Saw - Dull Blade
| I wanted to like Saw. I wanted to like it so damn much. Rarely am I as disappointed with the execution of a film as I am with the film, Saw.
Itís hard to say exactly why Saw is such a disappointment. At first glance, it seems to have all the makings of a very satisfying and disturbing mind game. There is a truly disturbing premise, genuinely creepy art direction and imagery, and a killer twist ending that almost pays off for the audience. However, despite all this, it doesnít come together tightly enough to really knock the wind out of you.
Saw dreams of being Se7en. Itís as if the left over sets were brought out storage for this production. The whole film is shot with the same colour palette and like that film, most of the movie is in the shadows, dark. Even the plot is familiar. There is a moralizing killer who devises elaborate torture tests for his victims, chosen because of their own faults, to teach them something. This idea was also used well in the underrated Phone Booth so this is familiar territory.
In this case, two men wake up in a dirty abandoned bathroom. Each is chained to the wall and another man lies dead between them in a pool of blood. Each one has been given a tape that instructs them on what they need to do to survive, which involves some sort of violence to the other. Over the course of the film, they panic (although surprisingly very little for people who feel they are about to die), discuss and reflect on why they were chosen for this end.
Where Saw falls short is that it never really commits itself to its ideas. The first time director uses too much rapid MTV fast motion during the torture so we are spared the effect that would have made this film truly unnerving. The first time screenwriter-slash-actor, Leigh Whannel, who is cast as one of the leads, is too much of a ham to bring the necessary sense of dread to the piece. This comes out both in the script and in his performance. He cracks wise, to too little humorous effect, much too easily as do many of the other characters.
The torture tests are not very well thought out. They often have little redemptive power and sometimes just veer off, forgetting the supposed motivation of the killer, so that there can be a scary or a gruesome moment. I canít get into this argument too far without spoiling the ending, so I will just say that this film doesnít have the symmetry of a modern horror masterpiece like Se7en or The Silence of the Lambs.
However, despite these flaws, the film is on to something. There is something truly scary in the premise and Cary Elwes is very effective in bringing the terror he feels to life. Also, the script shows a pacing and style that is very promising. Finally, once the director reigns in his ADD he shows himself adept at creating real suspense.
Saw is, first and foremost, the debut of two film makers who show a lot of potential. For now, their work is only somewhat satisfactory but certainly not revolutionary. Hopefully in the future we will see something greater come from these two.