Written by Leigh Whannell
Directed by James Wan
Running Time: 1:40
for strong grisly violence and language.
Saw was not the depraved, psychopathic, disturbing horror film I was hoping for, but it was a pretty good fright film with an almost solid story.
Adam and Dr. Gordon wake up in an old, disgusting bathroom, both chained to pipes on opposite ends of the room. In the middle of the room lies a dead guy, with a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. The game has started. Someone has been killing people in horrifying ways over the last few months, and Adam and Dr. Gordon are the two latest people caught in the trap. The killer, referred to by the police as the Jigsaw Murderer, doesn't actually kill people himself. He sets up situations where people end up killing themselves. With one woman, he puts a reverse bear trap on her face and forces her to find a way out. With another, he smears a flammable gel all over his body and makes him use a candle to figure out a combination. Adam and Dr. Gordon's game is that one of them must kill the other to save his own life. The catch? There's only one way out of that chain, and it isn't with a key.
*WARNING - This Review Contains Spoilers - WARNING*
Saw was pretty entertaining, even if it wasn't the big gorefest I was expecting. I had psyched myself into hoping for a bloody, murderous rampage that involved a lot of people trapped in a house, trying to find a way out. Instead what I got was a mystery that involved two people trapped in a warehouse trying to find a way out. I thought I had the movie figured out early on; a character who looks creepy shows up and you can tell from the look on his face he's up to no good. And throughout the film he pops up leading you to believe more and more he has something to do with it. But then another possibility is thrown at you and you start to wonder. And then, just when you think you have it all wrapped up, the ending comes from out of nowhere. Now that was surprise ending I did not see coming.
The look of the movie was very creepy. Every scene, whether it was in the bathroom or elsewhere, was shot in a way to make it very dark and mysterious. Obviously the tone of the film was dark, as almost the first thing you see is a guy lying in a pool of blood with his brains shot out of the back of his head. From there the movie does something I don't recall many horror films doing, and that was involving flashbacks. While chained to the pipes, Dr. Gordon figures out who has done this, and flashes back to an incident from a few month earlier where he was thought to have been the Jigsaw killer. This use of flashback was an interesting one for this kind of film, but it also made some scenes confusing, as some of the events happened five months earlier, but some only happened the night before. At times I don't think the movie was clear enough in spelling out what was happening at what time.
There were also some other questions I had. For instance, if Adam was taking pictures of Dr. Gordon, how did a picture of the outside of Dr. Gordon's building end up in the pile of pictures Adam found in the toilet? Those pictures were supposed to have been taken by the ex-cop, and also were supposed to have been taken just a few hours earlier. Also, the equipment the guy had in Dr. Gordon's apartment while he was terrorizing the wife and kid. Where did that come from? Did he break into the apartment complete with computer and large clock? Finally, when the ultimate killer is revealed, you can see how he is connected to some of the people he tortured during the movie, but not the rest. If you accept that he's just psychotic and wanted to 'help' people through his own twisted means, shouldn't there be some connection between him and those people? How did he know the girl was a drug addict? None of these questions took away from the overall effectiveness of the film, but they did have me wondering.
The one thing that did take away from the enjoyment of the movie was the acting. Leigh Whannell, who also doubled as the screenwriter, was decent enough, but never seemed all that scared until the very end. Cary Elwes, who is a talented actor, had some strange accent that I could never place and I found very distracting. Danny Glover, who also is normally a talented actor, seemed over his head in a horror role. The only actor I found believable throughout was Mackenzie Vega as Dr. Gordon's daughter. You could see the terror in her eyes so clearly that last night I had to shut my closet doors because all I could picture is her reaction to what she saw in her closet. None of these actors are what you find in a typical horror film these days. There was no hot, young female in distress who wore a white shirt that eventually got wet. There was no hot, young stud that thought he could fight the killer only to lose. There were solid actors who didn't seem to fit snugly into their roles.
There was also this issue of the clock that never came into play. From the start Adam and Dr. Gordon were told that if one of them didn't kill the other by 6pm, Dr. Gordon's family would die. But then the clock never came into play until just before 6pm. Maybe once they glanced at it, but for the most part, no one mentioned it. You would think that something like that would be played up a lot more, to add to the suspense. Granted, once the clock did strike 6pm, the movie really took off into a high gear. While the first hour and a half of the film might have been slow at the times, the end game sequence was blistering with excitement. And the climatic scene was made all the more powerful with the use of slow-motion and killer music.
The movie had a lot of good frights and a lot of good violence. I mentioned earlier the reverse bear trap, which was pretty good. And what the girl had to do to get out of the trap was pretty disgusting. The guy who had to try and crawl through a room full of razor wire was pretty twisted. The scariest scene however was a classic one involving the young girl. She thinks there's a man in her room and runs to get her father to check it out. He does, and she's all nice and relaxed when he says the room is clear. But then she looks into her closet, and a single eye is looking out at her and then attacks her. Over-the-top gore doesn't scare anyone, but little things like that can. It's almost like if things are completely out of the realm of reality, you can rationalize that it'll never happen in real life. But something like that can scare the pants off of you, because how hard is it to believe that right now, someone is standing in your closet, ready to strike?
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked Saw. It was a good story with a great ending, and it had enough chills and disgusting imagery to make it a great movie for this time of year.