Saw

Saw

****

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

You've doubtless heard that Saw is full of eye-closing, ultra-gory violence - which it is - but there's also a lot more to it than that. While James Wan's debut is occasionally too in love with its own visuals, it's a tense and well-told psychological thriller with a, literally, killer hook.

Waking up unaware of how they got there, a Doctor (Cary Elwes) and a seeming nobody (Leigh Whannell) find themselves in a derelict bathroom, chained to the pipes with a corpse on the floor. As they try to make sense of things, it turns out they're the latest victims of gruesome serial killer called 'Jigsaw', who gives them eight hours to play his game or die.

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With its grotty locations, rain-soaked city and creepy Boogieman-like villain (seriously, a doll on a bike has never been so spooky?) you can't help but be reminded of Se7en. And yet, when it comes to the unfolding narrative and the backstory-neccessary flashbacks, there's also shades of Lost (made stronger with the casting of Losties Michael Emerson and Ken Yeung) as just enough is revealed to keep you glued while shocking, sucker-punches blindside you at all the right moments. To say more would be criminal, but one of the final revelations is as genius as it is unexpected.

Given that aside from Danny Glover's obsessed cop the cast are all only vaguely-familiar faces, this also ensures we don't know who - if anyone - will survive. The tension and suspense is ratchedted up from start to finish, helped by intense performances from both Elwes (grabbing a rare 'lead' role with both hands) and Whannell (who also scripted). It goes without saying, though, that this is one movie not for the squeamish. There's organ-stabbing. There are mouth-traps. There's barbed-flesh. And then there's the moment our Doctor decides to escape, which takes I-can't-watch-this to new levels…

Forget about all the gore-focussed, story-lite sequels, Saw is the real deal.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2010
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Gruesome horror film with serial killer pretensions.
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David Haviland **

Director: James Wan

Writer: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Mike Butters, Paul Gutrecht, Tobin Bell

Year: 2004

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Hostel
Saw II
Saw III