Saw is not for the faint of heart, with unsettling violence, a suspenseful plot and noteworthy performances. Saw is the answer to the missing scares from the Sony’s family friendly, The Grudge.
After being edited from an NC-17 to an R rating for “strong grisly violence,” Lions Gate Films has released Saw, a horror flick which also appeals to fans of the psychological thriller genre. Saw is not the typical horror movie with over-abundant cheap scares and victims running terrified to confined places that obviously provide no protection; it is more like a well-planned and slightly gruesome murder mystery. But just because the filmmakers did not become overzealous with second-rate thrills does not mean that it is lacking in suspense. In fact, the whole plot is quite frightening.
Two men (Leigh Whannell and Cary Elwes), who seemingly have nothing in common, wake up chained to pipes across the room from each other with a dead body laying between them. Elwes, who starred in The Princess Bride, plays Dr. Lawrence Gordon. Lawrence is given until six on the clock to kill Whannell’s character, Adam, or else Gordon’s wife and daughter will be killed.
Lawrence tells Adam he thinks a man the police call the Jigsaw murderer is the person behind their lock up. Flashbacks are used to recount stories of the jigsaw murderer’s past killings to the audience as Lawrence tells them to Adam. The flashback scenes are alarming, well-filmed and have a dark feeling to them that can be described as similar to but more chilling than the crime scenes in Se7en. The scenes explain how the murderer earned his namesake and what makes him different from every other horror movie villain.
Danny Glover plays a detective obsessed with catching the jigsaw murderer. Glover does an excellent job of portraying his character and expressing how fixated he is on catching the murderer. Whannell, who also wrote the screenplay, does a quality job throughout the film and delivers the few well placed one-liners.
The main shortcomings of this film are in a pair of scenes with Elwes. The scenes are not awful, but his portrayals make them slightly unbelievable.
However, horror aficionados will be well satisfied with Saw’s grisliness, while enthusiasts of psychological thrillers will enjoy the vast amounts of suspense. Fans of both genres will benefit from the finest element of this film, its truly startling ending.