Saw (2004)

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“He doesn’t want us to cut through our chains, he wants us to cut through our feet”

Well, it’s a rainy day and I’ve decided to sit down with a franchise. So the next few reviews will be the series everyone loves to hate, Saw. Starting way back in 2004, with a movie that set itself apart, and spawned one of most successful horror franchises since Halloween. This first entry, written by Leigh Wannell and James Wan, and directed by James Wan, goes as follows :

With a dead body lying between them, two men wake up in the secure lair of a serial killer who’s been nicknamed “Jigsaw”. The men must follow various rules and objectives if they wish to survive and win the deadly game set for them.

 

Straight forward and, ten years later, maybe a little bit old hat. However, this movie was the jumpstart that commercially released horror needed. Horror had felt like it was stagnating a little bit, with every other movie (at least this is how it felt to me) being a remake of a Japanese film that didn’t really carry over to America all that well. Obviously there are exceptions, and great horror films were released in this time, however, none were even nearly as successful as Saw. The movie was made for very little (around #1.2 million) and grossed over $100 million world wide. That’s success, and it’s success well deserved.

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Say what you will about the sequels, but this movie is fantastic. It’s exceptionally well paced, and the story is gripping and takes twists and turns that, if you’ve never seen the movie, will genuinely surprise you. Admittedly, a large part of the reason this movie works so well is because it was such a genuine surprise. Unfortunately, all this time later, it has been spoiled more often than Soylent Green, so if you don’t know what the twist of this film is, you need the experience for yourself. It really is a clever film, and is incredibly disturbing at times, despite not actually showing as much violence on screen as the ones that came next.

Since Saw, we have seen a plethora of ‘torture porn’ films of WILDLY varying degrees of quality, but this is really to be expected. This movie is iconic, and managed to set the stage for so much of the horror films that came next. While you can argue that the sequels gradually deteriorated, I challenge you to find me another franchise where that was not the case.

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Now, the story works, and is extremely clever for the point in time when it was released. The trouble with this movie specifically is the acting. Our two main stars, Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) and Leigh Whannell (co-writer) don’t deliver dynamite performances. Particularly Elwes, who really can’t keep his accent in check. That is a bit of a distraction from the movie, but it is helped by the pretty great performances around them. Donald Glover is solid, and enjoyable as the crazy obsessed detective. Tobin Bell’s voice as Jigsaw almost instantly elevated him to icon-status. His actual performance in the movie is pretty brief, but his voice is fantastic. We also have enjoyable appearances from Shawnee Smith and Michael Emerson. So the poor performances from the main actors don’t detract too much, when they are surrounded by a great story, and good side characters.

The movie delivers on it’s twist in a great way, and builds up to it in a real and believable way. It’s no surprise that this movie spawned so many sequels and it really did earn its place among this big ones from this movie alone. It came out right when I needed it to and it rejuvenated my love of the genre. If you’re really behind, and haven’t seen any of them, maybe it’ll do the same for you. Probably not, but it’s still worth the watch.

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So, regardless of how you feel about this movie, or the other 6 in the series, there is no denying that Saw really started something, and secured its place in horror forever. Give it a watch, and why not sit down and marathon the series. I mean, that’s how I’m spending the day. What are you? Better than me?

You have probably enjoyed Wan’s recent work with The Conjuring, so why not go back and have a look at where it all started for him?

FINAL GRADE : B+

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