Worst. Motivational. Speaker. Ever. John “Jigsaw” Kramer (Tobin Bell) isn’t your typical pep rally type; his way of urging people to live life to the fullest is to trap them in a dungeon with a spring-loaded trap and a hacksaw. Also, he’s dying himself, which doesn’t stop him from inspiring followers to carry on his inspirational mission.
That seems to include the fans who made this series an October goldmine for seven straight years. Like Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger, the creepy captor with the clown-faced puppet mascot became something of a folk anti-hero to moviegoers, especially since his victims were often contemptible people who might have deserved, at least a little bit, to pay for their sins with a pound of flesh.
The series is generally credited with kicking off the wave of so-called “torture porn” horror (Hostel, et al) that offered catharsis by subjecting its characters (and viewers) to extremely grisly mutilations. Scholars have felt free to make connections between such films and the debased reputation of America in the Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib era; everyone else was happy merely to scream (or wince) with vicarious delight.
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