So I have been thinking about Saw some more, specifically the difference between it and the splat films from my youth.

The iconic Friday the 13th films were downright Grimmian in their simplicity. “The world works a certain way. If you break certain rules, you will die.” As easy as it was to see the conservative elements of society railing against these movies, there was a lot of overlap between the world views of both… it’s just that the movies enjoyed exploring the gory details of both before and after and did so to, let’s face it, a degree where a reasonable person *MIGHT* say that it appeals to the prurient interest.

Saw, on the other hand, does not inhabit a universe where the world works a certain way… with rules. This is one of the things that makes Jigsaw so terrifying. He looks at the universe and sees no rules at all and, as such, tries to bend (twist?) the world into something that has rules. Of course, the thumb of the author is always on the scale and so Jigsaw’s intuitions are always right and his insights are always trenchant and his psych profile is always full of right-handed complaints. In an empty universe, Jigsaw is trying to turn a bunch of people who don’t appreciate the empty universe into Moral Agents (and, as far as I can tell from wikipedia, a handful of them into moral agents like him). It is the thumb of the author on the scale that may make folks say, in dark of night, “you know… he kinda has a point.”

And when we get back into broad daylight, the very idea that we could think such a thing for even a moment is where some (most?) of the horror comes from.

The horror from Friday the 13th is the horror that comes from living in a universe with hard consequences for one’s actions. The horror from Saw is the horror that comes from living in a universe without any.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


    • I have an odd take on Se7en. I see it as fundamentally, if not optimistic, existentialist (in the Sisyphean sense of the term).

      Morgan Freeman spends the entire movie talking about his impending retirement and getting away from all this (in the DVD, the commentary mentions that they shot scenes where he was looking at his retirement house and cheerfully pulling at peeling wallpaper). At the end, however, what does he do? He says “I’ll be around.”

      He sticks around.

      • Oh, it’s definitely existentialist. But I meant that I remember when Se7en came out, I knew more than a few people who thought that John Doe had a point….

    • I didn’t see Se7en.

      I’ve seen two ~5 minute lengths of it (one of which is the End Scene), which served to reinforce my preconceived notion of the movie, that is: Morgan Freeman plays Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt plays Brad Pitt (the Tortured version, not the Crazy version or the Fun version), and Kevin Spacey plays Kevin Spacey.

      I suspected that the remainder of the movie was just constructs to enable those three characters to interact.

      This is admittedly a very small body of evidence to reinforce an otherwise barely informed base opinion, was I wrong?

      • The basic set-up is as familiar as anything.

        You’ve got a grizzled old cop who is days away from retiring. You’ve got a young kid who just made detective. You’ve got a serial killer who has something to prove.

        What the movie does that is somewhat novel is that it doesn’t show you much of anything… things are in half-light otherwise hidden from the camera and the only thing that we are directly shown are the facial expressions of the observers… and they are, of course, horrified. People explain what happened and what is in the room that we only got a glimpse of and they describe it in exquisite detail… and we are shown the facial expressions of the observers.

        The movie does something that I had not seen done before: it abandoned the concept of character economy. When we see Kevin Spacey’s face for the first time, we’re more than halfway into the movie. So it’s not the janitor or the night watchman or the butler or the police chief. It’s someone we haven’t seen yet. (I found that kind of shocking, myself.)

        I think it was a pretty good movie for the time it came out. If you’ve gone this long without seeing it, I don’t think that you’ll benefit particularly from seeing it now. (Odds are, you’ve seen movies that have stolen from it and that’s probably good enough.)

        • > People explain what happened and what is in
          > the room that we only got a glimpse of and they
          > describe it in exquisite detail… and we are shown
          > the facial expressions of the observers.

          Hey, I like that as a storytelling mechanism. Mebbe I ought to have seen it when it came out. Time has probably past, tho.

  1. Saw 1-3 work well as a trilogy. Almost all of it is like reading The Sandman where you read a reference and then think back to the situation 30 issues ago that caused the reference. (except for the wax on tape thing but that was put in when they decided to milk the franchise past the trilogy.)

    The first Saw game made me decide to put 4-7 on my “will eventually netflix” list but they are not as self-contained. Rather, they do a lot of background retconning. All of a sudden, Amanda had this big convoluted backstory where she had crossed Jigsaw’s path several times and had been a factor in him becoming Jigsaw.

    But I’m curious and, when I adopt Netflix, I will use it in the same fashion as I use my gamefly account.

    • I picked up the Saw II game and, so far (I’m 10 minutes into it), it appears to be worth playing.

      (Main thing I’ve noticed so far: They’ve changed the lockpicking minigame and turned it from a fun little puzzle to an oppressive little puzzle.)

      • Hurm, my reply seems to have not posted. Oh well. It probably didn’t like me linking to my Gamefaqs review of the first one.

        I actually just told Marianne that I was thinking of picking Saw 2 up on the cheap on the way home. I imagine that it can’t be that much at Entertainmart.

        • Your comment is probably in moderation, I’ll free it when I get home.

          It wasn’t there the other day when I looked for it there. The Citadel only had it new. I picked it up at the Gamestop on Powers while on a lunch break.

  2. Hurm.

    I was just telling Marianne that I’m thinking of picking it up on the cheap on the way home. I never did get around to it previously.

    As a reference point, here is the Gamefaqs review I did on it. The final grade goes up a bit if you liked the movies and get the references but this pretty much sums my reaction to the original game up.

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