Tag Archives: The Usual Suspects

Saw #30DaysOfFright

saw5The Usual Suspects meets Se7en, Saw may be known more for its torture porn tendencies – popped into the same category as the likes of Hostel – but the first is more of a taut serial killer thriller. 

There are of course horrible deaths but most of what happens is in your mind, it’s the suggestion of it that makes you balk. The sequels certainly up the blood and gore quota.

 It’s the story that drives the horror in this and the suggestion, something that has become a staple in James Wan and Leigh Whannell directed and written horror films, from Insidious to The Conjuring. The horror comes from the situation and story.

 sawTwo men who don’t know one another awake in a dark empty room shackled to the wall. In the centre of the room a dead body and a tape recorder. A mysterious voice pits them against one another, will they live or will they die? To survive they are going to have to go out on a limb. If they die they’ll simply become another victim of the twisted Jigsaw killer

 Will they work together or against one another? They are Dr. Lawrence Gordon, who has to kill Adam, or his wife and daughter will die.

 Like all good horror it drags us in and puts us in their shoes, what would we do to escape and save our family? It’s kill or be killed.

 I want to play a game is what the Jigsaw killer tells his victims through the means of his creepy puppet, and that is exactly what this film is a game, a game of wits.

For all its horror tendencies This is a cleverly crafted whodunnit.

saw2What is really interesting about Saw is that the victims aren’t exactly innocent, they may not deserve to die but they aren’t exactly nice people or innocent victims per se. 

And what is clever is that Jigsaw finds ways for victims to essentially kill themselves. Again, it’s about the clever deaths and scenarios.

Perhaps the most memorable is that of the converted bear trap on a woman’s face, obviously there is the fact that if she can’t open the device it goes off ripping her jaw apart.

Added to this the key is hidden inside the body of a man, she must dig it out within 60 seconds. Oh, and the man, whilst inanimate is still very much alive.

This trap is also notable as it was filmed as a short to help get finance for the film by Wan and Whannell. Whannell also playing Adam trapped with the good Doctor.

The only innocent people in the film are the mother and daughter who are kidnapped, for me this whole section is outstanding and where the real mounting tension lies.

Whether it is the girl telling her mummy that there is a monster in her room, which of course there is in the shape of their kidnapper. When we see that figure it is chilling.

And the tension is ramped up again when time has run out for the Doctor to save his family 

saw6They are tied up, the kidnapper takes the daughter’s heartbeat and then again when he points the gun at her mother’s head, this time it beats much faster, just like that of the audience’s.

Style wise, the dizzying edit and speeding up film I’m less of a fan of, even if it is highlighted their confusion, desperation and panic.

What does suit the film, and cunningly the series as a whole, is the non-linear timeline of the film zips about but it works in its favour and keeps us hanging on tenterhooks throughout.

saw4The ramshackle Jigsaw puppet on his bike could have so easily been laughed off the screen, but it’s creepy as hell. And is my Halloween costume of choice, complete with dictaphone as well.

He’s used sparingly in this first outing but has quickly become a horror icon alongside Freddy, Jason, Michael, Pinhead and Ghostface.

For a film set so much in the shadows it’s quite fitting most of the characters have grey areas 

saw8What elevates this from the usual low budget fair is its casting of familiar faces in key roles, such as Cary Elwes as the shackled surgeon, Danny Glover as a detective investigating the murders and Monica Potter as Elwes’s wife.

With Saw being the title the race to the climax is heavily posted, Jigsaw has hidden hacksaw blades not sharp enough to cut through chains but through flesh. What would push you to the limit to lop your own foot off? 

Nothing and no one is as they seem, this is a jigsaw of many pieces and only when the puzzle is complete is the whole picture revealed.

The end? I won’t give it away but It’s less survival of the fittest and more Saw-vival of the cleverest.

Top Ten Film and TV Reveals

10. The Phantom of the Opera… as seen in Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Even some 90 years later the image of the Phantom as he is first revealed in the classic Lon Chaney silent version is an indelible image that still possesses the power to repulse and shock, so one can only imagine the impact it had in its day.

