For just a brief minute if you can allow yourself to forget what the Saw franchise turned into and focus on its very humble beginnings you will find a nice little masterpiece of a horror film that is partially responsible for the resurgence of modern horror. Saw was originally released in 2004. Directed by James Wan and wrote by Leigh Whannell starring Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, and Tobin Bell as the films protagonist Jigsaw. The film centers around two men who awake to find themselves chained in a dingy bathroom with no windows or means of escape and a dead body in the middle of the floor. Neither man knows how they got there or why but each is given a specific set of instructions on how they can escape. One must kill the other in a set amount of time, otherwise they will both be locked forever in the very room in which they awoke. Saw is an independent horror film, costing roughly $700,000 to make and was shot in only 18 days in an abandoned warehouse in Los Angeles. It would go on to gross $103 million worldwide and would spawn a seven part series of sequels. With one being released every Halloween for years after the release of the original film.
The Saw franchise may have been beaten to death by Hollywood, as it was given a whole series of poorly thought out hastily made sequels. Literally one every single year for seven years in a row but this does little to take away from the series original film. For as stagnant and predictable as later incarnations would become the original Saw was and is in many ways still is a very well thought out psychological thriller.
Saw was founded on the principles of crafting a story first approach and even though is often remembered for its brutal yet simplistic traps, gore was never the focus of the first film. It was a simple byproduct of the situations that the characters found themselves in. Later films would forgo this formula, presenting on screen brutality simply for the sake of being brutal. Saw on the other hand found clever ways of putting these characters into tough situations where the only way out often caused bodily harm. As for the traps themselves, they had a simple yet sadistic approach to them which made everything seem far more believable than what it probably was. It is easy to be afraid of something like a reverse bear trap strapped to your head. The effects are obvious.
It is not hard to understand why Hollywood was so quick to cash in on the success of the original Saw film. It is just a shame that they could not have showed a little more restraint and produced films that matched the quality of the first instead of focusing on getting as many out as possible. No matter where the series went it was never quite able to match up to the originality and intensity of the original Saw!