November 07, 2004


Having nothing better to do, I went to a movie theatre in Tokyo's Kabuki-cho, yesterday. I was bored and aimlessly walking about, when a large sign with Saw written on it, caught my eye. 'The Saw Is Family' mantra from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, suddenly jumped into my consciousness, reminding me of how much I love a good, gritty horror movie. I was in the mood.

In many ways, Saw is a psychological thriller that tries very hard to capture the repulsive, gut-wrenching tone of Se7en (1995); a film that I watched once, but really have no desire to watch again. Se7en was a fabulously tight, claustrophobic experience which grabs from start to end with its bleakness. Yet, for all its brilliance, the desperation of it all just seems too gruelling to want to revisit again. Saw is not Se7en. It certainly hopes to be, but it falls slightly short of its goals.

Whereas Se7en had the charismatic and polished performances of Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey, in Saw there are no actors of equal standing. The most accomplished actor in the cast is Danny Glover, who seems absolutely underused playing a former cop with an obsessive desire to track down the protagonist of the piece, the Jigsaw Killer.

The majority of the movie is focused upon Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell, who wake-up finding themselves chained-up in a foul room, with a corpse between them. As the movie progresses, they try to unravel the mystery of their circumstance. They both give adequate performances, even if a little cold.

Disturbing imagery is laid on thick, with many effective scare moments. In particular, a hideous Mr. Punch puppet works its archetypal chills throughout. The director and writer, James Wan, utilises a variety of filmic techniques in conjuring up the intended insanity. One particular scene, refers to a flashback of one victim's desperate attempts to escape through a jungle of razor wire. Wan shoots this like a cinecamera on amphetamines, where all the edits are rapid and the action dizzyingly speeded-up.

Saw has gained good word-of-mouth. I suppose I had expected something more disturbing and fresh. It certainly has some interesting moments, but for the most part, it does not tread anywhere new. Under all its music video like sheen, the film has very little.

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