Produced by Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules
Directed by James Wan
Screenplay by Leigh Whannell
Based on a story by James Wan and Leigh Whannell
Before we get into the review of SAW I guess I should explain my feelings on horror movies so here it is put as bluntly and as honestly as I can: I find most of ‘em absolutely and totally stupid. Oh, I can sit and watch ‘em on a pure entertainment level and derive a great deal of satisfaction from them but I’m not scared by them and I listen to people who talk about how terrified they were by “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “The Amityville Horror” and I have to ask them if they’re serious. The first time I saw “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” I was shushed by my friends because I was laughing out loud in the theatre as I truly thought the movie was a spoof of the genre since I couldn’t honestly believe anybody would take the material seriously. People in horror movies act entirely too stupidly to be believable and it’s because of lazy screenwriters who simply see their characters as objects to be used to achieve their ends.
Now that’s not to say that there aren’t horror movies I’ve seen and enjoyed but what I consider real horror movies are movies such as “Night Of The Hunter” “In Cold Blood” “Psycho” “The Out-Of-Towners” “Lady In A Cage” or “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” where the situations are presented in a logical and believable manner. Real Life doesn’t have to make sense but Fiction does and when you present me with a situation that falls apart when I stop to take five minutes to think about it, you’ve lost me. And that’s the main problem with SAW.
Two men awake in a filthy bathroom that looks as if it hasn’t been cleaned in twenty years and seems more like a slaughterhouse than anything else. The two men are chained by their legs to secure pipes at opposite ends of the room and cannot reach each other. Lying between them is a dead body, gun still in hand and it’s obvious the poor bastard has shot himself in the head. One the men is Lawrence (Cary Elwes) a surgeon and the other is Adam (Leigh Whannell) a photographer and they are both the captives of a brilliant serial killer known as Jigsaw who plays games with his victims where he sets them up to bring about their own deaths. The detectives assigned to the case (Danny Glover and Ken Leung) are relentless in their pursuit of the clues but Jigsaw has managed to evade them. Indeed, Glover’s character believes that Lawrence is Jigsaw and after a terrifying confrontation with the criminal he basically loses his mind and his job but continues to work the case.
Lawrence and Adam have been provided with a number of items: two cassette tapes, a tape recorder, two saws, two cigarettes, a cell phone that can only receive calls and one bullet for the gun they can’t reach and it becomes apparent to them that Jigsaw intends for one of them to kill the other. Jigsaw considerably amps up the intensity of the game because he’s holding Lawrence’s wife and daughter hostage and he’s imposed a deadline. Lawrence and Adam have to work together to try and figure out why they’re there and hopefully escape from the trap they’re in.
And after the first thirty minutes I really didn’t care. You ever heard a commercial on the radio for Geico where there’s this hardcore biker called Smokey who is complaining about the background music playing because as he puts it: “This doesn’t make a lick of sense”? Well that’s the way I felt watching SAW: this movie doesn’t make a lick of sense and I’m going to give you a perfect example why:
There’s a character we’re presented with who we’re led to believe is the killer but we know that he actually can’t be the killer because we’re shown his face halfway through the movie and we all know that when we’re presented with someone as the killer half way through the movie he just can’t be the killer. Okay. This character has a scene where he apparently gets off from showing Lawrence’s daughter his gun (which she’s absolutely terrified of) and listening to her racing heartbeat with a stethoscope.
Now given what we find out about this guy later on why was he getting off of tormenting the daughter? If indeed he was part of Jigsaw’s game then why didn’t he just throw down his gun when Glover’s character burst into the house and explain what was happening and why he was doing what he was doing? Better yet, why didn’t he just go the cops when the whole sick game started and tell them what had been done to him and ask for help?
This is all after we’ve been presented with Lawrence and Adam who supposedly are strangers but find out 45 minutes into the movie that they actually do know each other in a really dumb scene where they each take turns saying: “Hey! I do know you!” and by the time we get to the last half hour of the movie where Lawrence violently mutilates himself but doesn’t pass out from blood loss and shock and apparently is a good enough shot to wound Adam in the shoulder just long enough to knock him out but still leave him in good enough shape to have a drag-out fight with Jigsaw I was all through with the movie.
That’s not to say that SAW doesn’t have its entertaining moments. I liked the way the movie is photographed and the performances by Danny Glover and Cary Elwes. And I liked how it put together the way the characters related to each other and how it was revealed to us. And the last ten minutes of the movie are simply mindblowing with a final twist that is truly devastating. But ultimately SAW is just an exercise by the screenwriters and director to just show off how clever they think they are and not to give us a story that makes sense or engage us with the characters.
So should you see SAW? (I just loved typing that) Most of you reading this probably already have so it’s too late. You probably either love or hate it. I don’t hate it but I don’t understand why people think this kind of stuff is scary. I’ve got more of a chance of being killed by a drunk driver while crossing any street in Brooklyn and that scares me more than the thought I’ll be kidnapped by some deranged genius serial killer and forced to play some wildly improbably psychological head game. But that’s just me.