Dr Lawrence Gordon and Adam (Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell) wake up handcuffed to the rusted pipes of a giant disused bathroom. They have no memory of how they got there and there's a dead body in the middle of the floor clutching a .38, lying in a pool of blood. As they begin to piece together the clues that have been left for them, a microcassette each with instructions, a key and two handsaws - too flimsy to break their steel shackles, but strong enough to cut through flesh and bone - Gordon realises they are in the deadly lair of an infamous serial killer "Jigsaw". A killer obsessed with teaching his victims the value of life, he is abducting morally wayward people and forcing them to play horrific games for their own survival. Faced with impossible choices they begin a race against time while outside, a detective (Danny Glover) suspects Gordon, whose wife (Monica Potter) and daughter (Makenzie Vega) are drawn into the trauma.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Nothing exceeds like excess, and Saw has excess in spades. It is energetic and extreme, and probably the hit a new, young generation of film audiences crave, in these well worn times. The shock/horror of the hand thrown camera work matches the nastiness of the scenario, as young Australian director James Wan uses camera movement and editing to push the action to light speed. And the extremes of evil perpetrated by the serial killer behind the deadly plan are designed to outdo the evils of bad video nights. This is hard core horror, without respite or redemption. Even some of the acting is horrid...
From the opening scene, it's evident that Wan is cinematically gifted; it's equally evident he needs to do a bit more work on some aspects of his direction. He allows Cary Elwes enormous leeway to ham things up, which not only sits oddly with the likes of much of Danny Glover's performance, it also breaks the deadly mood all at the wrong times.
But that may not matter to the film's core audience, who are looking for a thrill in the chill; the escapism available in horror films is just as valuable as the escapism found in romantic comedies or animated fantasies. A change of menu, that's all.
In creating a nasty, complex scenario for the serial killer, the Australian filmmakers have dared to be extreme, and to break some of the genre rules. That's no bad thing, and the tone of the film is well controlled. The inconsistencies and incongruities mar the overall result, but it's a fierce enough premise to excite some investors to believe this team can do better and perhaps even bloodier.
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JAMES WAN + LEIGH WANNELL INTERVIEW
CAST: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Mike Butters, Paul Gutrecht
PRODUCER: Mark Burg
DIRECTOR: James Wan
SCRIPT: Leigh Whannell, James Wan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David A. Armstrong
EDITOR: Kevin Greutert
MUSIC: Charlie Clauser, Danny Lohner
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Julie Berghoff
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 16, 2004