Michael Emerson

Saw (2004) - James Wan


Saw is a wildly successful independent horror movie from Australia's James Wan. The movie is very complex and very engaging. The film has a really heavy overarching feeling of dread and anguish that is only rivaled by movies like Se7en. Supported by a solid story line and equally solid script. The actors and characters are fantastic. Our main heroes played by Carey Elwes and Leigh Whannell do a great job of building the tension. It's really well executed. This is also the movie that started really celebrating the "twist" ending. It's pretty glorious.

This is the story of two men that wake-up finding themselves being imprisoned in a damp, dark basement. Both are shackled around an ankle and held on opposite sides of the room. Through their captivity, they start to remember and realize things. They learn that they are being held by a psychotic serial killer that "plays games" with his victims by putting them in killer obstacle courses of sorts. It's like a really dark version of Wipeout.

The killer is called Jigsaw, and to him nothing is just coincidence. He is playing the role of the anti-hero, only he has gone completely off the rails. As the film goes on we understand that Jigsaw is self-riotous and a bit of a sadist. He chooses his victims as they are all imperfect in his eyes. Each victim has a flaw, weather they be a drug dealer or doctor. Jigsaw finds it, then constructs an elaborate trap for them. He leaves them with instructions and the rest is up to them. It is always brutal and always carefully built. 

The film has tons of plot. Just heaps and heaps. We find out in later installments, that this movie was actually deeper even than you notice when you first watch it. However at that depth it's hard not to get lost. James Wan does a fantastic job of wrangling the twists but sometimes a stray plot hole will get away from him. I guess I am trying to say that this isn't a perfect movie but it's still a good one.

The scares are very physical and psychological. The actors propel the film forward with their primal fears being tested and pushed to the edge. The cringe moments and gore don't help either. If you are looking for something spooky for the kids, this movie wouldn't be that. However, if you have no problem watching a brutal, hardcore psychological thriller then this is right up your alley. 

The film has a surprising all-star cast. Carey Elwes (Princess Bride) & Leigh Whannell are fantastic. However, we also have Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) and Ken Leung (Lost) both turn in equally decent performances. Glover is always grizzled and always "too old for this shit." I love it. Michael Emerson (Lost) is also in this and does a great job. 

Saw is a classic. It is an independent feature that fully delivers in it's quest to scare the viewer. Unfortunately, as is the case in this genre, the movie was followed by a descending line of sequels. Each one even worse than the last. However, this original feature is fantastic. If you haven't seen it then do what you can to. It's a great movie to watch on a date or horror movie marathon. It definitely gets the distinction of being the final movie of my 31 Movies of Halloween. Check it out.


James Wan




Psychological Torture

Did ya know...

James Wan wanted the camera movements to reflect the two main characters emotions and personality. He filmed Dr. Gordon with steady controlled shots and Adam as hand-held shots to capture their emotions of the situation. All of the bathroom scenes were shot in chronological order in order to make the actors feel more what the characters were going through. The detectives track down a fire alarm to a warehouse in "Stygian Street". "Stygian" is the name of director James Wan's first film, which also stars "Saw" co-writer/actor Leigh Whannell.