After film school, Australians James Wan and Leigh Whannell wanted to make their own movie. Inspired by The Blair Witch Project and Pi, they wanted to make a low budget movie that took place with two characters in a room, unsure of how they got there, with a dead body between them that turns out to be alive.
While the title of the film came quickly, Jigsaw was not created until months later. Whannel had developed migraines from job-related anxiety, but worried that it was a brain tumor. This led him to think of a villain that knew he was dying soon and who would force others to quickly choose their fates.
They shot a seven-minute version of the bear trap on the face opening and shopped it around to studios as a team, with Wan as director, Whannell as an actor and both writing the movie.
While other entries became more “torture porn,” the first is more of a puzzle box. However, seeing as how the movie is on its upcoming ninth entry in sixteen years, you can see how it easily found a formula and stuck with it after this.
This first entry had a $1.2 million dollar budget and made $103.9 million at the box office, so you can see why they keep going back to this very bloody well. Not bad for a movie that was originally going straight-to-video.
Photographer Adam Stanheight (Whannel) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) wake up with their ankles chained to pipes and a dead body between them. They each have a tape in their pockets which tells Adam to escape and Lawrence to kill Adam or his wife Alison (Dina Meyer) and daughter Diana (Makenzie Vega) will die. That’s when the doctor realizes two things: the hacksaw in the room is meant for them to cut their own feet off to escape. And they’re dealing with the Jigsaw Killer.
Dr. Lawrence had been involved in the case of brain cancer patient John Kramer (Tobin Bell), who he helped clear of all charges. Detectives David Tapp (Danny Glover) and Steven Sing (Ken Leung) follow the path of Jigaw’s only survivor, former heroin addict Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) right into one of the killer’s traps.
It all leads back to the struggle of the two men, the corpse, an obsessed Detective Tapp, a man in a pig mask and a puppet.
As much as I was loath to watch these films, the first one isn’t all that bad. It certainly has style and it tells its story in a very tense, quick way. And hey, how you can fully dislike a film that has a puppet — much like Deep Red — and a killer with black gloves on? Wan would say, “A lot of people have said that Saw is similar in tone to Seven. But the biggest influence wasn’t a recent Hollywood thriller at all — it was the work of Dario Argento from the seventies.”