Saw came out in 2004 and no one expected it to be anywhere near as big of a hit as it was (and is). The movie had a relatively low budget and only one big name actor, which was the Predator killer himself, Danny Glover. The movie was brutal, smart and has one of the best twist endings of all time. Many of the things you take for granted in the series were huge innovations for the time.
The movie was about a pair of men who wake up in a room with no memory of how they got there. They are chained to pipes and can’t escape. They tell tales of a killer that was on the loose that put people through potentially lethal tests to make them appreciate their lives, which up until their kidnappings, they did not.
The very beginning of the movie is terrifying if you go into it blind. Dark, no explanation for anything. You feel lost, like the men in the room. You are experiencing the process of discovery, just like them. The movie feels claustrophobic every time you come back to the room.
One of the most heart stopping moments is when you figure out that the saws (which might be the Saw in the title, thought it is JigSaw in the other movies) are not for cutting the chains. They are for cutting their feet off to escape the room. Doctor Gordon must kill Adam the photographer to win the game.
The whole movie becomes a ‘who done it’ feature as the plot unfolds. Some one kidnapped them and put them into that room (as well as the other people who we see as time goes on). The film goes in every direction, leading you on false leads and dead ends. When you finally, finally find out who ‘Jigsaw’ is (after several fake outs), it is awesome. The first time you see it, you will not see it coming (if you say you did, you’re a liar).
The gore is well done, but not the main focus of the movie. This remains in the multiple sequels to Saw, the gore anti is upped in each film, but the story and character development is more important in most cases.
The two stars in Saw are the two captives. They are great as they play off of each other. They learn about each other as we learn about their past as well as their deceptions. Remember, they are there to learn a lesson, so something has to be amiss. The doctor character is calm and collected in the beginning, but as events start to unravel, the two men switch places and he has to be calmed down. Well, the photographer attempts to calm him down.
One of the flashbacks show one of the trials where a woman has a device that will rip her jaw open if she doesn’t unlock it. The key is in the stomach of a body in the room. The woman has to gut this man to stay alive and after she survives, admits that the Jigsaw killer saved her life. She was an addict and probably would have ODed with out the test. That is deep.
The fever pitched conclusion at the end is one of the most intense sequences in any horror movie. Some of the other Saw movies come close, but this is the most effective ending. If you haven’t seen it, this review won’t ruin it.
Saw might have started the ‘torture porn’ fad in the U.S., but it is much more than that. It is smarter than Hostel or Human Centipede. It has characters that you are interested in (especially Jigsaw once he is a full on character in Saw II). The traps are engineering marvels in many instances. This one only has the ‘reverse bear trap’ and the drill trap, but the series’ trials become more and more amazing. This is not a mere snuff film, it is brutal and bloody, but it makes you think.
Saw is a great thriller and horror movie. It was a staple of the 2000’s for a damn good reason. Many have tried to reproduce the ‘torturous’ aspect of these films, but no one has recreated the cerebral quality to the character development or trap design. If you haven’t seen any of the Saw movies, at least see the first one. You will not be disappointed, as long as you have a strong stomach and a sharp mind.