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Obsessed with teaching his victims the value of life, a deranged, sadistic serial killer is abducting morally wayward people and forcing them to play horrific games for their own survival. Faced with impossible choices, each victim must struggle to win back his/her life, or else die trying.
Adam (Leigh Whannell) wakes up in a dank room across from Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and the body of a guy who has blown his own brains out. Not a happy place, obviously, and it gets worse when both men realize that they've been chained and pitted against one another by an unseen but apparently omniscient maniac who's screwing with their psyches as payment for past sins. Director James Wan, who concocted this grimy distraction with screenwriter Whannell, has seen Seven and any number of other arty existential-psycho-cat-and-mouse thrillers, so he's provided Saw with a little flash, a little blood, and a lot of ways to distract you from the fact that it doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Wan and Whannell (who's not the most accomplished actor, either) pile on the plot twists, which after some initially novel ideas become increasingly juvenile. Elwes works hard but looks embarrassed, and the estimable Danny Glover suffers as the obsessed detective on the case. The denouement will probably surprise you, but it won't get you back the previous 98 minutes.--Steve Wiecking
- Audio commentary with director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell
- Fear Factory's "Bite the Hand That Bleeds" music video
- Making of "Bite the Hand That Bleeds"
- Making of Saw
Top Customer Reviews
Adam (Leigh Whannell), a young man, wakes up underwater in a dark room with a chain around his ankle. He is not alone, and when the light come on he finds himself is what appears to be a long abandoned public restroom. At the other end is Lawrence (Cary Elwes), who is also chained to a pipe. On the floor in between them, out of their reach, is the corpse of a man who apparently killed himself with a gun. In his hand is a tape recorder. After becoming oriented to his strange surroundings, Adam discovers a plastic bag in his pocket, containing an envelope. Inside is a key and a small cassette tape with the words "Play Me." Let the game begin.
Beyond that you really do not want to know that much about this before you see it, and given the dreck that passes for horror thrillers in recent years "Saw" is worth the seeing in the theater. The last time I actually went to see a film in this genre in a theater was probably "Hannibal," and I have not had any reason to regret being selective in this regard. However, this is not going to be a date movie, but one for hardcore fans of the genre who prefer their DVD editions to be the director's unrated cut of the film. "Saw" is a film that works more in the world of horror films than it does in the real world, but that is certainly part for the genre at this point.
The entire film does not take place in the abandoned restroom, although that is main arena. Lawrence knows something about the "Jigsaw Killer," who has been constructing elaborate dances of death in which his victims have to try and save themselves. Only one victim has survived to date (Shawnee Smith), so it is possible to get out of this alive, just extremely difficult and we are treated to a couple of examples of where it did not go as well. Investigating the case are a couple of detectives, Tapp (Danny Glover) and Sing (Ken Leung), and the chronology of the film gets skewed as the present and the past become confused. The game also involves more than the two men chained to the wall, because Lawrence's wife, Alison (Monica Potter) and daughter, Diana (Makenzie Vega) are part of it as well.
During the film's endgame things are moving fast enough that you probably will not be able to figure out how it will all play out even though "Saw" overplays the obvious red herring card. The film pushes one of my least favorite buttons a couple of time, which is when somebody has a gun on the villain and does not blow them away. If there is one thing we have learned from all of these movies it is that hesitating when you have the bad guy in your sights is never a good thing. I especially go through the roof when a trained law enforcement officer is pointing the gun right at the killer and the killer still gets away (even Clarice Starling is guilty of this sin in "The Silence of the Lambs"). So there is some heavy handedness to Whannell's script that hopefully will be replaced by something more elegant when he and Wan make their recently announced "Saw 2" sequel for 2005.
But "Saw" is not an elegant horror film, although Wan gets points for keeping the most horrific moment of the film off screen (even though the rationale is small budget and not true aesthetic choice, which makes me fearful for what will happen when Wan and Whannell have a much bigger budget for the sequel). The "Jigsaw Killer" has a warped interest in having his victims better appreciate their lives, so getting out alive has to do not only with Lawrence and Adam solving the tasks they are given, but also with finding out some important things about each other. The important thing here is that the film's final scene is pretty horrific, even if the film cheats a bit to get to that point, and that even when the screen goes dark and the credits start to roll, Whannell keeps the horror going.
SAW dives right into the depths of the madness too, opening with our killer's current victims, two men chained on opposite ends of a filthy restroom, a body in the center clutching a cassette player and a handgun. Each man is given a tape to play, which provides him with a nice dilemma to ponder during his captivity. The background of the killer and the events leading up to the men's current situation unfolds nicely during narrated recollections and well-placed flashbacks, while the actual motive stays hidden underneath the obvious delight the killer derives from the simple pleasures of torture.
Because SAW also brings to film an excellent `Whodunnit?', I am not going to elaborate on the storyline any further. Suffice to say that Cary Elwes and Danny Glover give excellent performances (Elwes surprising me since I have only seen him in comedy roles), the photography is good, the killing methods tasty, the blood not really overdone but still dosed out well, and the plot sustainable.
Lets face it fans, we don't go to horror movies to learn how to do decoupage, we go to get scared and grossed out. SAW fulfills that primal hankering, leaving you to utter `blech' and `bravo' in the same troubled breath, and wondering what your punishment would be like under the careful ministrations of this psychopath.
Aficionados of the genre are going to love SAW's mixture of gore, insanity, ingenious traps, and filth, while non-lover's of the theme should stick to `Sleepless In Seattle' and other such ilk. SAW put the taste of terror and gore back in my mouth, something that has been lacking in some of the recent sugar-coated intruders into this bloody domain. Enjoy!!
The clever thing about 'Saw', is its primal simplicity in explaining the human condition. That is, when push comes to shove, a person will do some unsettling things to stay alive (remember that poor SOB that was caught under a boulder in the Rockies a couple winters ago - and had to cut off his own arm with a friggin' credit card to free himself?!). Now imagine you're in a similar siutation, BUT, you don't have to cut your own arm off - just some stranger. The bitter pill goes down a little easier, huh?
'Saw' if nothing else, is simple and unapologetic - and well it should be. 3 hour bio-pics like 'Ghandi' and 'Braveheart' need 20 richly developed characters and $100 million budgets - not horror movies. Besides, a lot of great flicks have ridiculously pedestrian plot lines (remember 'Speed'?). Moreover, if you took at least one social science class at college, 'Saw' is basically a grizzly 90+ minute version of Maslow's Experiment or the Prisoner's Dilemma (you may have to crack open a textbook to cite the reference).
Brass Tax folks - you WILL say to yourself during the movie, "She's not gonna do what I think she's gonna do?"; or "Please, don't tell me what I think is coming next, is actually coming next!". Either way, do yourself a favor and see it in the theater because 1) It may become a classic on the sub-genre; or better yet 2) It'll become a big cult film - and you'll earn bragging rights, 'cause you saw it BEFORE the hype.