OCTOBER 24, 2007
Like being green, it’s not easy to review a film like Saw. On one hand, it’s a clever, well-written, mostly original horror movie with a truly great villain (even if we never really see him in this one) that helped bring “hardcore” horror back, paving the way for Hostel, the Hills remake, etc, not to mention stateside releases of UK films like The Descent and High Tension. On the other hand, it contains some truly bad editing and some of the worst acting ever seen in a theatrical film.
Let’s get the bad out of the way, since the good luckily outweighs it. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell start off OK enough (the first 15 minutes are the best in the film, as they solve some simple puzzles, working together. It’s a great opening), but their final few scenes are jaw-droppingly atrocious. I don’t know what it is, the rest of the actors are fine (I’ve even warmed to Danny Glover’s over the top performance), so it’s not that James Wan is like George Lucas, incapable of getting good performances out of otherwise dependable actors. And while I can’t speak for Whannell, I know Elwes (who resembles John Morghen himself in this film) will never win an Oscar, but he’s at least usually believable. Maybe he was too busy thinking about how he was going to sue them over his salary. If anything, they should sue him for nearly killing their film.
There’s also some questionable ramped up editing segments (particularly the ‘car chase’ near the end) that do not work at all. Amanda’s flashback is OK enough, but the guy crawling around the broken glass covered in flammable gel looks like something out of Tool’s "Sober" video. Luckily, this style was more or less weeded out in the sequels.
I also remain puzzled as to how 2001 and missile defense systems fit into Jigsaw’s plans:
Otherwise it’s solid. Whannell’s script is quite clever and pretty unique, and it’s pretty unfair that some dismiss the film as “torture porn” when it A. has a pretty complex story, where the kills DO in fact serve the narrative, and B. has only about 5 minutes of violence in the entire film (most of it self-inflicted, to a degree). I also enjoy how they play with the audience’s understanding of time (something the 2nd film was more or less built upon). Besides, I can’t recall another movie “Killer” whose motive was trying to get folks to appreciate their life (though I do have a vague memory of someone pointing out a predecessor in this category – anyone? Or am I confusing it with someone else?). Also, the way the film is layered is equally impressive, giving earlier scenes another meaning when watching the film a 2nd time (an effect somewhat diminished by all the flashbacks to them, but still). And Charlie Clouser’s score is incredible (as are his scores for Wan’s subsequent films, in particular Death Sentence).
Also, it’s been so long since I saw the film that I had forgotten (well, actually, never “knew”) that Ben Linus/Henry Gale himself plays the red herring killer! Oh Lost, when the fuck will you come back (editor - February).
I have the two-disc DVD, and haven’t gone through any of the extras (other than the short film, which Wan edited himself, which I wish he did on the feature). As I am watching all 3 films to prepare for the 4th, I think I’ll be pretty “Saw”ed out, but if anyone has suggestions for the rest of the extras (i.e. NOT the cast and crew sitting around talking about how much they love working with one another) let me know, I’ll try to find time. Otherwise, it’ll probably be years before I revisit it again. Damn time and my constant lack of it! Maybe next year I’ll do “Horror Movie DVD Extras A Day”
What say you?