Audiences were first introduced to Saw through a simple concept: two men, one room, and a chainsaw. No one could’ve predicted the success of the grisly, gory film, which would evolve into a hundred-million dollar franchise and become immortalized in everything from video games to mens Halloween costumes.
Or could they?
“Saw” taps into the most basic of human instincts: survival. How far would you go to live? What would you be willing to do to save your own skin?
Such a message doesn’t need special effects or Halloween costumes to scare the pants off viewers. In fact, in the first film – which went on to earn $103 million worldwide – actors Leigh Whannell and Cary Elwes spent the majority of the movie in one room. The true terror was inspired by the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell), a masked man who combined Hollywood dialogue with Halloween outfits to appear as a crazed, rosy-cheeked sadist, making human puppets dance for his amusement. His games were your fear. His amusement was your life.
The sequels would build on this theme. There were six in all, including one movie in 3D, bringing the “Saw” franchise up to seven. Public demand was so insatiable that the studio also released video games, Halloween outfits, and even roller coasters around the “Saw” theme. Producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules would oversee it all. (In an unsettling twist, Gregg Hoffman – the third in their trio – passed away after the third film.)
Could it be this fear of death that fueled the series? Every character wanted to survive, after all. The horror came when they didn’t. We spent hours and hours watching them in a struggle to live, but they were rarely granted such mercy.
When you really think about it, “Saw” was an exercise in truth. It was about stripping away jobs and families and mens Halloween costumes and seeing the protagonists at their cores: animals who just wanted to survive. Cary Elwes was willing to cut off his foot. Others would stumble through razor-wire and light themselves on fire.
With its message of pain, torture, and the inevitability of death, “Saw” is a franchise that doesn’t need mens Halloween costumes to be scary. The real fear is with us before we even watch the movie.
The Jigsaw puppet mask and Halloween outfits are with us to stay, so till the next Movie sleep tight