Wan has created what is, in my mind, one of the greatest horror films
of the past fifteen years. "Saw" is the type of film that comes
at you out of nowhere and keeps the viewer guessing until the end. "Saw"
is a throwback to the Argento & Hitchcock schools of horror where
the scares come not from the gory images, but from the setting, look,
and tone of the film.
Two men awake
to find themselves in a dank bathroom, chained to pipes on opposite ends
of the room. Between them are a dead man, a gun, and a tape recorder.
Where the film goes from there reaches far beyond the walls of that room.
Wan and writing partner Leigh Whannell have tapped into the modern human
psyche and present some of the most truly frightening situations from
a gut level. Opting not to have the men menaced by some grotesque madman,
they instead are terrorized by their own minds. Fear of loss of control,
fear of the unknown, fear of what and who to trust are the villains here.
The "Jigsaw Killer" that orchestrates their fate is merely a
facilitator for what they do to themselves.
We are given brief glimpses into the Jigsaw Killer's other crimes as well.
These also deal with emotional traumas magnified into physical dangers.
A man is given a choice between giving up hope and starving to death in
a room or attempt to escape even though it may cost him his life. A woman
is forced to choose between saving her own life and killing a stranger.
The Jigsaw Killer's motive is to make those people he kidnaps appreciate
their lives by forcing them to make these very difficult decisions to
save themselves. This taps into another primal fear; would you be able
to do whatever it takes to save yourself or your family? Those that doubt
or cannot do it, die.
The writing, as mentioned above, is excellent. "Saw" is Australian
James Wan's first major release but he pulls it off like a seasoned professional.
Through clever camera work, Wan is able to make the relatively small distance
between the two captive men seem like a great divide. This and similar
techniques throughout help the viewer immerse themselves in the film.
plays a key role in the success of the film as well. Standout performances
are Cary Elwes and writer Whannell as the two men in the room. They both
excellently convey the fear of the men as well as their growing frustration
and desperation. The only misstep is Danny Glover's performance. I felt
he, along with the other detective, just looked lost in the picture and
not up to the caliber of the rest of the performances. Fortunately they
are only briefly in the film, and its certainly doesn't detract from the
"Saw" is the type of film that gets horror fans excited when
they see it. Hopefully it signals the introduction of new, fresh talent
to the genre. Additionally the success of a new, original horror film
will hopefully slow down Hollywood's remake plans long enough to throw
some support behind filmmakers with new ideas. If you are a horror or
a thriller fan, make sure you support this film; you'll be doing yourself
a favor in the long run.
Directed by James Wan
Review by David Carter