Tag Archives: Jigsaw

Postmortem and Pulled Pork: A ‘Saw’ Story

For fans of horror, it always comes down to a single film or franchise. You can love them all, most of them, or even just bits and pieces, but in the end, it boils down to the one vehicle that drives that affection. I plan to be a six-foot Billy the Puppet this Halloween, adore Tobin Bell, and have a soft spot for Shawnee Smith. For me, it’s all about SAW, but above all else, the world of John Kramer has always been about friendship.

Each October for seven years, my best friend and I would make our way to the theatre for the latest installment of Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s creation, strengthening a bond already more than three years in the making. While my boy Dan dug the traps—and got a chuckle out of how much they made me squirm—I was happy to lay money down to get the latest dose of Bell, which is always worth the price of admission.

Both of us fall under the massive fandom umbrella of THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987), and while many a laugh was had at the beauty of Westley book-ending the initial seven chapters of the saga, often times we found ourselves defending our SAW obsession with friends who were not of the horror persuasion. “It’s basically the same movie over and over, why do you keep going?” Our stock answer became a running joke, “We’ve come this far.”

Part of that journey came in 2007, when we met right after work for SAW IV. For as much as I love the genre of blood and guts, I’ve never been big on gore, especially when I’m eating, but my old pal thought it would be fine to pick up some sandwiches, sneak them into the theatre, and get dinner out of the way.

I was a bit hesitant—like I said, the traps are Dan’s thing—and let’s face it, SAW films usually start with a bang. He quickly shot back that we’d most likely have the sandwiches eaten before the trailers were over, but even if we didn’t, it wasn’t like someone was going to have flesh peeled from their skulls right off the bat.

With sandwiches discreetly tucked into our jackets, we took our seats, and dug in.

Saw IV

With a few bites remaining at the close of said trailers, I was hopeful that I’d gobble them down before anything heinous turned my stomach. Moments later, the autopsy of John Kramer began unfolding on-screen, and wouldn’t you know it, Jigsaw’s scalp was being removed from his cranium like a bloody wet suit.

I shot a death stare and “You motherfucker!” in my buddy’s direction to find him doubled over in laughter just one seat over. Safe to say, the sandwich met the theatre floor and those last few morsels went uneaten.

Dan denies it to this day, but I’m still not convinced that he hadn’t seen it already and thought he’d have some fun at my expense.

A friendship that began over a mutual love of movies continues 17 years later, but no one film or series represents our bond more than SAW. Nearly a decade after our shared disappointment with what was supposed to be THE FINAL CHAPTER (2010), both of us were missing our October tradition, unable to believe or accept that 3D was truly the end.

But then JIGSAW was announced for last fall. The franchise we had shared for seven years was returning after seven more, and when I found out, I giddily texted “I want to play a game. Again.”

His response was simple, “We’ve come this far.”

Dan and I have been all-in since SAW debuted on this day in 2004, and we’re willing to go much, much further. Just…without sandwiches.

Whannell Adam

Why Jigsaw is my Dirty Dancing

So I’m out with the boys for a few brewskis the other night, and Dustin decides to drop a “Time of My Life” bomb on us. It was only a matter of seconds before someone belted “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”

Before I go any further, just know that I get songs stuck in my head with incredible ease, and they tend to stay there. I’ve had that goddamn saxophone looping in my grape for days.

Which brings me to sunny point number two: I have had a love affair with the Saw franchise since 2004. It may be no Patrick Swayze, but those annual October trips to the theatre with one of my best friends were bonding moments that I’ll always hold dear.

Now that the table’s been set, I have to come clean – I was so jacked for Jigsaw that I’d built it up like a family function helmed by Clark Griswold — an event that no flick could ever live up to.

And it rang true.

When I made my way to the local movie house, I was disappointed from the outset. In fact, I fell asleep in my seat. Watching Saw. And I know this because at one point my own snore startled me back to the festivities, and I played it off like I was not only coughing, but completely engrossed with Laura Vandervoort’s declaration that “Games can be won.”

tenor

What’s more, after the credits began to run, I remember tweeting something to the effect that for as loyal as I’d been to the world of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), and as long as I’d waited for a new chapter, “It would have been nice to have that faith rewarded.”

So, four-plus months on, and with that sax solo dancing in my head, I decided that I owed it to the franchise I adore another go.

And in the words of the late, great Jerry Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.”

Is Jigsaw great? No, but aside from the original, how many installments of this franchise can honestly make that claim?

The issue was that I was expecting an epic continuation of the saga, when I should have just gone into it looking to once again lose myself in that universe, and enjoy the entertaining ride.

jigsaw-2560x1440-tobin-bell-2017-5k-10339Other than Mr. Bell, none of the key players we’d come to know and love were present, and in the theatre, that irked me. Which was complete nonsense, because I knew going in that none were in the cast. That didn’t stop me from hoping there’d be a surprise appearance from Cary Elwes or Costas Mandylor. So yeah, I was the horror equivalent of those Star Wars geeks who got all bent out of shape because their perception of canon was crushed.

Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger were charged with the nearly impossible task of making an eighth film interesting and fresh (sans familiar faces save Tobin), when, to steal one from John Carpenter, the story “had been mined.”

Yes, Detective Halloran was a cliché character, and with respect, Callum Keith Rennie played it that way, and the traps were a bit stale, but let’s focus on what worked.

Regardless of how you feel about any single film aside from Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s brilliant beginning, Tobin Bell has always been worth the price of admission. And though some of us (read me) were hoping one of the finest actors in the genre would play a larger on-screen role, his voice work and brief appearances were as spot on as they’ve ever been. Dude just has a magnetic presence as “Jig-fucking-Saw.”

And while Vandervoort was the one highlight I took away from my first viewing, my take on Matt Passmore’s performance as Logan Nelson has flipped completely.

Cue the sax.

PassmoreI found Passmore to be a bit hammy and over-the-top back in October, but upon further inspection, he nailed it. That’s not to say there weren’t elements of Velveeta and over-acting in spots, but he fulfilled an important role, and for my money, offered a finer contribution to the franchise than Mr. Mandylor ever did as Mark Hoffman.

One thing that Saw has always delivered were convoluted storylines that brought everything full circle when the dust settled, with clues to the truth scattered throughout. Now, keen observers of said universe likely picked them up as Jigsaw played out, but that does not negate the fact that they were well executed, or that we got a little dash of Shyamalan twist for good measure.

Jigsaw was not the epic experience I had hoped for, but that was only because it was not what I’d expected. And that’s just not the way to view cinema. You have to let the creators take you on a journey, and judge it for the adventure they present to you, now rail on it because it didn’t play the way you’d wanted.

So after witnessing Passmore lift Bell with fresh eyes bereft of preconceived notions, I echo Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” – Jigsaw is a fine addition to the Saw saga.

Themes dominate each iteration of the franchise, and Jigsaw’s was simple – confess.

So let me own up, I carried a watermelon.

Ryann