Director – James Wan
Cast – Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, David Butters, Michael Emerson, Monica Potter, Makenzie Vega, Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Unless you are absolutely new to the horror genre, this film needs no introduction. Saw is one of those rare gems that even without a big budget was able to pretty much create a new horror sub-genre that has been copied numerous times (Vacancy, Captivity, Live Feed, Are You Scared?, Nine Dead) since the film’s 2004 debut. This film is iconic and will be talked about in horror lore for decades to come.
The film begins with two strangers waking up chained to a pipe in an old abandoned restroom, with no recollection of how they got there. To make things worse…there is a dead man with a hole in his head lying in the center of the room, a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. The two strangers are then thrown into the mad world of a sadistic killer known by the media as “Jigsaw”. Both of the men live a dark life, and Jigsaw is set to make sure they learn to appreciate the lives that they have…in the most gruesome of ways.
This film opened the door for the voyeuristic “torture porn” films that adorn the horror isles at video stores everywhere. The film’s brutal nature and moral commentary set this film apart from it’s many imitators due to how often it involves it’s viewers into the story. Countless times you are asked “Would I do that in order to survive?”, simply put…this film is brilliant. This is all a very big surprise to me given that this film was writer Leigh Whannell’s first work as a writer, pretty impressive huh? He also serves as one of the stars of the film, although you can somewhat tell this is one of his first acting roles. Director James Wan did a fine job with this film, most of us would never guess that this film was only his second as a director. Mr. Wan effectively worked each of the film’s transitions brilliantly, never confusing the viewer and giving us great use of camera angles as well as a nice gritty feel of cinematography, which I found to be a nice touch for a brutal film like this.
I really enjoyed the jumps in the plot as we go from present tense to past tense with a storyline that I found very interesting. At the beginning of the film we basically know as much as the two strangers know…nothing. As the film progresses more and more information comes to light and only benefit’s the film, making this not just a typical “gory” film but one with substance and story. With each piece of new information coming to light, the tension builds even stronger as the two strangers slowly begin to not trust each other, and stop working together to get out. We also start to get some more information on the Jigsaw killer himself. I really loved the flashbacks to his previous crimes, where he would put people in somewhat impossible situations and let them see how far they are willing to go in order to live. Jigsaw however does not pick just any normal “Joe” or “Mary” to put into this elaborate games, no, he only picks those who either have a lot to live for and are still unhappy(I.e., doctors), or those who have nothing to live for and do nothing to change their situation(I.e. junkies). At the conclusion of this film I found myself and many other buddies of mine thinking “Wow, do I have anything dark in my life that could lead to me waking up in a restroom with some weirdo I don’t know?”, and it is that “WOW!” feeling that left me enjoying this film so much.
Speaking of the “conclusion” of the film…let me tell you about how awesome it is. This film definitely has one of the most incredible twist endings I have ever seen in a horror film. The ending sequence for this film is up there with the other amazing uber-shocker endings like the ones in Sleepaway Camp(one of the greatest EVER), Se7en, and hell…even Scream. For those of you who constantly find yourselves saying out loud “That ending was stupid!” will be very impressed with the ending to this film, I can guarantee you that.
Overall, this is one of the best horror films this decade has given us, and is iconic in many ways. If you want a film that will shock you visually and personally, then this is a film you MUST see.
– I ranked this film #6 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(1-10) post.