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.
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.