This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Hallowe'en Horror Week

Released: 2004
Director: James Wan

Starring: Carey Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover

The first in the torture porn series

Since starting preparation for Hallowe’en Horror Week, my husband has been telling me that I have to review Saw.  I’ve resisted up until now but I started to wonder if my reluctance to watch the original film again had been created by by dislike of (and distaste for) the later movies in this seemingly never-ending torture porn series.  I’m nothing if not open-minded so I put aside my prejudices and decided to give the film one more viewing.

A serial killer is stalking the streets of an American city, his crimes are both horrific and inventive.  He doesn’t actually kill his victims himself – instead he devises ingenious torture methods.  A man with a flammable substance over his body has to find the combination to a safe, with only a candle for light.  A woman has a bear trap attached to her head and a man is trapped in a barbed wire cage.  Against this backdrop two seemingly unconnected men Dr Lawrence Gordon and Adam Faulkner-Stanheight are locked in a filthy bathroom, chained by the leg to radiators.  Between them is the body of a third victim who appears to have shot himself in the head rather than succumb to the poison in his system.  Among the few items in the bathroom are two hacksaws, useful only for sawing through flesh and bone and not the chains which keep the men captive.

I suppose it’s time for me to admit that I made a mistake in my recollections.  This isn’t a hideous, stomach-churning film.  There are some stomach-churning moments admittedly but this is actually a very good and frightening horror story.

The motivation of the Jigsaw Killer is good – a murderer who targets people who he feels are wasting their lives and not appreciating what they have.  It should have been obvious who the killer was, but the final revelation is shocking particularly in its execution.

The direction by James Wan keeps us on our toes.  There are a number of heart-stopping moments including a very nasty trip-wire/shotgun combination.  There is also a menacing sense of claustrophobia throughout the film.  I wasn’t so keen on some of the fast moving images.  I know that Wan was hoping to create a sense of panic and time running out and to an extent this did work but it wasn’t at all to my taste.

The acting was variable at best.  Danny Glover was as strong as always but others in the cast didn’t impress as much.  Having said that the filming schedule for the majority of actors was so tight that there was only time for a maximum of two takes per scene.  Shawnee Smith as Amanda, the heroin addict who is the only known survivor of Jigsaw had only one day on set in which to film her scenes.  Such tight time constraints don’t make for subtle performance and on the plus side there is a real sense of urgency to the action.

For all my criticism Saw is a great, tense and frightening film whose reputation has been seriously diminished by the sequels which increased the body count and gore but decreased the quality of the original story.

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