October Extras # 24 - Saw (2004)

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?


  1. I loved this movie from the first time I saw it--NEVER saw the ending coming, and in most cases I pride myself on being able to do that. (When they tell you to expect AN INCREDIBLE TWIST ENDING, basically just think of the most unlikely identity for the villains and you're gold.) And the concept was great, I thought, and the gore well done and suitably hardcore.

    But I can't for the LIFE of me figure out why in the HELL Cary Elwes was trying to do an American accent here. It was terrible, terrible, and severely hampered his usually solid acting. It would have taken NOTHING away from the film if Whanell had just added a line explaining that the doc was from England, and let Elwes use his normal, mellifluous voice. You'd think, after a few dailies, the director might take him aside and say, "Look, Cary, I know you love doing accents, but do you think for this one..."

    Otherwise though, loved the movie, and love the series. Two was a worthy follow-up, I thought, and 3, while not as good as the first two, still had some interesting stuff going on. I'll see 4--here's hoping it's not a complete drop-off in quality.

  2. The original SAW in my opinion was a necessary evil so we can get to the sequels which were by far better.

  3. Here's my problem with Saw. I know everyone likes to say they saw the big twist-ending coming and look real cool, but I actually did see the twist-ending coming...I think. Kind of. (Spoiler Alert, in case you somehow haven't seen this and yet still care) That the killer was that patient was completely obvious to even a small child. There was that scene with him in it where the doctors couldn't remember his name, which served no purpose other than to show him at least once. However, that he was the guy on the floor in the room with them made as little sense as I can possibly imagine. This was the big twist? It was ridiculous crap. Why in the hell would he have been there, pretending to be dead the entire time? First of all, that he could believably have faked it for many hours is preposterous. Second, if he wanted to see their reactions, he could just tape it, as he was, and watch it later. There is no reason he had to be in the room with them. So was I surprised that he was in there? Yes. And baffled. And angry. Was I surprised that it was him? Nope. And I know, maybe you're thinking "But that was just the ending, what about the rest of the movie?" Well, unfortunately, the ending here was so despicably cheap that I have to say, the movie was instantly ruined in my eyes. I'm not sure whose idea this ending was, but they should clearly be tortured slowly for it. In case I haven't made myself perfectly clear, I'll spell it out explicitly: This was the worst ending of all time! Yes, even worse than High Tension.

  4. Completely agree! Bad editing, bad acting AND some of the worst directing I've ever seen in a horror movie or elsewhere ruined what could've been a pretty good movie.

    I utterly flabbergasted that 3 count 'em THREE sequels were made. When I saw the original in the theatre, my brother and I were cackling at how bad it was.

  5. Hi, i'm new. Amazing blog. I too am an addict. One thing though other than the above allusion why is there no coverage of Seven or Se7en if you really insist, on the site?


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