In October we’ll be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s Saw, which was put into wide theatrical release on October 29th, 2004. To me this is hugely significant since the film, along with Hostel four months later, helped usher in a new era of horror.
Some people call it “Torture Porn”, but Mr. Disgusting and I don’t think torture porn actually exists. It’s true that a lot of these films were markedly more brutal than their mainstream predecessors, but to call them porn implies that we’re just patiently wading through the movie to get to the money shots (the kills, in this case). That’s not the case. If anything, I’d argue that some of the sh*ttier slasher movies fill the porn model more fittingly. Films where we’re tolerating flat, poorly acted characters just waiting for the brief moments of pleasure when they’re dispatched. If we’re talking about intent, that’s porn. Saw and Hostel had plenty of interesting ideas and ambition that outstripped the lazy retreads that were littering the landscape and they were unfairly punished with that term.
In the case of Saw, it’s interesting to see how this new wave of horror was initially marketed to the public. Show them too much and they’re turned off, show them too little and you never gain their interest in the first place. I actually think the trailer does a nice job of setting up both Jigsaw’s modus operandi and the queasy concept of sawing through your own foot. It places the focus on the film’s innovative concept, the acknowledgement of which single handedly dispels the notion of “torture porn.”