By Vic Holtreman
2 out 5
The short version: A promising concept that has it's moments, but ultimately it's more about gore and sadism than about delivering scares.
Generally I like to include an image with my movie reviews, but I really couldn't find a photo from the movie that I'd care to include here due to the gruesomeness of what's available. If you're looking for a geniunely scary movie, keep looking because Saw isn't it. Sadistic, yes. Gory, yes. But not scary.
It's a shame, too, because I was really in the mood for something that would give me the heebee jeebees.
Within certain circles, there's been a fair amount of hype about Saw, and as the credits started to roll I had that uneasy "Do I really want to see this?" feeling. The opening credits had a ghostly look to them, the music was creepy, and the movie's first scene opened very dimly lit, in almost complete darkness, preparing me for who knows what. I thought I'd be in for something along the lines of Se7en, but much more intense. Sadly, it wasn't even close.
Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) and Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) star in this movie, and I'm not really sure why... except for the fact that it must have looked better on paper. Elwes is a suspect in a series of grisly crimes and Glover is the cop obsessed with him.
The film opens with Elwes and another guy in what looks like a very old, abandoned bathroom, both chained to pipes across the room from each other. Oh, and there's a dead guy in the middle of the room with his brains blown out. In their pockets they find micro-cassettes with clues as to how they might extricate themselves from the situation. Elwes suspects who may have put them in this situation: A criminal known as "The Jigsaw" who does not kill his victims, but finds ways for them to kill themselves.
Glover and his partner have been on the trail of this murderer, who has come up with gruesome ways to have his victims die... usually including some sort of morally reprehensible choice they must make in order to have even a chance at survival. The movie cuts back and forth between Glover, the prisoners, and Elwes' wife and young daughter in a non-linear fashion, slowing clueing us in to the lives of those involved and the warped motivations of "The Jigsaw".
There was a germ of a good idea here, but somewhere along the line the heart and soul of it was lost. It's a great, creepy concept for a movie: A killer that never actually kills, but is still the reason his victims die. He also seems to be trying to teach his victims a lesson about their life choices in the most horrible way imagineable. In fact one drug addict victim does manage to survive and states that "he helped me."
The unfolding of the story was also interesting, as we learn things about the different characters in bits and pieces... I know non-linear storytelling is now all the rage, and I hate to admit that if used judiciously, I am a fan of it. The ending was also unexpected and I won't say more than that in case you're planning on seeing the film.
The problem is that the movie was more sadistic than horrifying or scary. The envelope was pushed too hard for my taste in scenes involving the terrorization of the mother and in particular the 7 or 8 year old girl. There was very little suspense during the film... I felt more like Malcom McDowell in A Clockwork Orange during the scene where he was forced to watch horrific images and not allowed to look away.
Lots of twists and turns that except for one or two are unsatisfying, plenty of gruesome shock value and make-you-squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortableness, but that's about it. I guess I should have gone to see The Grudge instead.