So it's coming up to Halloween and to mark the occasion, the original SAW film is being placed in cinemas everywhere for one week only, starting on the 31st October. To honor this news, I recently went back and watched the entire franchise. It was after I finished watching the Final Chapter (Part VII in the long running Horror franchise) that I realized that, although all the other films in the franchise are immense fun to watch, none of them are as good as the the first film. Obviously I do understand that this is all opinion based but let me attempt to explain to you why the first IS the best out of all seven films. Also, for those who haven't seen the original film, MAJOR SPOILERS lie ahead. Let the article begin...
It Began A Horror Phenomenon
This is a point which can be argued over it being valid to be an actual reason. But, like all great Horror franchises to grace our screens, the first one is the one film that started it all and turned the Horror genre on its head. Let's start by talking about the impact the film made on the scene for starters. Back during the time of the first SAW film, Horror was in a dark place... and I don't mean the good kind of dark. Most horror films being released were either sequels to franchises that were far past their use-by date or weren't original. To get a good film that grabbed you by the private areas and shocked you, both due to high tension and genuine scares, was rare back then. Horror was in need of a savior... and SAW was just that. The film appeared from out of nowhere and it shocked anyone who dared to watch it. It was a breath of fresh air, bringing to us a simple, yet effective, story that was violent, disturbing and twisted and filled with characters that were explored at great depth. The film was met with average reviews, some slating it for it's extreme violence, others adoring it for the shocks it brought and others sitting on the fence, not really sure what to make of it. Yet over the years that have passed, SAW has become noted as being one of 2000's most significant, and effective, Horror films. And then suddenly a franchise was born... as was another icon in Horror mythology, in the face of Jigsaw and his twisted scheme. Since the release of the first film, many have tried to grasp the feel that the first SAW had, with few succeeding (Martyrs being one of the ones that succeeded). After the success of the first film, SAW films kept being pumped out, year by year, and was the Horror phenomenon of the 2000's. It had all the elements that made you go back for more... excessive violence, creative deaths, involving characters and a storyline that had so many twists that would have made M. Night Shyamalan nervous. It had all the components to solidify its legacy in the Horror genre, and what a legacy it is. This may not seem like a valid reason but, to me, any film that can breathe new life into a dying genre is worthy of its place in the spotlight. Now... let's move onto the next point shall we?
It Had The Best Traps
Now this point is one that everyone will have varied opinions, and I respect that. After all, SAW V kickstarted with a guy being chopped in half by a pendulum and The Final Chapter had Chester Bennington (Vocalist of Linkin Park) rip the skin off his back whilst glued to a car seat, only for the car to accelerate and have Bennington fly through the windscreen and hit another windscreen of an empty car killing his friends and himself on impact... double ouch. But, all those brilliant traps aside, none of them are as simple or effective as the ones displayed in the first film. Let's talk about the trap in the main game for a good starting point. How simple is it? Very. How well planned out is it? Very. How much is at stake? Everything. Okay, so the thought of having a human Venus Fly Trap device strapped to your head and having to cut out one of your eyes to get the key is downright horrifying. However, imagine waking up in a dark room, inside a bathtub. Imagine turning on the lights, realizing you're trapped, your leg inside a lock, in a dirty bathroom where a man lies dead in the middle. Then imagine being told that you have to kill the person opposite you (in the exact same situation) by 6 o'clock otherwise your family dies. On top of that though, also imagine the only way to get out of the chain is by sawing of your foot because you pulled the plug in the bathtub, which had a key to help you escape. This trap, whilst physically violent, is also very psychological. Instead of flat out torturing you physically, this trap also tortures you mentally, driving you to feel guilt and hopelessness, which leads to you going insane and forcing you to cut off your thought. Now, if that isn't the best kind of trap, I don't know what is.
The main trap aside, this also featured a variety of simple traps that were the most horrifying to watch play out. A man having to walk through a maze of razor wire, another man having poison run through his veins whilst his skin is covered in flammable substance, having the only antidote locked in a safe, the combination code written on the walls among a thousand other words and your only light source being a flippin' candle. I'd say they're more horrifying and, dare I say it, creative than anything the SAW franchise has came up with since. But then let's also mention the most iconic SAW trap within the franchise... the Reverse Bear Trap. Having your jaw ripped apart from your head, bear trap style, is possibly one of the most daunting traps in the SAW universe. After mentioning all these, is there really any other SAW film that has the same simplicity to their traps? Or any that are as effective? Let me know in the comments what you think! But moving on from the traps...
