I am a self-proclaimed “Sawfreak”. Let me just start off by saying that. Of all the things that I love about horror movies—and of all the horror movies that I love—Saw is at the very top of that list.
My freshman year of college happened to be the year that the original Saw came out. I didn’t have much time for a social life that year—and of course this included trips to the movie theater. But I remember hearing other students talking about Saw after weekends, and even after Thanksgiving break. One coworker of mine at school told me he heard that some people were so jacked up after seeing this movie that they had to go see a psychiatrist. To this day I’m not sure if he made that up or not, but that was all anyone would tell me about the movie except that it was awesome and a great suspenseful horror movie.
So, of course, by the time I came home for the summer and it had come out on DVD, one of the first things I did after arriving at my parents’ house was hop in my beloved car and head straight to Blockbuster to the rent this movie. What I did not realize was that this one simple act at a video store I had been going to since I was a child, would set me on a path that would change my life.
When I got home and started watching that move (alone, no less, because everyone else had seen it), I was captivated from the very first second. You always hear people talking about how filmmakers need to build characters up and make us care about what happens to them so that we’re invested in their story. Well, somehow Saw manages to do that without really even doing it at all. Starting the movie with action—Adam waking up in that bathtub and discovering he’s locked and chained in a bathroom with another man—well, I immediately wanted to know what was going on and who was doing this to them. I was immediately invested in what happened to Adam and Lawrence.
By the end of the movie, I was in shock. Now, I say this with a lot of love, and as a huge horror fan: when I watch a horror movie, I generally only expect to be entertained; nothing more, nothing less. I certainly don’t expect to be kept in suspense, to care so much about the story and the characters, to never want it to end. But that was how I felt by the end of Saw. I remember being in my bedroom, alone, sitting there with my mouth hanging open for at least a couple of minutes after the movie was over, because of that unbelievable twist.
All this is to say that I was personally invested in the franchise since the beginning; before it was even a franchise. I am a firm believer that that great twist ending at the end is what made them movie so memorable that a second one was even able to be made. It becoming a staple of the franchise is one of the things I love most about the Saw movies. It was always a guarantee that each new installment would have an ending that would blow me away.
The Saw movies are the kind that drew the audience in, in a very unique way. Each one has a “where does your allegiance lie?” element. It was never just about the gore; there were emotional elements and ethical dilemmas in every one of the seven films. With every film—every single trap, even—there are moments when one could just as easily be on Jigsaw’s side as we could the latest trap victim’s side. It’s not hard to see why Jigsaw wanted to test the cop who abused his authority and got false convictions; or the rapist, or the child abuser and his wife who let him get away with him.
For this reason, the films made me (and many others think). “Are there certain people who really don’t deserve to live? What would I do if I were in a trap? What lengths would I be strong enough to go to survive?” In a genre that is not really known for being thought-provoking, the Saw movies were very unique in the ability to raise some deep points and making one think.
Jigsaw himself was perhaps the biggest reason why I am a “Sawfreak”, and why these films are my favorite in the horror genre. As a horror movie villain, he is in a class of his own. He was not a joker with powers to do supernatural things and come back to life like Freddy, he was not a silent almost-zombie-like force like Michael or Jason; nor an inbred country killer or an actual zombie or a monster.