Written as a vehicle to launch the careers of actor Leigh Whannel and director James Wan (they both get credited for writing the story), Saw is a horror/thriller that delivers heaping scoops of shock value but nothing more. Upon first viewing, Saw does deliver a good amount of visceral thrills, and the twist ending is great if you go in without any preconceived ideas of what you're going to see. Though compared to movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, even the hit independent flick Cube, the real inspiration for these guys were the movies of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. Admittedly, a great marketing ploy comparing Saw to the box office sensations previously mentioned; it might have gotten fannies in the seats, but upon second and third viewings, the movie's plot holes become more apparent and ruin any value in watching again.
Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride fame stars as Dr. Lawrence Gordon alongside Leigh Whannel as a slacker type named Adam. The movie opens up with them both awakening from a drugged abduction to find themselves chained at the ankles to pipes on opposite sides of a dank industrial restroom. Between them is a blood-soaked corpse clutching a tape recorder. Both men find microcassettes in their pockets and on them a message that Dr. Gordon's family has been kidnapped and are being held hostage. Through the use of flashbacks, they learn that they have become victims of a madman dubbed "Jigsaw" and his twisted game of life or death. It then becomes a battle with the clock and their sanity as they fight to survive.
The element of surprise drives this movie. Plot holes and plot twists seem to have been included just to surprise (sometimes confuse), rather than as part of the natural building of the story's progression. You can pick these apart as soon as the movie ends, but while you're in its grasp, it does deliver enough gore to fulfill the hardcore horror fans appetite for a bloody good time at the theater. The MTV-style direction could drive you mad; there are times where it is absolutely seizure-inducing. Though the hackneyed genre conventions leave much to be desired, one must remember that this was made with a one million dollar budget - a paltry sum by today's movie standards. For the budget they had, Wan and Whannel got the most bang they could have possibly gotten for their buck; that you can't take away from them.
The special edition DVD comes with a lot of goodies. The package is a clear case filled with fake blood, in it floating a circular saw blade. The DVDs themselves are circular saw blades, making for a totally cool packaging design. The extras are aplenty: making-of featurette, storyboards, interviews with Wan, Whannel, and the producers. Overall, Saw pales in comparison to Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs, but when watched purely as entertainment, it supplies its intended audience with the necessary gore and sense of dread.
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