Sense of Wonder: Saw-ing Halloween to pieces

Tobin Bell as JigsawUSA Today has an article titled “SAW has its teeth firmly in Halloween,” which points out that since the first SAW came out during the Halloween season of 2005, the franchise has pretty much owned the season, in terms of horror movie box office receipts. Even the Rob Zombie remake of HALLOWEEN, which would have seemed perfectly timed for October, opted to come out in August in order to avoid the competition with SAW IV, due out this Friday (click here for our interview with director Darren Lynn Bousman).

Back in 2004, when the original Saw was born, a major debate ensued over the wisdom of opening a horror film on that date. “There was a question of whether its target audience would rather be out partying,” recalls Tom Ortenberg, president of Lionsgate Films, where the franchise’s movies all rank among the company’s top-five grossers.

Now, he says, “Halloween and Saw are synonymous.”

I have to say, this is really a depressing thought. The HALLOWEEN movies never really had much to do with Halloween (the basic premise of the original was “The Baby-Sitter Murders,” with the date tossed in as an after-thought), but SAW has even less to do with the holiday.

The idea of dressing up for Halloween originated as a way of disguising yourself from the evil spirits believed to roam on Halloween night: ghosts, spirits, demons, etc. Eventually, we started taking out inspiration from movies and television instead of directly from folk lore, but Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein Monster still seemed in tune with the season.
The downhill descent began when people started using the holiday as an excuse for a generic costume party, dressing up as princesses, pirates, or their favorie cartoon characters. Kids’ desire to emulate their favorite costumed superheroes certainly moved us further away from the origins of Halloween.
In that sense, movie franchises like HALLOWEEN and SAW are a step back in the right direction, emphasizing the scare factor inherent in the season, but they lack the proper supernatural touch. Why can’t some Hollywood horror filmmaker come along and create a franchise that truly does justice to the holiday?

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