Being somewhat of a horror aficionado, it’s the rare fantasy-based horror that actually manages to give me the willies. I could always overpower a talking doll, an Irish fairy and ghosts… well, don’t get me started. So I’ve developed somewhat of a single criterion for horror stories and it’s this:
The horror that scares us the most is the horror that we can conceive. Horror that can happen to you.
That’s the topic I brought up with ‘super-actress’ Laura Vandervoort this weekend, upon the release of her latest film, Jigsaw. In fact, she gave us five good reasons why we need to see this film.
Jigsaw is the latest addition to the Saw franchise. There are themes of vengeance, punishment, and of course guilt. The characters are all guilty of something in this and that is such a real cornerstone on which to base a story. After all, isn’t there someone in your life that you’ve always wanted to punish? How far would you go? That’s the real vein that this film taps into and the sense of vulnerability that this could easily happen to you. I asked Laura about that.
“Yes! Exactly that… it’s all very possible. That’s terrifying. One of the great things about Jigsaw/the Saw franchise is that it’s based within the real world. It revolves around people who are flawed, have made mistakes and must own their sins. In the case of the film their sins and punishment are much more extreme but we can all relate. The feeling of guilt can be a powerful one.”
But, of course, do slasher films foster that feeling of guilt? After all, there’s an expectation of gore and violence, but it’s the characters that we feel for. Do they deserve the punishment that they receive? We need to feel a sense of attachment to the character in order for the horror to feel real and visceral. Laura added her insight to this notion and provides the second reason why we should see this film.
“I’m a big fan of the genre and the Saw franchise. I’ve always wanted to do a thriller or horror film. Jigsaw combines them both. It’s a character play and a smart mind-bender with multiple twists and turns. I was drawn to this role because of [Anna’s] flaws. Her humanity.”
The humanity portrayed by the characters is another realistic stream that draws viewers in and makes them feel an empathic connection to them. We watch this film and feel horrified because their fate matters to us, because it could happen to us.
What about the humanity on set? There’s a great sense of camaraderie between the cast of a horror film. Though imagined, the feelings evoked by a shared danger often go far to cement bonds between a cast.
“[Chuckling] It’s actually very similar to any set. However, a horror film involves constant high stakes. Screaming, high energy and obviously some gore.”
Of course, Laura plays this down, throwing off the “danger” with a dismissive retort that speaks to her professionalism. But that just gives me another reason to see the film, given that she can laugh off the gore and the violence. It’s certainly an admirable aspect of her personality that lends itself to Anna, the character she plays in the film.
Continuing the thread of humanity, Laura went on to expand the nature of the relationships she developed with her castmates.
“The cast was wonderful. I’d been wanting to work with several of them. This industry allows for actors to constantly meet new people. Make new friendships. That’s always been a positive part for me.”
A close-knit cast is a high-performance cast. Sold, I’m in. As if I needed any more reason to go see this film anyway.
I think that the pride that Laura takes in the fact that Jigsaw was shot here in my city gives me a real urge to see the familiar backdrops used in settings for this film.
“We shot Jigsaw in Toronto, Canada (my hometown). It was memorable because I was home and working with so many crew members I had grown up with.”
That’s another reason for me to see the film, and while it may be a bit selfish, Toronto’s film industry has definitely seen a great deal of growth in the last few years. Not only do we have films like Jigsaw, but Toronto is home to Star Trek: Discovery as well as the Toronto International Film Festival every year. In terms of film production, Toronto is the place to be and it’s great to see actresses of Laura’s caliber lending their talents to bringing more of the Hollywood spotlight to this city.
There were two underlying currents in my conversation with Laura. Not only did we talk about horror that’s based on what really scares people – the fact it could happen to you – but we also have a strong personal connection to this film. Not only does Laura know this is a film that will genuinely frighten people, but there’s also a real vein of professionalism and pride in it as well. You might think of this as a labour of love, but I just feel that this reinforces the sense of reality behind this latest iteration of the Saw franchise.
I’m scared by this film because of the plausibility of the story; but I’m also scared because of the personal connections I can draw to it. I can feel Laura’s sense of commitment to the role as well as the shared pride in our home town. I can also gain her enjoyment of the performance in addition to the professionalism she brings to the role. I feel connected to this film on so many levels that the sense of fear I’ve been referring to all throughout this article is palpably enhanced.
I don’t want to see anything happen to Laura’s character. I don’t want her castmates’ characters to suffer either. This is all “happening” in my hometown. That makes this real to me. Jigsaw scares me.
Maybe it’ll scare you too?