Long before “The Paranormal Activity” or “Insidious” film series, we had “Saw,” the series that kind of resurrected the Halloween spirit at the movies. You see before “Saw” and it’s reign every Halloween, we sort of forgot how fun it was to go to the movies this time of year. For so long we were spoiled by franchise’s like “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween.” So I guess it makes sense that by the time “Saw” came around, we were ready for something new. I just never expected something as intriguing as it was, at least early on in the series making it an easy pick this week. As I have said before, a good horror flick or thriller isn’t one that thrives on mere scare tactics; it’s one that offers up a twisted storyline which ultimately makes or breaks the film. That’s how classics like “Silence of the Lambs” and “Se7en” became legendary films of this genre, and why I put “Saw” somewhere behind them.
The story in “Saw” begins in a grungy abandoned bathroom where two guys, Lawrence (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannel) wake up only to find themselves chained to a pipe on opposite sides of the room, not knowing when or how they got there. And, to add to the disarray, there is man lying in a pool of blood with a .38 in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. As the two try to comprehend the situation, they find envelopes in their pockets containing a micro-cassette tape to play in the recorder. Each tape, which was assumed to be taped by the captor later to be dubbed the “jigsaw killer,” contained special instructions for both on what to do next. Adam’s message basically just told him why he was there, but Lawrence’s message was a tad bit different. For Lawrence, he was instructed to kill Adam by a certain time or his wife and daughter would die. Not something you necessarily want to hear when you’re chained to a pipe in some unknown location. Nevertheless the two captives begin to work together in an attempt to solve the mystery that keeps getting crazier and crazier as time passes, leading to a very intense and twisted conclusion.
Any cast in a film like this isn’t one that will blow people away, but you have to have someone play the roles, right? And really, there’s not much to mention with this cast led by none other than the great Cary Elwes. All kidding aside, Elwes probably doesn’t get his due these days after a number of hitless wonders, but who could forget his role as Westley in “The Princess Bride?” That’s unfortunately Elwes’ only “claim to fame,” and that’s a shame considering he’s been in such hit films as “Glory,” “Days of Thunder” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” Elwes co-star, Leigh Whannel, who played Adam, was admirable in his role, but his true talent was seen in the script, which he co-wrote. And, really the two made a fairly decent pair top watch, especially in those scenes where all reason had been thrown out the window leaving them with nothing but panic. But, the true surprising fact about this cast was the presence of Danny Glover, who played a local cop obsessed with the killer. You would think that a casting of Glover would be vital to the story, but not this film as we saw little to no Glover, causing me to question the point of bringing a guy like him in. Nevertheless, the cast in this film does somewhat of a decent job in keeping the intensity up which is really all we ask for from a story like this.
As ingenious as the story was in this film, it could have been better. Molding what I would call more of a psychological thriller isn’t the easiest thing to do and I can say first time director James Wan did a pretty good job with what he had to work with. Outside of a few typical horror-themed antics, “Saw” managed to move along quite well which says something about how well this story was written overall. Visually, this film is disturbing, yet brilliant and there’s something to be said about that. It doesn’t quite match the caliber of a “Se7en,” but then again what does? So if somehow you never saw this original piece to the popular series, look for it this weekend, as it has a way of creeping you out in the most unlikely of ways.
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