SAW Movie Review

Sclock-horror maestro Roger Corman constantly reminded his writers of the vital importance of the first ten minutes of a film. That's when you capture the audience and set the tone for the entire film. Many filmmakers waste time with a useless montage or shots of a cityscape, etc. With the new horror film "Saw," we start exactly when the characters do: we suddenly wake up in a bathtub full of water in a dark room with no memory of how we got there. It's literally a birth into a new and uncertain world.

Two other recent films started this way, "Cube" and "Dark City," and both have become cult classics. "Saw" may be destined for the same.

First-time writer/director James Wan and co-writer/actor Leigh Whannell unfold their story slowly, giving information only as it's required -- or when it's unexpected. Adam (Whannell) climbs out of the bathtub and takes in his surroundings. It's a disgusting industrial bathroom with lots of huge pipes winding all over the walls and ceiling. He has no shoes on and his ankle is locked and chained to one of the pipes. A man lies in a pool of blood in the middle of the floor, a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. A third man, a live one, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) is chained to the opposite side of the room.

Cobbling together clues that slowly emerge, these remaining men soon realize if one doesn't kill the other by a certain time, both will be killed -- apparently by a psychotic killer who likes to test people to see how far they'll go to save their own lives. His habit is to lock his victims in such rooms and provides them with near-impossible puzzles.

Without revealing too much more, it can be said that Danny Glover plays a cop hot on the killer's trail, and Monica Potter co-stars as Dr. Gordon's long-suffering wife.

"Saw" has a surprising number of tricks up its sleeve. As we leave the little room we learn more about our killer and the other scenarios he's cooked up for his hapless victims (only one has ever escaped). We also learn more about our two prisoners and their sordid secrets. The film stumbles only a little toward the end as it begins to slide into a chase/shootout finale before springing a final, unexpected blow.

Whannell and Wan originally meant to shoot "Saw" themselves as a low-budget horror pic before they found funding for an A-list cast, and it's a good thing they waited. The finished product packs more clever ideas into its 100-minute running time than any 10 slasher flicks. Though it can get grisly at times, and Wan has a predilection for disturbingly fast camera movements during tense moments, this chilling movie is a constantly surprising and extraordinarily tense Halloween treat.


Comments

SAW Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, WIDE: Friday, October 29, 2004

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