[Review] Giallo-esque ‘Saw’ Introduces New Horror Icon: Jigsaw! (2004)

Saw 2004 James Wan

Do you want to play a game?

Lions Gate Films’ Sundance 2004 acquisition of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s Saw is by far the young studio’s most brilliant decision. Saw is one of the most intense films I’ve seen in years and almost effortlessly crosses over two of my favorite genres – horror and crime-thriller. If you’re a fan of David Fincher’s 1995 classic Se7en, or even Dario Argento/Maria Bava giallo films, then you’re in for one hell of a treat.

Saw opens to immediate intrigue as two men, Adam (played by Leigh Whannell, who is also the writer) and Dr Gordon (Cary Elwes), wake up inside a dirty old bathroom chained by their ankles. There’s a disgusting smell lingering heavily around both of them, and once the lights go on we find that a man had shot himself in the head, and is lying in a pool of blood. In one hand, the dead man has a gun, in the other a tape recorder. The plot thickens as the audience is informed of a “game” being played by ‘Jigsaw,’ as the police call him. The rules are that Dr. Gordon must find a way to kill Adam by the time the long hand of a clock hits six, or Dr. Gordon and his family will die. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Believe me it’s not, but I promise you that by the end of the film you will understand everything completely. As the film progresses, we get a detailed description of Jigsaw’s history as the police, played by Danny Glover (you got it, Sergeant Roger Murtaugh!) and Ken Leung, attempt to hunt him down. The plot is continually thickening as more and more layers are added on thick, and once the movie is completely finished, you will find yourself smiling in extreme satisfaction in the realization that you may never see something this insane unfold ever again.

Like I said earlier, Saw reminds me of both Se7en early giallo. The mystery behind Jigsaw is right out of those old Bava and Argento films, with the film’s aesthetics (it’s super dark and gritty) channelling Se7en. For the gore hounds, there are scenes literally caked in blood. And the score by Charlie Clouser sounds like a Nine Inch Nails was behind it. The editing is extremely tight and only adds to the intensity of ‘Jigsaw’s’ big finale.

Calling Saw ultra-intense is an understatement. Watching Jigsaw’s games played out is a gut punch. One of the games played out in the film is now one of my all-time favorite scenes in a film ever! Just wait until you see this sucker, you will be in the theater the next night with more of your pals checking it out again, and maybe even again after that.

Lionsgate is on a horror rampage as of late. I was pretty gutsy and called Haute (High) Tension the best horror movie of 2004 before the year even started, but now that it has been pushed back to 2005, and that Saw is now coming out this September, I proclaim Saw the best horror movie of 2004. I feel pretty confident that nothing will be better than this giallo-inspired beauty. Just about everything in Saw is perfect from the editing to the directing, acting, gore, score, cinematography, plot and the eventual grand finale. I guarantee this to be one of the most kick-ass genre movies you’ll ever see, and on September 17th prepare to kick-start the Halloween season with James Wan’s groundbreaking Saw.

Official Score

  • Mike O’Donnell

    ill never forget being in the theater in Worcestor MA with a group of ppl who were experiencing the film for the first time and all of us were collectively STUNNED by the conclusion. AMAZING FILM. First 2 were easily the best