Saw (2004) - James Wan and Cary Elwes
Saw (2004) - James Wan and Cary Elwes

Saw (2004) 15th Anniversary – A Game Changer

I remember sitting in the theater, awestruck, the first time I saw the trailer. I want to say it was during the previews before Freddy vs. Jason. I can’t remember the exact moment, because let’s face it, it was a while ago. What I DO remember was being completely blown away by that trailer. Damn, what a concept. The trailer was dark, gritty, and it featured that voice…that unmistakable voice: Tobin Bell’s voice. You’re probably hearing it now, just because I’m talking about it. “I want to play a game.

The trailer featured Cary Elwes. What’s The Princess Bride star doing here? Now I’m really intrigued. Then Elwes utters that famous line: “He doesn’t want us to cut through our chains. He wants us to cut through our feet.” Holy shit! I knew right then and there I NEEDED to see that movie! The movie? Saw. The year? 2004. Did I say it was a while ago? It was. 15 years to be exact.

Let’s all take a look back at the modern classic that inspired a whole new generation of horror!

The Stuff Of (Soon To Be) Legends

Saw was the brain child of screenwriter Leigh Whannell and director James Wan (who co-wrote the script). These guys are household names in the horror community now. Back then? Just a couple of hard working dudes trying to get their first film made in Australia. The Saw concept originally came to fruition in 2001, but Australia wasn’t having it. The duo made their way to the United States in search of greener pastures. In 2003 they made a short film based on a scene from their screenplay in the hopes it would help draw interest to the project.

It did.

Evolution Entertainment and Twisted Pictures wanted in. And you can see why! The short film stars Whannell himself in the role that would ultimately become “Amanda.” Check it out!

Putting The Pieces (And The Cast) Together

With producers and a studio on board, the project was officially underway. Wan and Whannell had a modest budget to work with: just $1.2 million. They had an even more modest shooting schedule: just 18 days. But what they did have was more important: a killer script, a killer twist, and a killer short film. It was the script that helped land Cary Elwes, the twist that landed Tobin Bell, and the short film that landed Shawnee Smith. It was powerful stuff. They put it all together, and with names attached, they landed Danny Glover and Dina Meyer to boot. This film suddenly had big indie legs.

Not to mention a very memorable poster!

Saw (2004)

A Franchise Is Born

Saw opened on Halloween weekend in 2004 in the number 3 spot at the box office, behind Ray and The Grudge. Opening weekend took in $18.2 million (against the aforementioned $1.2 million budget). The reviews were middling: essentially 50/50. The audience, however, loved it. Word of mouth and a widening global release helped Saw reach more than $100 million at the worldwide box office. It was, at once, an indie horror success story on par with Scream and Halloween.

The studio recognized they had a winner. How do we know? Because Saw became the face of Halloween weekend for the next 6 years. Sequels came, one after another. Some great. Some not so great. All pretty good. And all made big money. We even got a sequel, Jigsaw (read our review here), as recently as 2017. There’s even a, you guessed it, reboot on the way. Chris Rock is bringing a re-imagined Saw back to theaters in 2020 for a new audience to discover.

This film was, and is, frankly, a horror phenomenon.

Aftermath and Influence

Saw was big. The franchise is bigger. The industry influence has been massive. The Saw sequels drew big bank, taking in over a billion dollars at the box office. Whannell and Wan went on to do Insidious, which led to The Conjuring, which was the start of another billion dollar horror Universe. A Universe that’s still cranking out tent pole Hollywood horror films to this day.

The original’s success inspired a new generation of films, including Eli Roth’s Hostel. A whole new horror sub genre was born: torture porn. It’s ironic that Saw is remembered for helping to usher in this movement, when in reality very little was shown on screen. As with Jaws and Halloween, the brilliance lies in the implication: our minds fill in all the gory details for us. As such, all three of these “clean” films are revered as gory horror masterpieces.

Saw (2004)

Final Thoughts

Saw (2004) defined a generation of horror. It’s undeniable. I, personally, loved it, as I have loved all of these films. The famous twist at the end blew me away: my jaw literally dropped. As a standalone picture, it’s iconic. As a franchise, the story it weaves is incredible. Even the least of its sequels is a solid, entertaining effort. There aren’t many horror franchises, or franchises of any type for that matter, that can make that claim.

If you’re anything like me, you are getting the uncontrollable urge to watch Saw RIGHT NOW! Several of the films are streaming now on hulu. You can also snag the Blu-ray set, Parts 1 – 7, with Digital code CHEAP on Amazon!

What are your thoughts about Saw (2004) Do you remember where you were when you first saw the trailer? Or first watched the film? What effect has it had on your horror viewing life? Tell us in the comments!

Oh, and if you have another 8 minutes to spare, this “Everything Wrong With Saw” video from Cinema Sins is comedy gold!

Thanks for reading.

About Kenn Hoekstra

PopHorror Writer. Associate Editor. @PopHorrorNews Tweeter. Also... Screenwriter. Blogger. Horror Movie Aficionado. Wisconsin Sports Fan. IT Guy. Father. Smartass. People's Champion. TIME Person of the Year - 2006.

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