Saw is the kind of film/franchise/phenomenon that certainly needs no introduction. It absolutely dominated the horror world (particularly the month of October) for seven years with no signs of slowing down until Paranormal Activity rolled in and took the throne. It’s weird to think that the original movie is now over 10 years old, but we’re starting to enter that time where we can actually look back on it and talk about the impact that its had, and that’s exactly what Game Changer: The Legacy of Saw aims to accomplish.
Game Changer: The Legacy of Saw is a brand new 77-minute retrospective that you can now get if you download Saw: Unrated on iTunes. The unrated cut itself has been out for years now and isn’t all that different from the theatrical version. The only real notable changes are a few more seconds of gore, particularly when Amanda’s digging around for they key to her Reverse Bear Trap. However, the Saw franchise has always been really good about providing great behind-the-scenes features and this new one is no different, providing the real reason to check out this release.
The documentary is cut up into three parts, the first of which serves mainly as your standard behind the scenes featurette focusing on the first movie. If you’re like me and already own the DVD or Blu-ray then there isn’t really a ton of new information for you here. A lot of this has already been covered in past special features or in Wan and Whannell’s fantastic commentary track, but it’s nice to see it all compiled and presented here. The major thing that this section reminds us is how small the first movie really was. It’s easy to forget that the original film wasn’t this big budget Hollywood gore-fest like the later sequels became, and the stories that the cast and crew tell really reflect that. For instance, the fast cuts utilizing still photography weren’t implemented as a stylistic choice or because Adam is a photographer, they were added to hide the fact that Wan didn’t get all of the coverage that he needed due to a very fast production schedule. Stories like these really put into perspective how much of an anomaly this first movie was.
The second part is where we shift the focus from Saw the movie to Saw the franchise. This is where we start to hear from Darren Lynn Bousman (director, Saw II – IV, Repo: The Genetic Opera) and Marcus Dunstan (co-writer, Saw IV – 3D, director, The Collector) as well as some of the other directors that came on for the tail end of the series. Some of the most fascinating parts of this whole bit are the interview segments with Jigsaw himself, Tobin Bell. Hearing him speak about the horror genre, good writing, and the subtext in the interactions between Jigsaw and Amanda prove that he thinks more deeply about this world than probably any other person on the planet. He took the material seriously from the very beginning and it’s one of the reasons that even in the worst of sequels (Saw V, by the way) he’s the one standout. Again, there’s a lot of repeat info for you here if you’ve rifled through the features on past DVDs, but it still gives a great sense of the momentum that the franchise built almost overnight until it was a phenomenon.
Finally, the third and final section is the new stuff. The stuff that they couldn’t have covered before, because it’s where we take a look back at how this tiny little horror movie took over the world and influenced the films to come after it. Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno) and Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) both give their thoughts on the franchise and the cultural effect that the first film had when it released. Roth tells funny stories about himself and Bousman trying to one-up each other in terms of gore and even calling each other up to divvy up body parts so that they don’t end up with the same kills in their movies. Of course we have to touch on the term “torture cinema” and hear what everyone thinks of it. Some people write it off as sensationalist nonsense while others like Leigh Whannell just see it as another label, no different from saying that a certain band is grunge. Marcus Dunstan has a pretty funny thing to say about it. They also comment on the fact that since that whole controversy came and went, the gore factor has become much more common to the point that television shows like Homebound and American Horror Story feature it prominently. The culture has changed.
Overall Game Changer: The Legacy of Saw is a good look at the whole series, and there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. On the downside, this will appeal most to big fans of the Saw franchise, but most of that audience will probably already know a lot of the information from the first two parts. This isn’t as comprehensive a documentary as something like Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, but then again, what is? It’s brief and entertaining, with plenty of funny stories and the last section is some of the most fascinating to me personally. For a movie that feels like it came out yesterday, this made me oddly nostalgic. It’s well worth a watch.
Wicked Rating: 6/10