“We think craft is important, and the irony has always been that horror may be disregarded by critics, but often they are the best-made movies you’re going to find in terms of craft. You can’t scare people if they see the seams.” – James Wan
In last week’s post I spotlighted the ‘Torture Porn’ sub-genre and the movie that was credited by movie critic David Edelstein to have started it: Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005). Among today’s Top 10 lists and thousands of movie review sites, however, it is more often that James Wan’s SAW is recognized as the film that kicked off the torture porn fad (I use the term ‘fad’ to reference the use of the term, not the genre which has existed within the Horror industry since the 1970’s). While the numerous Saw sequels may deserve to be lumped in with that notorious label, I recently watched the original film again on Netflix and I can assure you that Saw is more ‘thriller and style’ than ‘torture and gore’.
Okay, I admit the movie poster does not support the claim I just made. However, marketing aside, this film features a fantastic cast (Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Michael Emerson), a talented director (James Wan), and a slow unveiling of the plot that places the focus on the build-up of suspense, not the shock of gore.
“After waking up in a tiny cell, two men find themselves victim of a serial killer who plays games with his victims and gives them one last chance to survive. If they wish to live, they each have to play their own game as the killer has told them on an audio script. As the film goes on, connections between the victims and the true identity of the killer are revealed.” – J.S. Golden
Further supporting my belief that Saw is more Thriller-Horror than torture porn, is that director James Wan’s other Horror entries, Insidious and The Conjuring, are perfect examples of movies that pull off ‘scary’ without using scenes of extreme gore or torture. Also, unlike other so-called ‘Splat Pack’ directors like Rob Zombie and Darren Lynn Bousman, Wan has major film credits to his name outside of the Horror genre in both Furious 7 and the upcoming Aquaman.
Don’t worry though – Wan isn’t turning completely ‘main stream’ just yet as he looks to keep his membership in the “Masters of Horror” club active with next year’s The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist.