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SAW (2004)

With a dead body laying between them, two men wake up in the secure lair of a serial killer who’s been nicknamed “Jigsaw”. The men must follow various rules and objectives if they wish to survive and win the deadly game set for them.

Since it’s Halloween, I thought I would share my thoughts on one of the best horror films I have ever seen. SAW is a 2004 American horror film directed by James Wan. The screenplay, written by Leigh Whannell, is based on a story by Wan and Whannell. The film stars Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, and Leigh Whannell himself.

The film’s story revolves around Adam (Whannell) and Lawrence (Elwes), two men who are chained up in a bathroom and are each given instructions via a micro-cassette recorder on how to escape. Adam is told he must escape the bathroom, while Lawrence is told to kill Adam before a certain time, or Lawrence’s family will die. Meanwhile, police detectives (Glover & Leung) investigate and attempt to apprehend the mastermind behind the “game”.

The screenplay was written in 2001, but after failed attempts to get the script produced in Wan and Whannell’s home country, Australia, they were urged to travel to Los Angeles. In order to help attract producers they shot a low-budget short film from a scene out of the script. The scene was actually one of them wearing a fully working reverse bear trap, as seen ultimately on Amanda (Shawnee Smith) in the movie.

Producers loved the idea, gave them a small amount of money and after 18 days of filming, SAW was complete. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. 7 SAW films have been made, and whatever your thoughts are on them, there can be no denying the impact these movies have had on the industry. No film franchise spanning this long has the details and accuracy that SAW has maintained throughout all the films, but the first one (as is normally the case) stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The story is strangely both simple and complex. Basically we have 2 guys chained up in a bathroom, with only a handful of things to play with. Cassette player, poisoned cigarette, photos, and obviously a couple of hand-saws which sadly aren’t designed for cutting through their chains, but more obviously their body. They have to work out why they are there and how to escape. With the aid of flashbacks, the story is pieced together and we are taken on a ride full of twists and turns. We get to see other ‘games’ that have been played out, and the way in which the story unfolds and how it all pieces together is just masterful story telling.

The ‘Jigsaw’ killer has become one of horrors biggest icons since these movies have been released. I would say that ‘Billy’ the doll is arguably the poster boy for the series, and is always a highlight when he pops up in the films. I actually own a replica doll, but he is locked away in a box as it creeps the hell out of my wife. I’d love to own the 6ft replica…….one day Billy, one day.

A lot of people simply despise the series and the label ‘torture porn’ often gets left at the door of SAW. It gets the blame for staring this craze, the extreme horror and torture, the directors of films like this, Hostel etc became know as the ‘splat pack’ and as the SAW films went on, critics slammed the series as nothing more than gore and excessive torture. Sure, there are some gruesome moments, but as far as the orignal goes, I would say it’s more in the mould of Se7en and just an excellent horror/thriller.

Acting wise, considering the size of the budget I was impressed. I don’t want to go into personal performances since no one is really as they seem but they are all playing these characters so well. The whole point of SAW and the rules of Jigsaw’s games is that the killer never kills anyone. He makes people kill each other or themselves trying to survive their game, and this is just one of the many clever ideas implemented within the film and the franchise. Everyone involved in a ‘game’ is there for a reason. Adam & Lawrence are the guys we follow here, and as the film rolls on we never know who to believe and who to root for. Even the police trying to hunt the killer down, and everyone involved is a suspect, and the mystery is again just another highlight and shows off the brilliance of Whannell’s writing.

SAW is scary, clever, brutal and different. It has been parodied in Scary Movie, The Muppets and The Simpsons to name just three. Many films have imitated SAW but none have come close to repeating the standard on show here. The theme music from Charlie Clouser has been used in countless things, and is easily one of the most recognisable themes out there. It is full of twists and turns, and the ending is up there as one of the best endings I’ve ever witnessed. I still remember having to pick my jaw up from the floor after seeing it for the first time. I can not rate this film highly enough. I even took it with me to my Desert Island. I can’t believe there will be many people who haven’t seen it, but if you have written it off as a ‘dumb horror movie‘ and never checked it out, if you like your films clever and thrilling then please do yourself a favour and at least try and see SAW. I still watch it a few times every year, and it still holds up as well as it did when it first came out some 8 Halloween’s ago.

Ratings010

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60 Comments

  1. Victor De Leon

     /  October 31, 2012

    Cool write up! I stopped at Saw 2. I may have seen some of the 3rd. Thanks for the review.

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    • Cheers Vic!

      The first 3 are an excellent trilogy, all wrap up nicely. Then I see the rest as an extension really, all have their own good things, 6 in particular is probably my favourite after the original.

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  2. Big fan of this. It felt so fresh when it came out and still does. it’s still head and shoulders above most other horror films for me. I saw 2 and 3 as well but they fell quite a bit short of the original. I haven’t seen any of the others since then. Happy Halloween! 🙂

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    • Cheers buddy!

      Genuinely (and my review whenever I get to it will show) part 6 is fantastic. Aside from SAW 5 I love them all, and the continuity is outstanding.

      Happy Halloween!!

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  3. Liked the first one wasn’t a fan of the sequels

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  4. craft fear

     /  October 31, 2012

    A classic! I liked the original pretty well but I loved Se7en so much more (and connected them so intricately) that I figured that the sequels would probably be far more disappointing and skipped them. I saw this as more of a mind game than a torture movie as well, but that scene where you can see the guy creeping into the backseat in the security cam reflection…still creeps me out more than anything else!

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    • So you didnt even check out the sequels? They are pretty good 🙂

      Yeah that scene is freaky…….explained more in the sequels too!

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  5. Great review. I love the Saw series, especially after deciding to watch all of them in a week, something I did not too long ago. The first one is the strongest, but I’d agree that the series as a whole is pretty good, even if the individual sequels have their ups and downs. Too bad Saw 3D was probably the worst of the lot. I’m also surprised that people have deemed Saw “torture-porn,” because it’s arguably the tamest in the series gore-wise and far more intelligent than the many movies it inspired.

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    • Thanks Vincent.

      This one is definitely the best and probably tamest gore-wise as you say. I liked Saw 3D. For me part 5 was the worst, but it was always going to be a link between 4 and 6, setting things up and not answering any questions, so it felt like a filler rather than full movie. Anyway my review will get to that!

      Cheers again buddy 🙂

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  6. I agree Tyson. I havent seen all the films, but I definitely separate the original out from the rest. “Sure, there are some gruesome moments, but as far as the orignal goes, I would say it’s more in the mould of Se7en and just an excellent horror/thriller.” is exactly how I feel about it.

    Saw 1 is a great, great psychological thriller/horror film. Its an excellent choice for this time of year!

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    • Cheers Fogs. As much as I like the sequels, I do wish in some ways they never happened purely so this film would just be seen as an excellent thriller in its own right, rather than have people dismiss it purely because of what the franchise has become.

      Thanks for stopping by buddy.

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      • No prob! I agree on that too! Had Saw been left as a stand alone, that would have been awesome.

        I knew that would never happen though. The minute the credits rolled on that, I knew it was gonna be a horror Franchise. Thats just how these things work now.

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        • Yeah for the first few films the sequel was announced the same weekend pretty much. Made for nothing pretty much so as you say that’s just the way things work now. I do remember wondering how the hell they could carry it on after part 3…….but that’s going down spoiler route and it was clever how they did 🙂

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  7. gregory moss

     /  October 31, 2012

    Here in Australia in the mid-nineties, Leigh Whannell was better known as the resident film critic on ABC-TV’s Saturday morning teen pop culture program ‘Recovery’ (a show which also screened one of my music videos back in the day). It was quite a surprise to see him achieve the success he did a few years later. And it’s interesting to note that the concept for Saw came from a scene in the original Mad Max – where Max handcuffs a bikie thug to a vehicle spewing fuel and leaves him with a hacksaw in order to cut through his own ankle. 🙂

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  8. There was some terrible acting in this film, but overall it was fantastic. In my book, the first three were the best in the series.

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    • I didn’t think the acting was too bad 🙂

      Cheers for the comment buddy, and yeah the first 3 were the best. However, as I have said in some comments already, I really did love part 6.

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  9. I think I’ve only ever seen Saw 4, and that was for a review. Had to look up the plots of the other movies, but I did appreciate how much effort went into tying every detail together.

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    • You never fancy checking the other ones out? 4 is good, but when worked in with the others the brilliance of it shines even more. Cheers Drew 🙂

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      • I just never got the chance too. I hardly ever watch movies without the wifey, and she doesn’t like excessive violence.

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        • Yeah I have to do ‘trade offs’ with my wife, I can make her watch a film I want but I have to sit through Twilight or something in return, 🙂

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  10. I’m afraid I’m guilty of labelling the Saw films under the torture porn category (though usually as a point of delineating different styles, not as an inherently bad thing) but I do love the first one – the scene where Adam is kidnapped is terrifying, and anyone who says they saw the final twist coming is a liar.

    The problem I had with the sequels is not so much that they lessened in quality, although they did, but that in the first film, Jigsaw is this captivating character alongside the (surprisingly) intricate plot; the sequels drove a clear distinction that half of the movie is about Jigsaw and the other half about an escalating series of gory set-pieces without really combining the two all that effectively – and yeah, the sequels are not as well made but they’re still made right for the audience who loves the franchise

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    • Yeah, with the camera going off, all very well done and scary, I agree. The twist was phenomenal, and I never believe anyone who says they guessed. To be fair, most of the sequels had excellent twists too.

      I hear where you’re coming from with the sequels, the gore and set pieces were definitely ramped up, and I always felt like they were trying to top previous efforts. But I am very biased, and despite SAW 5 which I liked but didnt love, I could watch them all back to back constantly. Love them and the details, twists, red herrings and will always overlook any bad acting 🙂

      Cheers for stopping by Dave

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  11. I agree with you about this movie not being torture porn – Hostel and its sequels for sure, and made the later sequels in this series, but Saw was just a great thrilling horror movie. With a ton of unique twists and turns. No wonder it has become what it has become.

    Nice review.

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    • I liked the original Hostel, but this started a phase where films started to try and out-do each other and show the most gory torture they could.

      But as you say, this film wasn’t aiming to do that. Glad you enjoyed it too. Cheers buddy 🙂

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  12. Haven’t seen this one in awhile, but remember being a bit freaked-out upon first view. Now it’s just corny and over-the-top, even though the ending is pretty impressive. That’s just about it, though. Good review Tyson.

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    • I would disagree about this one being corny, but that’s cool, we can’t all love the same stuff 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts buddy, appreciate it

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  13. I think Billy should have been able to sit in the living room for Halloween. It’s only fair.

    Yea, I don’t think the original Saw is torture porn. It’s mainly about tension and mystery. I’ve only seen up to the third film, so I can’t really speak on how the series went along, but I own this one. Love it.

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    • Thanks buddy!! Billy hates being locked away. In one of the later films he drops in through a window with a chain round his neck, I wanted to try recreate that at home but it may have killed off my wife and marriage. Maybe worth it 🙂

      Glad you agree about this movie, you should check out the sequels one day just to see how well it all ties together. Thanks for stopping by dude.

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  14. Great review, Tyson!

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  15. Carly

     /  November 4, 2012

    I can’t believe it was 2004 when this first came out. Since then I’ve had to see them all at the cinema. This one was by far the best and i had no idea where the plot was going. The end was amazing. I liked how the final film tied bits of the series up. The gore however was a bit much in 3D. I did like some of the other films especially the ones with Donnie. I’m not a huge horror and gore fan but like the series as the films kept you guessing.

    Brill review and the music theme is great. I remember being at a gig were timberland played it as part of his set and the crowd went wild.

    You can keep dreaming about the 6ft billy replica! He like the box it’s the best place for him. The creepiest thing about him is the laughing and when your doll does it is freaky! Maybe he can come out next Halloween but not to reinact the scene you mentioned above. 🙂

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  16. I was a fan of this, the original but the rest? Definitely not. This one was unique and intriguing though.

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  17. Just popped this on StumbleUpon mate so you can keep on eye if it gets any views. I have a feeling that features and lists may well work better on there though.

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    • Cheers mate. Is that something we could set up, a list over there? I mean is it easy to do one that others could join? Or am I barking up the wrong tree lol 🙂

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      • I reckon we probably could set up a list, not really sure how all that works yet. I don’t know if you set up a personal list or a communal one but it’s something we could investigate.

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        • Your the man for the job! LOL, I kid, I will take a look. Hoping to get a group thing done so will look into it, cheers dude 🙂

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