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A man wakes up underwater. Surprised by his circumstances, he kicks and fights to get to air. Wouldn't you? But as he thrashes, he unplugs the bathtub, draining not only the water, but a glowing tab connected to a key, which goes right down the drain. Pity, he might have needed that key.
As it turns out, he did. The man's name is Adam (Leigh Wannell: THE MATRIX: RELOADED), and he finds himself in pitch darkness, chained to a pipe. He hears something. Someone else is with him in the dark. Abruptly the lights come on, and he discovers two things. He is in the room with a likewise chained man, and a bloody corpse. Welcome to an extraordinarily original nailbiter called SAW.
SAW was written by Leigh Wannell, based on a story by Leigh and Director James Wan (STYGIAN). And, save for I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, I've never seen anyone get this dark without going over the top into unintentional humor.
SAW is a Horror Thriller film, but it is also a Suspense Mystery, and as such it feels right at home, though leading the pack, of movies like SE7EN, THE BONE COLLECTOR, and television's, CSI. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS? Not quite the same breed. SAW takes place over the course of less than eight hours.
Adam's cellmate, Lawrence (Cary Elwes: THE BRIDE, DRACULA ), tries in the midst of a freshly dead body, to reason why they are there, and not end up like the corpse, who seems to have shot himself. Little by little they discover clues around the room. Clues that their captor left for them. They are part of a very sick game.
Their warden is a man who despises them both because he is dying, and neither Adam or Lawrence appreciate the life they have. At least, not enough to suit the taste of their captor.
Through conversational flashbacks, which actually add to the tension, we learn that Lawrence knows the identity of their tormentor, or at least knows of him. The media has dubbed him "Jigsaw", and he has never really killed anyone. Instead, he puts his prisoners into traps where they wind up killing themselves. So far, only one person has survived, a girl named Amanda (Shawnee Smith: THE BLOB , THE STAND [TV], THE SHINING [TV], SAW II). After she tells the grisly story of her narrow escape, she surprises the detectives further by insisting that Jigsaw didn't victimize her, he saved her. She isn't a drug addict anymore.
"Most people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you. Not anymore."
The detectives tracking down the twisted killer are David Tapp (Danny Glover: PREDATOR 2) and Steven Sing (Ken Leung: RED DRAGON). They along with specialist Kerry (Dina Meyers: STARSHIP TROOPERS, BATS, STAR TREK: NEMESIS) tried to unravel the mystery of Jigsaw once before, and nearly died from it. All they learned was that the criminal's real name is John (Tobin Bell: THE FIRM, MALICE, DEEP RED, GOOD NEIGHBOR), and he's dying from cancer.
So the elements are in play and the film cunningly addresses every perceived plothole and every downfall in other movies that have tried to have this kind of timing. There are twists and turns at every corner, building up the suspense.
Then, just when everything looks perfect, SAW is bootstrapped to a ridiculous ending. Such an incredibly dumb ending in fact, that as you leave the theater, the more you think about it, the more frustrating it is.
Unfortunately, this movie also gets an
Still, when it comes to movies, horror fans are a forgiving lot. And if you look at the twenty or so Horror movies that Hollywood alone puts out every year, you'll know that we've forgiven a LOT!
And since this was Leigh and James' own labor of love, I'll cut them some slack and give this movie 3 shriek Girls.
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