'Saw' *** 050905
DVD Review (2004)

The Work =***
I’m a tad bit conflicted with this one. Part of me wants to praise this film because it was made under an incredibly short shooting schedule and it was made by two friends who cooked up an idea for a low budget horror movie and managed to sell it to Hollywood. The ploy paid off, the film was a success and has launched the career of director James Wan. The other part of me wants to tell people to stay away because it’s not that successful a film and has kind of ridiculously annoying plot devices scattered throughout. I guess I give it a marginal recommendation, its certainly no worse than 'Suspect Zero' and cost a heck of a lot less to make.

Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell) awaken in a concrete room. They are shackled to pipes and have no memory of how they got there. Meanwhile another story follows Detective Tapp (Danny Glover) and Detective Sing (Ken Leung) as they track the so-called jigsaw killer. The film jumps around back and forth between the stories at various points in time and builds as time begins to run out for Dr. Gordon and Adam. Now, who is the Jigsaw killer? Why is he building such ridiculously elaborate traps? I will let you guess which of those questions is not answered.

The thing is the movie so wants to be an intelligent thinking man’s horror film. The problem is, it is really not. Several times it drove me crazy when characters would fail to do something that could have helped their situation. There is also the problem of what I call “the stupid cops.” I hate it in films when there is one or more supposedly dedicated and clever detectives who then proceeds to be so stupid that they don’t see clues, walk into danger, etc.

That’s not to say detectives can't make mistakes, be flawed etc. but when they do so seemingly for no other reason than to raise suspense, make a plot point, or drag out a scene etc. Like so many clever serial killer type films this one stands in the shadow of 'Se7en'. The difference between the two films, I think, is that 'Se7en' is character driven. When a character would make a mistake there would be a reason for it other than a plot device.

This brings me back to my conundrum. What I’ve said is true but 'Se7en' had a substantial budget behind it and a longer shooting schedule. They had more time to get shots, flush out the story, rehearse the characters, etc. So, it is probably not fair to compare the two. That being said, I still couldn’t help that it came up in the back of my mind. At the end of the day 'Saw', is a well made film with fine performances. It serves as a show case for the talent involved, especially Wan. Many sequences are sufficiently creepy and do the scare job. I suspect that genre fans may enjoy it more than I did. I give it a marginal recommendation but would add that the film seems more impressive knowing how it was made.

DVD = ***

The Look
'Saw' gets a pretty good transfer. Most shots seemed to have good detail and the film’s stylized look comes across well. Yes, there were some shots that looked worse than others but considering the low budget nature of this film some of the problems may come from the source material. It is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.

The Sound
This seemed like a decent enough sound mix, especially considering the low budget. The DVD has a DTS track, a Dolby EX track and a Dolby 2.0 stereo track. I only reviewed the 2.0 track. There are also English and Spanish subtitles.

The Bonus
Ok so first and foremost the only worthwhile feature on the disk is the commentary track with Wan and Whannell. The two are clearly friends and Whannell leads the track making jokes (often at his own expense) and pointing out details about the production. They mention that they wanted to have Elwes on the track and I really wish he could have been there. Still the two have their fun and remind me a bit of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi on the commentary track to 'Evil Dead 2'. The featurette runs just over two minutes (I’m not making that up.) The poster stills are fine or would be if it was not for the annoying panning and zooming that the DVD made me sit through. The music video is presented in censored or uncensored and either version is all lame. The making of the video is pretty much fluff. Still fans of the band may appreciate it. Some of the well made trailers are also included.

Supposedly this film originally got an NC-17 rating and it would have been nice to have it included here. Also the version of the film that was shown at Sundance was considerably different than the final version. This DVD really needed a full blown documentary about the making of it and the different versions.

All Together = ***
Elwes and Glover are two underrated actors that deserve better careers and I would love to see in more films. Knowing the shooting schedule of this film made it is easy to see how it might have caught their eye. A paycheck for a quick shoot and a chance to work with young talent, hey I’d do that in a second. I wish the DVD had a documentary on it with input from more of those involved. It would also have been nice to have an uncut version of the film. Knowing that there is supposedly going to be a 'Saw 2' I say the studio will probably re-release the film in an uncut special edition when the sequel comes out.

This film certainly has its fans and I can see why. For me it just seemed ok but knowing how it was made gave me a greater appreciation for it. I say if you are a fan of horror/ thrillers and don’t mind some disturbing gore than give it a try. Otherwise if you are really curious give it a rental first.


'Saw' Links:


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.