Does the biggest name in gritty horror movie gore still hold up?
It's hard to overstate how heavily Saw influenced the Western horror scene after its release in 2004.
The decade prior had been the era of Scream, and while Scream itself was a phenomenal take on the classic slasher tropes, every self-aware copycat that followed seemed to be trying to wink and nod audiences into a coma. The Blair Witch Project opened a major door for low budget horror in 1999, and The Ring solidified PG-13 spooky ghost flicks as a horror mainstay in 2002, but by-and-large, R-rated horror movies were still characterized by irreverent teen shlock.
And then came Saw.
Saw revolves around two kidnapped men trapped in a basement room with a dead body and forced into playing a life-or-death "game" engineered by a psychopath named Jigsaw. While the movie received mixed reviews upon release (many of them negatively comparing it to the David Fincher-directed thriller, Seven), Saw became an instant hit nonetheless.
Comparisons to Seven weren't entirely unwarranted, though––not only did Saw follow a similar narrative involving a killer masterminding elaborate deaths reflective of their victims' sins, but both stories also featured huge twists. However, whereas Seven grounded itself in the police hunt for the killer, Saw anchored itself with the victims, firmly establishing itself as a horror movie as opposed to a thriller.
Unlike the vast majority of other major horror movies of the time, Saw wasn't fun and light. It didn't seem designed for teens to cuddle up to on a date night. Saw was gritty and brutal with a dirty aesthetic. It felt less like watching a polished feature from an established movie studio, and more like an underground indie.
In a lot of ways, Saw feels amateur with its shaky camera movements and arguably poor acting (Cary Elwes kind of overdoes it). But at the same time, that almost lends to Saw's grindhouse credibility. It is an extremely low-budget movie, made for a mere $1.2 million (on which it made $103.9 million in return). And while it was clear that first-time feature director and current movie mogul James Wan was still finding his footing, his talent at creating intense, evocative horror was readily apparent.
One of the most interesting things about rewatching Saw is realizing that the movie actually isn't very gory at all. Rather, Wan creates scenes that cleverly give the implication of intense violence without ever showing the worst of it. For example, Wan shows the corpse of the man who climbed through the barbed wire trap after the police find him, but you never really see the barbed wire actively cutting him. Instead, you get a flashback with quick camera cuts and intense shaking that implies the pain and fear of the experience without graphically depicting much. Similarly, the climactic scene where Lawrence saws his own leg off is actually relatively tame. We know that Lawrence is cutting through bone, but we really only actually see small glimpses of him cutting into shallow flesh. The rest is conveyed through camera movement and facial shots.
Then again, the brutality of the first Saw might be blunted a little by its sequels and successors, which leaned into the graphic violence angle and delighted in showing absolutely all the gore and bloodshed that practical effects would allow. In the same way that Scream's sequels and copycats failed to live up to the cleverness of the original, subsequent Saw movies largely discarded the intrigue and thoughtfulness (why are these two victims here and how will they escape?) and instead dwelled on increasingly disgusting "puzzle" devices for maximum carnage. And while there's a certain enjoyment in watching those, especially for a seasoned horror buff, it's hard to call any of the later movies "good."
A trap from a later Saw. This man is not escaping.Lionsgate Films
Moreover, Saw completely changed the horror landscape. Post-Saw, dark, edgy, adult horror movies took over at the box office with some copycats like Hostel but also quality movies like The Strangers. And in a sense, while the dark, gritty horror movie trend that Saw started could be viewed as a response to the formerly prevailing light teen fare of the '90s, the thoughtful, heady, conceptual horror of the 2010s (movies like It Follows) could be seen as a response to the visceral realism of movies like Saw.
- 7 Movies to Look Forward to in 2019 (That Aren't from Comic Books ... ›
- We're Already Sick of Disney's Live-action Remakes - Popdust ›
- We're Already Sick of Disney's Live-action Remakes - Popdust ›
- "Not distressed, just busy": women, science and the movies ›
- Leonardo DiCaprio Would Like Y'All To Know He's NOT Been ... ›
- Please Enjoy This List of Actors Insulting Their Own Movies - Popdust ›
- Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock to star in new Saw movie | EW.com ›
- All 8 Saw Movies, Ranked from Worst to Best ›
- Jigsaw Official Trailer #1 (2017) Saw 8 Horror Movie HD - YouTube ›
- Saw - Rotten Tomatoes ›
- Saw (2004) Official Trailer #1 - James Wan Movie - YouTube ›
- Saw 9 movie release date, cast and plot ›
- Every Saw Movie Ranked From Worst To Best - YouTube ›
- Saw (franchise) - Wikipedia ›
- Saw (2004) - IMDb ›
- Saw (2004 film) - Wikipedia ›
Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
- How Brittana On 'Glee' Made My Feelings For Women Finally Feel ... ›
- 'Glee's' Naya Rivera on Brittany and Santana's 'New Challenge ... ›
- 'Glee' Actor Naya Rivera's Body Recovered From California Lake ... ›
- Exclusive: 'Glee' Star Naya Rivera on Gay Rumors | Entertainment ... ›
- 'Glee' actress Naya Rivera's Santana comes out to applause - Los ... ›