Plot: What’s it about?
The resurgence of horror films has all of the sudden made them a hot commodity again. Gone are the days of “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” and in are more psychological thrillers like “The Ring” and the latest entry – “Saw”. “Saw” is a film written by two twenty-something Australians (Leigh Whannell who also stars and James Tan who directs) that seem to have a grasp on what it is that Americans are looking for in horror movies. The movie shows us that you don’t have to be stalked by a psycho with a machete, but sometimes all it takes is the proper motivation and a time frame for an event to happen. The movie was made in a mere 18 days on a less-than-modest budget of 1.2 million dollars. And for that price, they bought some pretty good talent with Danny Glover, Cary Elwes and Monica Potter headlining this indie flick. “Saw” is proof that smaller budget films can make money too and raking in nearly $60 million at the box office – we can expect a “Saw 2” in the future.
The premise of the film is really quite simple: two men (Carey Elwes and Leigh Whannell) find themselves in a run-down industrial bathroom. They’re both roughed up and find themselves chained to pipe unable to escape. Lawrence (Elwes) has until 6PM that day to kill the other man, Adam (Whannell) else he will be killed as will wife (Monica Potter) and child. There are some clues both hidden and obvious that each of the men find and it’s not long that Lawrence realizes the connection. It seems that there has been a rash of bizarre deaths in that people are found in precarious situations that have resulted in their deaths. A man tried to escape a room by running through barb wire, someone caught fire while trying to open a safe and a woman killed her friend to get a key out his stomach. You know the run of the mill stuff. Naturally, the pieces of the puzzle start to make more sense (and if you’ve seen the movie you’ll appreciate my pun), though it doesn’t solve the problem. Underlying all of this is the former cop (Danny Glover) who is now obsessed with the case since his partner was killed.
“Saw” doesn’t cover a lot of new ground, it’s more in the vein of “Se7en” a much better movie. The film isn’t scary so much as it is tense. I suppose that the scary thing is that there are probably people out there who have been in these types of situations and can actually relate. I’d say that the writing/directing team of Leigh Whannell and James Tan has a pretty bright future in Tinsel town and I’d have to say that I actually enjoyed the movie. It was predictable – to a point – and then it wasn’t. I’m all for getting the hell scared out of me from time to time but it’s at those times in the wee hours of the morning when some of those images tend to haunt you. “Saw” is a gripping thriller that is sure to have its intended effect on many audience members. Recommended.
Video: How does it look?
“Saw” uses a variety of visual styles that make its presentation unique. These range from fast motion to the bluish tint of the bathroom (where a majority of the film takes place). Lion’s Gate has released this in a full-frame and widescreen version and the 1.85:1 anamorphic version was reviewed here. I found the transfer to be very good, sharp in some scenes and a bit soft around the edges in others. The flesh tones of the main two actors (Elwes and Whannell) seemed to change from scene to scene, but I’m thinking that this is as a result of makeup as opposed to any weakness in the transfer. To say this is a “dark” movie is an understatement, but the image seems to handle it with relative ease. I’d say that there were only a few spots in which I saw some artifacting and noticed some major softness (around the faces). Aside from that this is a very solid transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
I recently re-calibrated my surround sound system and either I plugged something in that wasn’t plugged in before or “Saw” has one kick-ass soundtrack! There are two to choose from, a Dolby Digital and a DTS 6.1 ES track which I chose to listen to. In several scenes the LFE really kick in and add a lot of depth the scenes. Some industrial rock adds more ambiance where needed and it all sounds great in DTS. Dialogue is very clean and consistent throughout as well. I have to say that this is one awesome sounding track and considering the small budget it would appear that encoding is getting much more affordable. If anything is lacking audio-wise, I couldn’t find it. Either way you go, you’re in for a ride.
Supplements: What are the extras?
“Saw” is a single disc DVD that is sure to come out as a more robust edition sometime in the future. Until then, we have an assortment of supplements starting with the audio commentary by Leigh Whannell and James Tan. These two guys make for a pretty good track, they talk of how they came up with the idea, the troubles of getting financing and how extremely “British” Cary Elwes is. This is a much more light-hearted track that I would have thought and is worth listening to. Next up is a music video with a first for me: an unrated and a rated version of it. There’s also a featurette on the making of the music video. A “Making of…” featurette is also shown, but it only lasts a few minutes. Just when it starts to get going, it ends. Lastly a theatrical trailer is included. For fans of the movie or the genre, for that matter, “Saw” is intelligently written and is a pretty good movie-watching experience. The DVD is good on a technical level and has just enough supplements to warrant a purchase.