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SAW, 2004
Movie Reviews!

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SAW MOVIE POSTERSAW, 2004
Movie Reviews

Directed by James Wan
Starring: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Ken Leung, Shawnee Smith, Michael Emerson and Tobin Bell
Review by Andrew Kosarko


SYNOPSIS:

Obsessed with teaching his victims the value of life, a deranged, sadistic serial killer is abducting morally wayward people and forcing them to play macabre games for their own survival. Faced with impossible choices, each victim must struggle to win back his/her life, or else die tryingÖ A young man named Adam (LEIGH WHANNELL) wakes to find himself chained to a rusty pipe inside a decrepit subterranean chamber. Chained to the opposite side of the room is another bewildered captive, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (CARY ELWES). Between them is a dead man lying in a pool of blood, holding a .38 in his hand. Neither man knows why he has been abducted, but instructions left on a microcassette order Dr. Gordon to kill Adam within eight hours. If he fails to do so, then both men will die; Dr. Gordonís wife, Alison (MONICA POTTER), and his daughter will also be killed. Recalling a recent murder investigation by a police detective named Tapp (DANNY GLOVER), Dr. Gordon realizes he and Adam are the next victims of a psychopathic genius known only as ďJigsaw.Ē With only a few hours left to spare, they must unravel the elaborate puzzle of their fate in the midst of mounting terror. The killer has provided them with only a few clues and two handsaws - too weak to break their steel shackles, but strong enough to cut through flesh and boneÖ

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REVIEW:

The original groundbreaking horror film. Shot on an indie budget in 18 daysÖin one locationÖwith no rehearsals. The director didnít even take an up front fee, but opted for a percentage of the gross. Can you say ďsmart idea?Ē Listen, regardless of the impression you may have from the continuous production of films in this franchise, this film is incredibly groundbreaking and well done. Itís an elevator or submarine film in the horror genre. That itself is bold, risky, original and ingenious.

The Story: Jigsaw joins the ranks of the modern Hollywood horror movie icons such as Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Kruger and Chucky with this film. Itís not only a an elevator film (ie: Characters are locked in a room together and forced to have a dialogue that moves along the plot) but itís also nonlinear Ė using the characters narrating stories through flashbacks to reveal certain clues which leads us to discover what is going on. Itís wonderfully crafted to tell the story, introduce and move along character arcs and set us up for a great twist ending. I can even say that there is a twist ending because itís so good you still wonít see it coming. Thereís only one single moment that falls short of explanation Ė which is the moment that involves Dr. Gordanís family and a stethoscope. Youíll understand once you see the film, but is an unfair and misleading to the audience and un-necessary scene for the film. Otherwise itís extraordinarily well done.

Acting: There are surprisingly several great actors in this film. And while they are very experienced and professionals, even a great actor stumbling around in the dark is blind. There were no rehersals for the film and it shows. The dialogue is delivered in a way that is still Shakespearean compared to other horror films, but lacking in emotion and understanding of the characters as the film begins. Because the film was shot in chronological order, the actors figure it out as they go along, a credit to the script. So by the end it all feels fine.

Directing: While the film overall is successful in all points, I canít shake the notion that James Wan was still very green directing this film. From the actors rehearsals, to the editing (which Iíll get to) and the handling of some of the lesser important scenes.

Cinematography: Well done for the most part. At this point in time Iíll only speak to the color use, lighting and shot design Ė not the frame rate or how some scenes were shot. Iíll get to that in editing. The color tone and lack of clean up in post production lends itself to the film overall. It creates a mood that matches the subject matter in the film. Dark, grungy, dirty, disgusting and gory. Itís almost like a 70ís grindhouse film shot in modern day.

Production Design: You have to hand it to them, there are no CGI shots in this film at all. The production design really stepped up in creating the traps and sets. They created a world that helps the audience suspend their disbelief so they can be involved in this horrific environment.

Editing: Ok, my real only beef with this film falls here. The editing is intended to be stylistic and cover problems from production / the script. The problem that lies here is that it becomes extremely annoying and almost downright laughable at points. You see a car chase with black backgrounds and shaking vehicles with the actors doing horrible ďchase sceneĒ acting. It really stands out in a negative way and exposes the lack of money or care put into some of the insignificant scenes. The only reason they get away with it is because of exactly that, the moments that they occur in are really insignificant. So in my opinionÖ.just cut them out.

Score: Is there a score to this film? Iím never sure. Everytime I watch it I never notice if there is a score undermining everything Ė which Iím sure there is. And thatís a great thing. Sure, you want something iconic that leaves you with an impression of the film and we get that in the finale sequence. But for the rest of the film, it subtly enhances the emotions of each scene.

Special Effects: The production design steals the show. Every trap is well thought out and believable. And it really gets under your skin to make you squirm. Itís effective and keeps us in this world. Hats off to the team for this one.

In closing: The original Saw is tainted by itís franchise. Donít let it fool you, this film is several steps above the rest and worth checking out. Yes, itís gory and you may need a puke bucket next to you if you arenít used to seeing things like this. But the story is overall horrifying and well done. Itís a great thriller / mystery / horror film for the modern age.

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