The Characters Were Memorable
Let's be honest, by the time the third SAW movie came out, all we wanted to see was a crap load of people die. The characters weren't all that engaging to the general audience as none of them were provided with enough depth for us to actually give a shit about their fate. So, eventually, the franchise just became about a twisted story that had a load of plot twists and, more importantly, about how many people can die in the gruesome ways possible within a short time frame. I'm not complaining by the way, that's what made the rest of the series enjoyable, however... not having a connection with the characters is also what makes the first one stand out above all the others. Because in the first one we DID give a crap about their fate. We wanted both Lawrence and Adam to survive and we wanted Trapp to find Jigsaw. We got to watch their stories fold out over the course of the film and we came to sympathize with them. Trapp had been through a lot devoting the final part of his career to finding the Jigsaw killer. He lost his partner when they found Jigsaw's hideout and he had his throat slashed by Jigsaw himself. We urged him to find the killer and bring him to justice. The other two main characters also had intriguing stories to tell. Adam was a photographer who was hired to take pictures of Lawrence. Lawrence was a doctor who, as we found out, was the main suspect in the Jigsaw case. To further our sympathy, we discovered that Lawrence's wife and daughter were being held captive by the suppose Jigsaw killer and that made us want him to survive. These characters were well thought out, bringing all the points together and helping the flesh out the story. It's rare, even by today's standards of film, that we care about characters. But James Wan did just that... he even made us care about Jigsaw killer, as we discovered his motives and understood that he wanted to make people realize the value of life. Giving the killer a cause is unique as it helps to peel back their flesh and see what's inside. It gives us an insight and makes us even sympathize with his cause. After that, SAW simply became about seeing people die in creative ways and, whilst that's fun to watch, it isn't as engaging to us.
The Plot Was Well Thought Out
Onto my final point, the one that I think makes the first SAW standout more than any of the others: the plot. Yes, it is simplistic but to deny just how effective and well thought out it was is, for a better term, almost idiotic. Whereas the other SAW films were basically torture porn flicks, the first played out more like a Horror/Thriller, almost the same way Se7en plays out. Instead of giving you loads of deaths, it give lots of depth instead. As mentioned, we get to feel for the characters. But more so than just that, the film being set in one small area for most of the time gives it a more psychological edge. We watch as our characters become frantically more desperate with each minute, realizing their past mistakes and becoming determined to try and survive the ordeal. The linking of all the characters is also by far the best, revealing that Adam has been tracking Lawrence under the payment of Trapp. The real Jigsaw killer was actually John, who was being treated by Lawrence. Zep was an orderly working at the same hospital as Lawrence. Everything linked perfectly and it was played out slowly over the duration of the film. Adding the element of giving Lawrence everything to live for and using his family as a reason for him to survive gave the film further depth. We slowly discovered that everyone was connected, one way or another. And it was executed well, showcasing different minds working together to help them survive their game. If you want to also add in the fact that Jigsaw is actually trying to help people appreciate the value of life, giving him a cause (just or not is your opinion), that makes the story even deeper. But I think what makes this standout above all the rest is how it had the best plot twist out of all the films... finding out Zep wasn't the Jigsaw killer and that the man lying in the room wasn't dead was genuinely shocking. Discovering that a guy who we thought had shot himself was actually the killer was something no-one saw coming. So when it's revealed at the end, you feel it's impact. It shocked you and made you realize how perfect the Jigsaw killer's plan was. The clues were there but you failed to realize them, the same way you failed to realize the twist ending to Fight Club. This is a film that had it all and was played along at a steady pace, creating tension that was foreboding, looming over the entire film. It provided the same shock value as Se7en, making it more than just a simplistic Horror. On the surface, SAW was just another Horror film. Beneath the skin, it was a well thought out and a truly engaging Thriller with elements of Horror and Mystery thrown in for good measure. And this... this is why the first SAW film will ALWAYS remain the best.
Now you've heard my points on why I think the first SAW is the best in the franchise. I've missed out some other minor points, such as it introduced us to Billy The Puppet, who is the face of the SAW franchise but I felt like the points above are the main ones to point out. However, this all opinion based so I want to hear what YOU have to say! Feel free to tell me whether you agree with the article or not, tell me your personal favourite SAW film, or even just your favourite trap in the series! I'm going to end with this with the trailer released for the 10th Anniversary of the SAW film. Remember:
"Everyone is entitled to one good scare"
Thanks for reading and have a fantastic Halloween!