Saw (2004)

After over a decade of bland remakes, sequels, and derivative Slashers, Leigh Whannell and James Wan introduced a refreshingly original and smart Horror film that would have an immediate and lasting effect on the genre while becoming an instant sensation among fans. That film was SAW, and unlike so many other Slasher and Survival films of the time, SAW did not rely on a masked madman, tired genre conventions, and scantily-clad teens to thrill its audiences, but rather pitted men against each other in a series of twisted morality games. In it, the Jigsaw killer assembles a series of deadly traps, which victims have the ability to escape if they are willing to sacrifice a part of themselves in order to learn the value of life, itself.

The title functions on various levels, referencing the voyeuristic themes found within the film as well as its bloody torture methods. Whannell's methodical plotting and clever twists lead up to one of the most shocking and surprising endings in recent Horror. Each of the ironic traps turn the victim's vices into their own personal torture, with every device proving to be just as imaginative as they are suspenseful. These edge-of-your-seat sequences are made that much more frightening thanks to James Wan's high-powdered and hyperkinetic shooting and editing style, which fully explores the three-dimensionality of the sets while bombarding the screen with intense and graphic imagery. If any argument can be made against the film, it is in the weak and often goofy performances of both Danny Glover and Cary Elwes, whose stiff line deliveries and staged acting impair many key scenes.

SAW (along with HOSTEL, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and others) was unjustly panned during the media strike against the so-called "Torture Porn" sub-genre -- a derogatory term that was used to describe films that glorified mutilation, violence, and torture as a form of entertainment. This unfair assessment is too quick in dismissing the strength of the script and its underlying themes of redemption, and focuses solely on the more visceral, surface-level actions that occur on screen. Despite these harsh criticisms, SAW has proven itself to be a modern Horror classic that has spawned numerous sequels and continues to thrill audiences years after its initial release.

Rating: 9/10.
Gore: 6/10.

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  1. I gotta disagree with you on this one. I had high expectations going into it but found it pretty generic and predictable. For me it had nothing to do with the torture angle, I just thought the script was bad.

  2. I still think SAW is a great horror film that has been unfortunately diluted by its countless sequels. But I do remember watching this for the first time in the theaters and being completely played for a fool by that awesome twist ending. I think the first three and SAW VI are the best ones in the franchise. And I'm actually looking forward to the next one this October.

  3. It's not as bad as some people say. I thought it was nicely put together, and that ending just gets you every time.

  4. I thought this movie was great. It's one of a small few I've paid to see three times. Saw (haha) it opening day at a matinee. The ending was a total surprise and I thought the film was a low budget wonder that hearkened back to the Giallo's of the 70's while paying homage to the "torture porn" that was prevalent way back then.

  5. I got duped into watching The Grudge instead of Saw that opening weekend, regretted it ever since. That would have been a blast to see in theaters! Made sure not to miss 2 and 3.. Then basically gave up lol..