00′s Retrospect: ‘Saw’ Makes 2004 a Game-Changer

Y2K, 9/11, war and a a horrid recession, a major escape we had this decade was in the form of film, notorious for thriving during National crisis. Leading up to New Year’s Eve where we’ll ring in 2010, Bloody Disgusting will be looking back at the entire decade year by year through the eyes of various staff writers. Check back each day for a profound reflection from Ryan Daley, David Harley, Tex, BC and yours truly. Inside you’ll find Ryan Daley’s personal look back at the year 2004, the year Saw changed horror!! Please share your memories for each year below, there are so many stories to be told!

’00 | ’01 | ’02 | ’03 | ’04 | ’05 | ’06 | ’07 | ’08 | ’09

More Retrospects:
-Top 20 Films of the Decade: 21-16 | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
-Dead on Arrival: Ten Horror Duds of the Last Decade

2004

Any discussion of 2004 horror should begin and end with Saw. Love it or hate it, it’s gotta one of the most influential movies of the decade. And considering the rather weak slate of horror releases in 2004, Saw truly stands out as one of the more original efforts.

Reading Mr. Disgusting’s recent review of Saw VI, I found it interesting when he cited the original film as one of his first major discoveries as editor of B-D. There was certainly something intangibly enticing about Saw’s ad campaign. This was a horror movie that promised something different, this was a movie that was going to show you more than…well, perhaps more than you really wanted to see. I watched Saw in the theater on opening day, and although I thought it was insanely over-directed by James Wan, the script was ingenious, and the end-of-the-movie twist made my head spin. Sadly, the audience couldn’t stop laughing at Cary Elwes’ sweaty whimpering during the last 20 minutes, but that stunning final reveal shut the whole theater right the hell up. Spawning five sequels in five years (and still counting), the Saw franchise has established itself as a Halloween tradition that refuses to be denied.

If you glanced at a list of the greatest horror films of the past 10 years, you’d be surprised to find that only a handful stand out as genuinely scary. The Grudge, if you saw it in a theater, was one of those movies that had the power to freak your girlfriend right the fuck out. On your lap inside of ten minutes. Lacking a truly interesting plot, Takashi Shimizu’s remake of his Japanese original Ju-On was simply a succession of very well-staged, very memorable scares. It was sort of like walking through a carnival spook alley, a “greatest hits” of easily relatable nightmares. Randomly-discovered jaw bones, a cat-voiced ghost boy, things coming at you from under the covers. The Grudge had a way of taking root in your brain like some sort of cancer. Two cruddy sequels were released years after the Asian horror remake fad had already expired. But the ‘04 American version of The Grudge stands alongside The Ring as one of the most effective horror translations of the decade.

Shaun of the Dead was one of those movies I had to talk my friends into seeing. I’m sure it wasn’t that way for everybody, but in my case, the uninformed masses questioned the entertainment value of a British zom-rom-com from a relatively unknown writer/director. But where’s the trust, man? It only took a week of post-release buzz before comedy and horror fans alike were jumping on the Shaun of the Dead corpse wagon. Even my parents saw it in the movie theater, for hell’s sake. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s zombie flick adopted a timely, cynical perspective…if zombies took over the world, would today’s generation of slackers even bother to notice? Shaun (Pegg) was a hero more concerned with grabbing a pint at the pub than saving lives, an easily relatable everyman that most people could respond to. Some could even say that Shaun made the horror/comedy subgenre popular again. (Without the success of Shaun, Zombieland might still be buried in development.)

A few of my most pleasant horror memories from 2004 were provided by some surprisingly good DVD releases. Dead Birds, with creepy tone and intriguing cast, certainly made a lasting impression. The stellar make-up effects by the increasingly popular Almost Human (The Crazies) were impossible to forget. And speaking of good make-up, the titular monster in Creep has to be one of the most effective movie creatures of the past decade. That screeching, misshapen subway abortionist is enough to give anybody nightmares.

Over on the shitty side of the horror spectrum, it’s hard to forgive Blade: Trinity for driving a stake through the heart of what had previously been a dynamite franchise. Over-stuffed with goofy peripheral characters, the third entry in the franchise was a HUGE step down from Guillermo Del Toro’s highly energetic Blade II. And speaking of slowly dying horror series, Seed of Chucky did its best to milk a few more dollars out of a still nostalgic fan base. Jennifer Tilly, still rubbing feces in the face of her Oscar nomination after all these years, reprises her roll as Chucky’s baby-voiced doll whore.

Also Worth Remembering: Three…Extremes, The Card Player