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Saw (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Directors and writers commentary. Music video by Fear Factory 'Bite The Hand That Bleeds'. Making of the music video. 'Sawed Off' mini featurette.

IN TERMS of grisly fun, Saw is possibly the sharpest, most ingeniously warped slice of crime/horror to emerge from Hollywood this year.

Co-written by one of the film's stars, Leigh Whannell, and its first-time director, James Wan, the movie is a gruesome psychological chiller in the Se7en tradition, which should keep fans guessing right up until its surprise conclusion.

It wastes no time in plunging viewers into its nightmare scenario, either, for as it picks up, Adam (Whannell) regains consciousness after nearly being drowned at the bottom of a bathtub, to find himself chained to a rusty pipe inside a dark torture chamber.

Chained up with him, on the other side of the room, is Dr Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), while lying between them is a man lying in a pool of blood after apparently shooting himself in the head.

Adam and Dr Gordon must therefore piece together the clues left behind by the deranged criminal mind that has brought them together, while also being aware that they only have a limited amount of time to do so, before each of them is killed.

As the two form an unlikely bond, Dr Gordon realises their predicament is the brainchild of Jigsaw, a twisted serial killer who plays games with victims, teaching them life lessons through torture.

And as the clock ticks down, the reasons why the men have been brought together are relayed via a series of flashbacks that reveal the full extent of Jigsaw's past crimes, as well as the attempts of Danny Glover's equally unstable detective to capture him.

Part of the 'fun' in watching Saw unfold lies in watching how Wan and Whannell continually strive to think up new ways of creeping their viewers out, while sustaining the claustrophobic tension.

The film is as unrelenting as it is disturbing and succeeds in getting under your skin and toying with your head in the same way that David Fincher's masterpiece did.

Indeed, Se7en is undoubtedly the film's biggest source of inspiration, in terms of look, lighting and mood, even if it ultimately falls short of Fincher's masterpiece.

Anyone who admired the ingenuity of Se7en's killer can't fail to be impressed with Jigsaw's 'talents', particularly as each game forces the viewer to play out the 'what if' scenarios along with the victims.

The film is let down, however, by some of its visual flourishes, which owe more to pop video culture than serious horror, and by some of its twists, which won't stand up to scrutiny by the more discerning.

Quibbles aside, however, Saw efficiently achieves what it sets out to, which is to scare the life out of its viewers, while forcing them to piece together the puzzle for themselves.

And in both Whannell and Wan, it has uncovered two bright talents, whom we should be hearing a lot more from in the future.

For out and out chills, twists aplenty and a deft blend of gore and psychological terror, Saw certainly makes the cut.

 

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