set up is terrific. Two men wake up in a scummy bathroom. They
have no idea how they got there. They are chained to a wall.
There is a corpse in between them. They are given saws which are not
solid enough to cut through the chains, but which could go through flesh.
One of the men is a doctor named Lawrence (played by Cary Elwes, a long way
from his role as the hero in The Princess Bride), the other is a
slacker photographer named Adam (played by screenwriter Leigh Wannell). Lawrence
is told that his wife and daughter have been kidnapped. If he wants to
save his own life and his family's, he will have to kill Adam.
Right there you have the makings of a taut, thrilling short film. Of
course this is a feature, so we have to delve into the past and the
motivations of the psycho behind the predicament. It is the work of a
serial psychopath called the Jigsaw Killer, although, as one of the
characters correctly points out, he hasn't killed so much as forced other
people to kill themselves and others. One man is forced to crawl
through a razor-wire tunnel to get the antidote to a slow-working poison.
A woman is placed in a contraption which could rip her face open, and could
only get the key to let herself loose by stabbing to death a drugged man who
has been forced to swallow the key. A cop has to choose between saving
a man from being drilled through both sides of his head and letting a serial
murderer go free.
makers of Saw have definitely seen Seven and taken notes, and
to a degree they have captured the claustrophobic sense of doom of that
film. We see the horror of people put into extreme circumstances
trying to stay sane as their world goes crazy. We see a veteran
homicide detective (Danny Glover) lose perspective (and possibly his sanity)
as he obsessively tries to find the killer. We see red herrings and
McGuffins pointing the blame in different directions with an admirable
sleight of hand.
However, the film is at its tense best when at its most basic -- peeping on
the two men chained together in a hell that they don't understand. As
the terror of the situation dawns on them they go through all the stages of
mourning; hope, denial, depression, distrust, anger and finally desperation.
the end, though, we never really understand the killer's motivation.
Why is he creating these elaborate death traps to torture and destroy all
In Seven, all the disturbing and sadistic violence
made a certain twisted sense in the grand scheme of the killer. Here
it often seems a bit too random.
The Jigsaw Killer's often
repeated mantra that so many people take life for granted just doesn't
really cut it. And why does he wear the dumb-looking clown mask and
ride the tricycle, even when he is obviously alone? Therefore, when we
finally find out who the psychopath is and what his connection is to the
victims, it seems like a bit of a cheat.
Saw is a film that brings out mixed feelings in an audience. It is
most certainly a very scary and disturbing movie. However, it also
seems sometimes to be a little too enraptured in the sordid sadism it is
showing. One scene where the kidnapper holds a stethoscope to the
heart of a little girl while he points a gun at her mother's head is
supposed to show us how heartless and disturbed the man is, but it also
makes you wonder a little about the mental stability of the screenwriter.
Still, if you are looking for a horrifying look at the heart of darkness,
Saw is very effective.
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Posted: February 15, 2005.