Lions Gate Film’s highly anticipated psychological horror film Saw (win a shirt here) finally hits theaters today- just in time for Halloween! So the question is, will you enjoy it? My guess is most of you will, but there’s always a few who won’t. But hopefully we can pursue you to at least take a peak this weekend. Inside you’ll find our fifth review along with links to our old reviews, our new interview and old ones if you missed out. James Wan’s ‘Saw’ stars Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Leigh Whannell, Dina Meyer, Monica Potter, Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell, Ken Leung.
Well well well, you’ve come for more have you? B-D has been a major supporter when it comes to this film- why? Frankly because most of us think it f–king rocked! So we’ve got more interviews and another review for you. Here’s everything you’ll need right here to decide whether or not to check out this amazing directoral debut…
(NEW James Wan, Leigh Whannell, Carey Elwes), (James Wan), (James Wan and Leigh Wannell)
Review by: Brian Juergens
5 out of 10 Skulls
Precocious first-time directors are as much a fact of life as gay weathermen. So it’s no surprise to see that “Saw”, the first film from Australian team James Wan and Leigh Whannell (Wan directs, Whannell writes and acts), is spectacularly uneven. Boasting fits of pretension that will doubtless result in fits of laughter from the audience, some truly horrific acting, and a few downright awful “eye-catching” montage sequences, the movie should, by all rights, be a total disaster. But thanks to encouraging performances by Whannell in both his guises (the script is better-than-average and his acting is one of the dinghies to which you can cling), the flick pulls itself above the level of schlock and instead settles as something you can laugh at for its gall but still appreciate for its ambition.
The plot involves a killer (or sort of a killer) who kidnaps people he feels are not living life to the fullest and puts them in grisly situations in which they must choose to shed blood (theirs or someone else’s) in order to survive. Apparently this is meant to teach them a lesson about valuing life that somehow ignores the fact that the very existence of sociopaths like the Jigsaw killer essentially negates any amount of comfort that these lessons might impart: the real message here is “live in fear,” and leave “Carpe Diem” to the Dead Poets Society.
As the film begins, Adam (Whannell) and Lawrence (Elwes, looking as though he’s been visiting Alec Baldwin’s nutritionist) find themselves chained to opposite walls of a stinky-looking set made to look like a giant, dirty bathroom. In the center lies a man in a pool of blood with a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other, and the goal soon becomes clear: get the **** out as quickly as possible. Each man finds a tape in his pocket, which tells them that in order for Lawrence to escape, he must kill Adam by 6:00. Adam, who is given no such hope of salvation, is understandably unimpressed. There’s also the first in a series of rather lame clues that read like “The DaVinci Code” without all the artsy-fartsy stuff.
So if you haven’t figured out how things are going to end already, you’re an idiot. No, I’m just kidding. But I will say that my initial hunch was true, although I’ll give the filmmakers credit in that what follows is so wacky and all over the map that by the time the ending arrived I had forgotten my initial hunch altogether, and was pleasantly surprised to be reminded of it. Now, whether I was led astray by clever storytelling or I just lost interest, I can’t really decide – perhaps a bit of both. But by the end I had decided that were they to string together the best parts of the film and eliminate all the embarrassing mistakes, they would have a fun, clever, nasty 30-minute piece.
And the good bits are good, I’m happy to admit. Shawnee Smith (best known from the remake of The Blob”) walks away with the film with her 8 minutes on-screen, which has been used widely in ads and posters but which still packs quite a punch when you see her full performance as a junkie who has become the jigsaw’s only survivor due to her willingness to exchange another life for her own. Also quite effective is a scene in which Adam uses the flash of his camera to navigate a dark apartment that hides an unwelcome guest (sure, it’s been done before – but here the apartment is so messy that your eye doesn’t know where to go when the flashes go off – very effective). The final 5 minutes are also very well-executed, and the thrill of revelation and pace of action are so much fun that it makes you wish that the rest of the film had been made as carefully.
While “Saw” is certainly entertaining (for the most part), it’s not at all the disturbing mind**** that it seems to think it is; it bears less comparison to “Seven” (whose oppressive dread and studied calm lent an atmosphere that provided a shocking contrast to the grisliness of the crimes) than to “Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2,” whose use of humor defused the visceral impact of the sadistic torture and elaborate murders. There are a few out-of-place surrealist touches (a car chase in cars that are obviously not moving; a strange bit of camera histrionics during Smith’s jaw-trap scene) that defuse any sense of genuine dread, and several glaring loopholes in the questionable architecture of the Jigsaw’s plans (none of which I can whine about without giving away too much of the plot) result from the rules being bent to snapping point in order to shock the audience, which will likely just frustrate most viewers (the sadistic gun-and-stethoscope scene makes absolutely no sense when all the cards are played, and it’s sloppy to begin with).The use of silly puppets and masks (Pretentious Horror Devices 101) and ridiculously elaborate murder setups (second semester), obviously meant to be crazy-disturbing, backfire into unintended hilarity (the audience I saw it with couldn’t stop laughing).
But even more hilarious are the casting and performances of the lead characters, the biggest issue being Elwes’ utterly stupefying performance as the besieged surgeon/victim, which oscillates wildly between hollow-eyed earnesty and scenery-gnawing overacting (I swear to god he is played by Will Farrell in his final scene). By the end, the crowd was laughing every time he appeared on screen, myself included – and mind you, I’m generally one of his fans. Danny Glover, in a career-negating performance that defies all logic, is nearly incomprehensible as a police detective obsessed with catching the killer (I don’t know what kind of dirt the producers had on him, but I can’t believe he took this role of his own accord), literally grunting his way through most of his scenes. The presence of Monica Potter (once heralded as the new Julia Roberts), is similarly befuddling in the most undignified role of her career – no small feat considering she has starred opposite Freddy Prinze, Jr.
I dare say that Wan could use a brush-up on directing actors before his next effort, which (considering that this will likely do well despite its glaring flaws) shouldn’t be too long coming. And there certainly is a lot of potential here, if he can move past annoying music-video clichés and focus on the characters in the script that is in front of him, which in this case is actually quite good. As it is, “Saw” might be considered the horror genre’s version of “Showgirls”: an entertaining watch if you’re not opposed to laughing through your horror movies.