Starring: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Leigh Whannell
Director: James Wan
Fans of the horror genre are promised nearly ever year that the latest film to open on Halloween weekend will be one of the most disturbing films yet. Director James Wan’s debut film, “Saw,” completely fails at being both a horror movie and an unnerving picture, but it does succeed as an incredibly innovative and taut thriller modeled from the same psychotic brilliance of films like “Se7en.” Offering a host of plot twists that will keep the audience guessing after the ending has been seemingly revealed, “Saw” is an independent masterpiece that will quickly find its own audience as a cult classic.
Bred from the same idea of past thrillers, “Saw” develops a deranged serial killer (nicknamed Jigsaw) who believes he can butt into the lives of complete strangers and relieve their immoral sins through a cathartic torture system. The hapless targets, in turn, are rewarded with their lives, but the only woman who has ever survived was forced to cut open the stomach of a living man and find the key to her freedom. The latest victims in the killer’s game awaken in a rundown bathroom with their ankles chained to a pipe at opposite ends of the room. A man lies in the middle - covered in blood - and holds a tape player in one hand and a gun in the other. After discovering two micro cassettes in envelopes planted on their bodies, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell, who also co-wrote the script) play the distorted messages to reveal their fate: Gordon has six hours to kill Adam or Jigsaw will murder his wife (Monica Potter) and daughter. Their only hope of survival is to put together the pieces Jigsaw has hidden within the chamber and solve the final puzzle, but a dead beat detective (Danny Glover) is also hot on the killer’s trail after nearly catching him five months prior.
The acting isn’t very important in a film like “Saw,” but it’s nice to have a few veterans in the mix. Elwes delivers a strong performance throughout most of the film with a few scenes that warrant a Razzie nomination and Glover’s bottom-feeding cop is a breath of fresh air for an actor who hasn’t exactly been at the top of his game lately. Whannell, who doesn’t decide to really perform until the final act, spins a fascinating tale of suspense that never drags and delivers the kind of nail-biting moments that every thriller should impose on their audience. A twisted tale of torture and deception, "Saw" is a gritty Halloween snack that all trick-or-treaters should chew on.
The surprise horror hit makes its debut on DVD with a nice selection of special features including two audio commentaries by director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell. Also included on the single-disc release is a short making-of featurette, a Fear Factory music video for "Bite the Hand That Bleeds" and a documentary on the making-of the video. There's not too much for hardcore fans of the film to chew on in this freshman release, but as the film continues to build upon its cult status over the next decade, look for an updated Special Edition release to make its way into stores much like they've already done with "Donnie Darko."