't know if it's a statement of my own convictions, or my own fears.

    If I left conventional morality behind and truly embraced my own ethics, would I push the loudmouthed jerk to re-examine his life by slowly lowering him onto a panel of spikes every time he makes a sound while I show him pictures and taunt him about the horrible things he's done?


    I don't know. Jigsaw aims to find out, and to allow people a trial by fire, a rebirth, to rise from the flames as a new phoenix. In the end, do we want to be Jigsaw, or do some of us want to be tested, to find out if we're made of sterner stuff, and to accept that failure is death?

  2. It's like I said to you before- Kramer isn't about murder or cruelty, he's bringing his own dark, twisted version of hope. He provides people with the tests of endurance and fortitude that modern Western society has phased out completely. Drop some dude from a tribe in the Amazon into a Jigsaw trap, and he'll win- because he already knows how much he can take, and what he'll do to survive. (Of course, he'd also already be living life to the fullest and savouring each day, so it's a moot point, but you see what I mean.)

    In response to IronHammer's point, it's slightly different in my case. I KNOW I have the callousness required to torture someone physically and mentally, and I've already had my will to survive tested thoroughly. My challenge wouldn't be the execution of the games, it'd be resisting the temptation to value my judgment of someone's worth more than their own judgment thereof. So in short, yeah, I could be Jigsaw- the trick would be in NOT becoming Hoffman.

  3. Nice. I've always defended the SAW series to detractors I talk to... many have derided it as no more than a cynical annual grab for cash on the part of Lionsgate, but I always felt that it's a brainier version of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel cycle that we went through in the 80's. Yeah, once a year, etc. - but at least it's a complex story that rebuilds on itself, as opposed to just resorting to simple repetition.

    My only real complaint about the SAW franchise is that, aside from the gross-out attraction of the kills, there's not a lot else of interest going on... none of the characters are very deep or interesting or particularly sympathetic. Sure, they all have issues and problems, and its fun to put yourself into their various ghastly predicaments and ask yourself "could I do that?"... but they still feel rather one-dimensional. It's all grim and gritty and shot like a Nine Inch Nails video, or something. There's no happiness or inherent joy in the SAW films, and therefore, nothing is really at stake or in danger. You pretty much know from the outset, of each film and the franchise in general, that this is a one way trip DOWN. I've always believed that the best horror films - or any films in general - bring a complex series of emotions and conflicts, but I don't get that from SAW; without the benefit of any lighter moments or anything even approaching a "happy" ending for ANYONE, it's just a continual bummer, with joyless characters doing ugly things to one another. It certainly has its moments overall, and I find it far more intelligent than many of the "haters" give it credit for, but as a complete package, I also see it as depressingly one-note and occasionally tiresome.

  4. That is so cool that you reviewed the WHOLE series & you did it properly. I thought the whole Saw series was okay, it isn't in my top 5 series and that's because I do feel in some ways it lacked emotions. I agree with what J. Astro said, besides from the gory kills and decent storyline, there really isn't that much. Not saying it's horrible because it's not, it's certainly entertaining.

    Tobin Bell really did an amazing job with this role, like you said, he plays the creep guy well...maybe to well! :P

  5. Great review! I agree that this series is more than a simple cut 'em up. It's deeper and darker than that. While just as bloody as the rest. It does have a much more than that...

  6. I'm a big fan of the series, except, sadly Part V, which I find really random. Part 1 was so far the best, then comes part 6 for me, and of course, the finale was the fireworks of the franchise.

    This is one heck of a post, mate! You really got it nailed!


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