Hello. I want to play a game.
The final two Scariest Monsters for me really came down to the ancient question of which is more of a monster; man who with all his knowledge of good and evil chooses evil, OR animal driven by instinct hence not carrying an ethical burden for its actions?
Well… For me man came in second, mostly because of his potential to do otherwise, and I think the perfect monster of a man in this sense is John Kramer a.k.a Jigsaw Killer from the Saw series.
Now I know many might choose, say Hannibal Lecter, but I actually don’t find him anywhere near as scary as Jigsaw. Why I think Jigsaw is terrifying is for totally different reasons that I’ll explain soon, and actually I’m not even a fan of the Saw franchise (heck, I feel uncomfortable just thinking about the ending scene of Braveheart! Freedoooomm!!!).
For me, the good thing about the films is really the story of Jigsaw which unfolds in the series, which unfortunately might be difficult to follow since most time is spent with the extreme torture scenes Saw is famous for. I don’t particularly like the horror of the Saw franchise; horror that is based mainly on pain and making the audience feel uncomfortable by showing extreme gore. Torture is what made Saw its name, but it is really the story of John Kramer and the performance by Tobin Bell that gives the films a soul.
The Saw films are famed for their traps – intricately built torture devices or rooms where subjects are being tested. The first Saw film opens almost as an on-stage play: Two men wake up, chained on opposite ends of an abandoned bathroom. In the middle, just out of their reach, is a dead body. Neither of them have any memory of how they got there. Soon they discover a tape informing them of what they need to do to get out, and two hacksaws.
“Rise and shine, Adam. You’re probably wondering where you are. I’ll tell you where you might be. You might be in the room you die in. Up until now you simply sat in the shadows watching others live out their lives. But what do voyeurs see when they look into the mirror? Now, I see you as a strange mix of someone angry, yet apathetic. But mostly just pathetic. So are you going to watch yourself die today, Adam, or do something about it?”
In every ‘test’ engineered by Jigsaw, there is chance of survival. Each of the subjects are given a chance to reclaim their lives for a fresh start, to be reborn into better human beings. Interestingly Jigsaw doesn’t really kill anyone in the entire series — he merely puts his victims in situations where their own actions define the outcome.
There is a reason each subject has ended up in a particular trap, based on how they have lived their lives thus far. According to Jigsaw, his work is to test the fabric of human nature and make people live again, to stop troubled souls of sleepwalking through their lives and to enable them to understand the true consequences of their actions by giving them an experience of being totally present in the face of death.
For Jigsaw, who is terminally ill with cancer, his illness is the catalyst for his ‘work; the proximity of death makes people view the world differently, and value what they have in life. As sick and awful as it might be, his reasoning does make sense, and for me this is the most horrifying aspect we have to face while watching this character: He is right. We often forget to fully value life, and only wake up when faced with a situation that shows us how precious what we have really is. Also, Jigsaw is not portrayed as mentally ill (in the traditional sense); he is neither depressed nor violent (again in the traditional sense). Jigsaw even states that he is not interested in pain or causing the death of anyone, but that the process that is required for healing emotionally (since many of the victims have unbalanced lives as addicts etc.), is to learn to value one’s life again.
Jigsaw reminds me of the ability we all have for good and evil, and the responsibility of living a good life for ourselves and others. I think the twisted logic of the character manages to show a part of human nature that is perhaps the darkest: judgement. If we start to view some ways of living as less valuable than others, and begin to justify horrific actions by an ideology, we can all turn into monsters — after all, history has shown this to happen over and over. It is not only the anomaly that is capable of inflicting pain on others — in the right circumstances we all are, usually in the name of an unnamed “right”. No brain eating schizophrenic can quite scare me as much as the reasoning of someone who commits horrific acts, believing he is doing good.
Saw I-V Scary Score 9/10 (10/10 for gore)
Yikes! Even just writing about the Saw films made me shudder… not my cup of tea really. The Jigsaw story is spread out to what is now seven movies, making it hard to grasp. But he really is a great character and I give the films credit for that, even though I usually stay as far away from the torture horror genre as I possibly can.