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Saw (2004)
Director: James Wan

review by Tony Lee

Part-time photographer and wannabe private investigator Adam (Leigh Wannell, also the screenwriter of credit) wakes up in a bath, chained to a wall in a filthy basement with fellow prisoner Dr Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, from The Princess Bride, and Twister). At first, neither of the men can remember how they got there, but the background to their muddled personal lives is sketched in during a series of flashbacks - which cunningly increase stress and anxiety on-screen when you'd normally expect flashbacks to dissipate tension and, soon enough, the true horror of the pair's mutual predicament is revealed - courtesy of a pair of hacksaws, a hidden stash of photographs, and threatening taped messages from their seemingly inhuman captor, a horrifically demented villain known as the 'Jigsaw Killer'...
razor-wire maze in Saw
Plugged into the brooding aesthetic of Se7en, with visuals of a similarly bloodthirsty, and plainly sickly-imaginative, yet certainly grimmer-than-Argento style, first-time director James Wan's Saw is an enjoyably ghastly 'torture' scenario most likely to have audiences pondering the question of what-the-hell would they do in the protagonists' situation. On the trail of the anonymous Jigsaw Killer (well, he's actually a kidnapper who, like the weirdo bad guys of The Cell and the flawed-yet-underrated FearDotCom, wants his prey to die slowly) is thoroughly obsessed Detective Tapp (surprisingly, Danny Glover!). Dina Meyer appears briefly as another cop in one of the flashbacks, Monica Potter plays Dr Gordon's unhappy wife Alison, youngster Makenzie Vega is believable as the doctor's terrified daughter, and there's a wholly remarkable role for Shawnee Smith (remember her from The Blob remake?) as one of the madman's earlier victims.
Adam with 'corpse' in Saw
I won't give away the varied plot twists, as that's obviously the main appeal of this kind of mystery thriller, but if you pay very close attention to everything - and anything - that isn't explained about the contents of that grimy underground room, you may then be clued-up to anticipate many further developments, even if you don't foresee all of the finale's sudden revelations. Switching back and forth between sadistically amusing farce and wickedly ingenious moral dilemmas, Saw is a gritty, witty and mostly impressive debut feature. If you have even a passing interest in low-rent modern horror, I recommend that you go to see Saw (ah, sorry...) immediately.
Saw poster

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Monica Potter as captive Alison in Saw

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