Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I've been looking forward to this film since the spring when I read a test screening review on a Canadian website. They gushed over it, saying that it was the best horror film to come out in years. Then I saw a teaser trailer involving the “reverse bear trap” scene from the movie, including the cool tagline "How f**ked up is that?" I was so seeing this movie.

It starts off extremely cool. Two guys who apparently don't know each other wake up shackled to pipes on opposite sides of a dungeon-like bathroom with a bloody corpse (who shot himself in the head) in between them. They have to piece together the puzzle of why they are prisoners and who did this to them. They come to the conclusion that a serial killer one of them knows of is responsible, and the only way they are going to get out of this situation is by sawing off the foot that is binding them to the pipes. We also learn of the previous victims of this serial killer through one of the characters. The sick bastard seems to enjoy putting people in a situation where they must make a choice: live or die. The villain, Jigsaw, isn't really killing anyone. Sure he's putting them in a situation where the person may die, but he really wants them to live. He wants them to live so that they may learn from their mistakes and become a better person because of it. It's just that the people he chooses to teach these lessons to end up dead because they mess up. The fat guy who was locked in that room filled with razor wire rushed through it instead of taking his time, and the wire cut him to shreds. The guy who was covered in flammable gel rushed and ended up setting himself on fire with the candle he was supposed to use to see. It's that seldom used "Grey Area" that I really enjoyed.
While I admit I really enjoy the story and mystery of the movie, the script is filled with pointless characters who are there only to force the story along (Danny Glover's cop character, who just sort of pops up near the end for no reason), and while there's some cool stuff going on during the finale (including something that was so shocking it made me look away), some of the characters devolve into some of the biggest morons you've ever seen (you're aiming a gun at the person who broke into your home and tried to kill you... would you stop to make a phone call?!).

Then there's the acting. Cary Elwes must have been desperate for a break from his usual family friendly films, and I can admire that he was ready to take on a very violent and grisly film like this to show off that he can do much more, but he proves that he's not the man for this job. He starts off okay; his confusion and sense of authority comes across as natural, but as the film progresses and things get more intense he turns into a whining little bitch and starts to overact like William Shatner. One part where he seems to be forcing his bottom lip to quiver is laughable. Plus he doesn't sound comfortable saying all the cuss words his character has a tendency to spit out frequently. Newcomer Leigh Whannell (who wrote the film) comes out looking good. I'm surprised he doesn't pursue an acting career outside of the screenwriting.
In the end I will say that this flick grew on me. Upon my first viewing I was not very fond of it's attempt to trick the audience in the finale, nor was I satisfied with how everything played out. But in retrospect I have come to appreciate the low budget economy of the film, and how it took risks regardless of what the audience might think. It plays with expectations and I think mine were a little too high when I first saw it. With repeat viewings it now stands as a favorite in the horror/thriller genre. The whole thing plays out like pieces of a puzzle (Jigsaw, get it?) that all fall into place in the end and I find myself liking it more each time I watch it.

Simple, yet labyrinthine, Saw is a minor masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. It also began a new wave of overly gory horror films in the mid 2000s even though this film is pretty light on the red stuff. "Torture Porn" is the term used for these films. I don't use that to describe this film. This is more like a thriller with some horror elements mixed in for flavor. Regardless, it's a great little film that will spawn a multitude of sequels. I can feel it, and I hope director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell have a long career in Hollywood trying to scare the pants off their audience.

4 out of 5

*written 10/26/06

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