Wednesday, May 7, 2014

#1,360. Saw (2004)

Directed By: James Wan

Starring: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover

Tag line: "How much blood would you shed to stay alive?"

Trivia: This movie marked James Wan's directorial debut

Several critics have dismissed the Saw franchise (which consists of seven films released from 2004 to 2010) as nothing more than torture porn. While this might apply to some of the series’ later movies, the original Saw, directed by James Wan, is a tense, well-paced motion picture that, in the end, gives its audience a little something to think about.

Two men: Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and photographer Adam Faulkner-Stanheight (Leigh Whannell), awaken in a run-down restroom, each chained by the ankle to a pipe. Between them, lying in a pool of blood, is a corpse holding a tape player in one hand and a gun in the other. Neither Dr. Gordon nor Adam remember how they got there, and have no idea why they’re being held prisoner. Their questions are soon answered, however, by the audio tapes they find in their pockets, placed there while they were knocked out. After listening to the tapes, they discover they’re the latest participants in a game of life and death conducted by the “Jigsaw killer”, who’s already kidnapped and murdered a number of people. In a bizarre twist, each of the Jigsaw’s victims were given a chance to survive their ordeal; all they had to do was follow the rules. As for this most recent predicament, the rules are quite simple: Dr. Gordon has until 6 p.m. to kill Adam. If he doesn’t, Gordon’s wife (Monica Potter) and daughter (Makenzie Vega) will be put to death. Searching frantically for a way to escape, the two find a pair of hacksaws, but since they aren't powerful enough to cut through the chains, their only option (should they choose it) is to saw off their own foot and limp to safety.

Without a doubt, Saw is a cruel, unsettling, often bloody movie. During a flashback, we meet Paul (Mike Butters), one of the Jigsaw’s previous victims who, in order to survive his “test”, had to make his way through a maze filled with razor-wire. But despite the sadistic nature of his challenges, Jigsaw has his reasons for doing what he does. In a nutshell, each and every person he selects is someone who has taken life for granted (for instance, Dr. Gordon, a family man, has been having an affair with a medical student played by Alexandra Bokyun Chun). In one particular sequence, Det. Tapp (Danny Glover), who’s heading up the investigation into the killings, is talking with Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), the only person thus far to survive one of Jigsaw’s tests. Her ordeal was harrowing, to say the least: a contraption set to a timer was placed on her head, and she was told that, if she didn’t remove it quickly, it would rip her bottom jaw clean off. To escape, she had to find the key that unlocked the device, which was hidden in the stomach of a dead man, lying nearby (actually, he wasn’t dead, just unconscious, meaning she had to kill him to proceed). She manages to pull it off, and despite how traumatic the experience was for her, Amanda (who's also a drug addict) tells Det Tapp that it turned her life around. Being so close to death has taught her how to appreciate being alive.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Saw life-affirming, it definitely has more to say than your average "torture porn" horror film.


David said...

I feel like the original Saw gets unfairly lumped in with the wave of generally sub-par torture movies it helped initiate. I think it's a well written and very effective movie and especially impressive considering it's relatively low budget.

Something I've always wondered is if the elaborate death scenarios were somewhat inspired by The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Unknown said...

I don't do blood and gore films