Happy 10th anniversary, Saw.
Several months before the film’s release, your correspondent — writing for another publication at the time — received an advance screener of the film. On VHS, no less.
Upon viewing, he immediately proclaimed this unknown horror flick “the creepiest, most cringe-worthy horror flick since Se7en.”
When he put that in his review, it got blurbed for Saw’s first newspaper ads, and the little evil puppet film went on to make a kajillion dollars and spawn endless sequels.
But I come not to bury Jigsaw. I come once again to praise him, and his creators.
Ten years to the day, Saw is back in theaters for a special re-release.
It deserves your attention and praise. Here’s why:
9. The plot was ingeniously simple
Two men wake up chained to pipes in a dingy basement with a dead body nearby and no memory of how they got there. If they want to live, they must follow clues from a menacing puppet named Billy. Rarely does a film make you ask yourself at every moment, “What would I do? And does it involve me losing a foot?”
8. It’s ridiculously successful
Forget your IPO. Saw cost $1.2 million and was filmed in 18 days. It raked in more than $100 million worldwide in theaters, Scrooge McDuck millions more on DVD and then spawned six printing-money sequels, with a seventh on the way. The series holds a Guinness World Record.
7. It triggered a new horror renaissance
Director James Wan and writer/star Leigh Whannell were directly involved with like-minded horror flicks like The Conjuring and Insidious. The latter was co-produced by Jason Blum and Oren Peli, who crafted The Purge, Sinister and Paranormal Activity. Same M.O. as Saw: great concept, microscopic budget.
6. The film has an incredible backstory
Wan and Whannell were film student graduates. With no budget, they conceived a movie that took place primarily in one room, using nightmares they had as kids as inspiration.
5. This little IMDB nugget
“Casting director Amy Lippens chose her ex-husband in the role of Mark, the man who burns himself alive.”
4. Worst death scene ever
Shame on you, Danny Glover.
3. Jigsaw’s traps still give us nightmares. Even in the sequels.
Reverse bear trap? Used syringe pit of fun? Scalping seat? Sure.
2. Upon further review, the score was great
Two of Saw’s score performers/arrangers were Charlie Clouser and Danny Lohner, Nine Inch Nails compatriots of Trent Reznor. Their dirge-y industrial soundtrack sounded way dated in 2004, but has a retro cool flair nowadays (see: Trent Reznor, Oscar winner).
1. The film allowed yours truly to meet Donnie Wahlberg
Impressed by his blurb, Lionsgate Films invited this writer to the press junket for Saw 2, which co-starred Wahlberg, the former New Kid on the Block. Seemed nice enough. The film, however, marked a serious downturn in quality.
Hang tough, Jigsaw.