 

9. Norman Bates… as seen in Psycho (1960)
Oh mother! Another classic that still retains all of its power to this day, even if you know the true identity of the murderer, it is still an impressive reveal, and is one of double proportions if you count Mrs Bates in the rocking chair and that swinging light bulb!

 

8. Doctor Who… as seen in Doctor Who (1963 – Present)
No matter the Doctor, no matter the transformation, the regeneration of one Doctor to the next has always made for must see television. For me the most memorable has to be Tom Baker falling off a giant satellite dish and turning into Peter Davison via some bizarre figure dressed in white (dunno either) to the most emotional, that of David Tennant into Matt Smith. Tennant pretty much was the Doctor so we really felt his emotional exit and the humility he brought to his final moments, moments that had been deftly built over the course of a year of specials and three final episodes. This really was the end of an era as it also spelt the end of show head writer, Russell T Davies, who clearly left no emotional stone unturned.

 

7. An ape on horseback… as seen in Planet of the Apes (1968)
We are as gobsmacked as Chuck Heston and his fellow astronauts when the hunting horns bellow to the crescendo of horse hooves and the sight of apes on horseback with ruddy rifles. It’s the first reveal that Heston and co are on a whole darned planet of them. As shocking and memorable as the final Statue of Liberty shot is, for me, it is this first stark reveal that truly sets the tone for all that follows.

 

6. James Bond… as seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Connery had gone, James Bond was dead…but long live James Bond as another actor filled his shoes, namely George Lazenby. I can hardly comprehend on what the mammoth search for Bond must have been like or the anticipation of a new actor filling the role that Sean Connery had made his own. Cleverly, we are teased by the filmmakers who show us glimpses of Bond here and there in his rear view mirror behind the wheel of his beloved Aston Martin DB5 as he drives onto a beach to rescue a damsel in distress from some thugs. Once the villains are dispatched and the woman runs off and drives away in her car. Bond stands up and wryly talking directly to camera, the only time this ever happens, says to the audience as much as to himself: “This never happened to the other fellow!” A text book physical reveal that has rarely, if ever been bettered.

 

5. A Body Snatcher… as seen in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
It’s the final reel of the film and we are just relieved to see that Donald Sutherland, despite his Hair Bear Bunch barnet, is safe and not been nobbled by the pod people, but wait. He stops as Veronica Cartwright approaches, points, eyes roll and mouth opens distinctly inhuman like to let out one of the most chilling sounds and images ever to greet cinema going audiences. ‘They’ had finally caught up with him. The screen freezes and that image of Donald stays with you for ages after you first see it.

 

4. A Chest Burster… as seen in Alien (1979)
We know that John Hurt seriously hurts when he is flung around the Nostromo and that all is not well with his belly, in what is surely one of cinema’s greatest ever entrances as the aptly named chest burster, doing exactly what it says on the tin, and promptly shrieking as it exits Hurt’s body and splattering the white exterior crimson red. Primal stuff.

 

3. The Thing… as seen in The Thing (1982)
In the end the reveal is a massive relief of sorts, as you feel the anguish and paranoia of all the scientists and researchers sat on the chairs strapped to each other. We know the reveal is coming, but like those men on the chairs, we do not know when it is coming or from whom and we certainly aren’t prepared for what follows.

 

2. Doug Quaid… as seen in Total Recall (1990)
One of Arnie’s true classics I am of course talking about Arnie’s disguise as an overweight middle aged woman – thankfully not him in drag in the risible Junior – to get him through security before ‘she’ ends up with a facial tick of sorts only for her head to fall off and Arnie to step out from her as she opens up, with her head exploding as a bomb, as you do, with the immortal line “get ready for a surprise!” prior to detonation.

 

1. Keyzer Soze… as seen in The Usual Suspects (1995)
Who’d have thunk that weedy little Kevin Spacey was the murderous criminal mastermind behind it all. As ‘Verbal Kint’ states: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he never existed.” It’s a bravura performance that doesn’t need prosthetics or a fake accent to pull it off. Spacey dragging his foot one moment, then walking normally the next and then miraculously regaining the use of his withered hand is misdirection of the highest order and never fails to delight. It is unsurprising that Spacey won a best-supporting actor Oscar for his mesmerizingly understated performance.