Saw, made by the appropriately named Twisted Pictures, is a slick thriller that plays very much like a cross between the darkness of Seven and the grim ingenuity shown in Cube. It opens with two apparent strangers, Dr Larry Gordon (Cary Elwes) and a man called Adam, chained to pipes at opposite ends of a bathroom. Between them lies a corpse holding a revolver and a tape player. Adam and Larry must contrive to escape the bathroom using clues left behind by a serial killer called Jigsaw who set up this cell specifically for them. By working together, the two come to realise that they are not such strangers after all, and their conversations feed us details of the sick traps Jigsaw has previously arranged for other victims, along with the involvement in the case of Danny Glover’s detective - a sub-plot which is neatly brought together with the main story, in the film’s conclusion.
A sleeper hit in the States, the movie did very well in cinemas over here, mainly thanks to the comparisons it gathered to Seven. Both films are certainly unnervingly dark, but whereas Seven focused more on the psyche of the serial killer, in Saw we learn little of the killer’s motivations. Well structured and intelligently plotted, Saw leads the viewer through numerous twists and turns, and yet never strays too far from the main storyline leaving it surprisingly easy to follow. Whilst Jigsaw’s murders are particularly nasty and ingeniously realised, they rely more on the viewer’s imagination than on gore and seem far more effective for this.
The film does have its faults, however. The plot has several flaws, for example why do Adam and Larry work so well together, trusting one another implicitly, and yet remain unable to tell their full stories to one another until so close to the film’s end? On the whole, these are largely excusable as the pace of the film is so frenetic they barely appear noticeable. Perhaps the biggest letdown is the acting. Whilst in places this is fine, it has a tendency to descend into something more disturbing than anything that happens in the movie itself!
All in all, this is a brutal, compelling film that is already deserving of its cult status.