"If it's Halloween, it must be Saw." The tagline for the horror movies—the seventh (and last) of which opens this week—is like a promise to some, a threat to others.
Those who haven't seen the films dismiss them as "torture porn." Fans argue that they're genuinely deep and philosophical. Turns out, none of them is right.
Forget what you've heard! From the Inception link to the Lost connections, here are five things you didn't know about the $370 million franchise:
Quick note: This was written prior to viewing Saw 3D, and may or may not be contradicted by events therein.
1. The Saw movies are NOT "torture porn." First off, yes, they're about a cancer-stricken engineer who places troubled people in deadly traps. And that obnoxious term was coined to describe Saw and Hostel, but the signature death-devices in the movies are fast-acting traps with a time limit.
For the most part, a victim may stay still in them and die a quick death if he or she chooses...or engage in some swift mutilation (of oneself or another) to escape. That's nasty, but it's not torture. Or porn.
2. Their "philosophy" and "moralizing" is actually meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Some fans enjoy Tobin Bell's antihero John "Jigsaw" Kramer's intellectualization of what he does—punishments meant to help survivors appreciate life, and break them of self-destructive behavior. But critics often note that it all sounds like a phony baloney justification for gratuitous violence.
In fact, Jigsaw's modus operandi is transparently flawed almost from the get-go, as the primary survivors of his traps are the vindictive junkie Amanda (Shawnee Smith) and rage-a-holic copycat killer Det. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor).
3. Lost's Benjamin Linus is the primary villain in the first, scariest film—before the Jigsaw killer's true identity is revealed! Seriously, Michael Emerson was just as creepy seven years ago.
4. Lost and Saw have even more in common. Both started using "flash-forwards" as a plot device to further confuse viewers in 2007. Oddly, only Lost was considered groundbreaking for doing so.
5. Saw made Inception possible—kinda. The movies were way more influential than you might think. Two years before There Will Be Blood was an Oscar-winning Paul Thomas Anderson film, it was the tagline for Saw II.
Without having been prepped by the multi-tiered, nonlinear storytelling of the Saw films, mainstream audiences might not have accepted a similarly convoluted narrative like Inception as readily as they did.
And one of this year's big would-be awards contenders, Danny Boyle's 127 Hours, centers on a guy who falls into a trap situation, and must hack off a limb in order to escape—while experiencing flashbacks, hallucinations, and premonitions. Yes, it's based on true events, but cinematically...where have we seen that central plot device and style before, hmmm?