Cutting Into Concepts of ‘Reflectionist’ Cinema? The Saw Franchise and Puzzles of Post-9/11 Horror

Arden Henley
Sunday 8 January 2023

Hills, Matt. In Horror After 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror, edited by Aviva Briefel and Sam J. Miller, 107-123. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2011.

This essay, a chapter of the anthological work Horror After 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror, analyzes how torture films such as the Saw or Hostel franchises reflected the fears, views, and policies of post 9/11 America. Author Matt Hills discusses the Bush administration’s attitudes toward what they called “righteous torture” and how that concept is reflected in the Saw films as well as the franchise’s general sense of nihilism and lack of future-oriented thinking, which Hills argues reflected popular opinion at the time. The films inverted America’s supposed “crusade” or “quest” for peace in the Middle East and exemplified the many problems in American attitudes toward war and peace in the early 2000s.

The essay sheds light on how films can reflect and amplify certain voices and narratives over others. In the case of the Saw films, the political narratives amplified preyed on the prevalent fear of torture in a country whose military were both the inflictors and victims of it. The essay, using this history as a case in point, is a poignant reminder that what artists produce affects culture and politics. More importantly, it is a reminder to the reader to be aware of the art we consume and to notice whose ideology is promoted in that art.


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