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Horror film released in 2004, directed by James Wan

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An amazing Debut and film.

  • Oct 21, 2004
  • by
Pros: Great Direction and script, gripping, and effective.

Cons: Maybe a bit extreme for some.

The Bottom Line: A gripping and effective film that marks and impressive debut for its creators.

On of the most impressive cinematic debuts in memory has arrived in theaters and showcases a very impressive writer/director team that seem poised for great things based on a very impressive debut.

The film is “Saw” and it is a triumph of suspense, horror, and drama that harkens back to the classic work of David Fincher, and dare I say Hitchcock, as it is a bold and daring film, that is a fresh and creative as it is innovative.

The film is written by and features Leigh Whannell, as Adam, a young man who awakens in a dark room in a bathtub filled with water. Although disoriented, Adam soon discovers he is not alone, as he shares the room with another man, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), who like him, is chained at the ankle and trapped in the room.

As bad as this is, there is a dead body in the middle of the room that underscores the peril of the situation. Adam and Lawrence eventually discover audio tapes and a player that indicate that they are being held as they do not appreciate the life that they have and as such, are going to lose it unless they can prove how much they want to live.

Lawrence is told via the taped instructions that if he does not kill Adam by 6:00, then his wife and daughter will be killed and clues are given to indicate where to look in the decrepit room. The fact that Adam and Lawrence are chained and have very limited mobility forces the two of them to work with one another, despite the mistrust Adam has towards Lawrence as he was the one they tape said had to be killed.

Lawrence begins to tell Adam that he thinks he knows who is behind their situation, as there has been a series of murders in the area and he was suspect. Through a series of flashbacks Lawrence informs Adam about the Jigsaw killer, who places victims in perilous situations but provides them with a way out, provided they are willing to take extreme measures to show how much they want to live. The bizarre and gruesome situations lead to the introduction of Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover), who is investigating the grizzly trail left by the killer. In many ways, “Saw” become two movies in one as we learn about the history of the crimes, and the investigation leading up to the present situation between Lawrence and Adam. The film also cleverly guises certain events keeping the audience guessing as to if they happened in the past or are occurring in the present adding to the mystery and suspense.

As the story unfolds we learn more about Adam that underscores the tension and allows new avenues for the story to unfold. I will not spoil the twists and turns of the story but suffice it to say, there are plenty of red herrings and plot twists that will keep the audience guessing and some very creative and shocking twists and turns that culminates in an ending that will become one of the most talked about in film history and is destined to carve a niche in horror history.

Director James Wan, who also created the story, has crafted a visually gripping and disturbing film with a very effective pace that shows ability and talent well beyond his years. The film is so masterfully shot and organized that it is hard to believe that this is his first film, as Dramas can often be the downfall of many directors as they are unable to draw tension out of the material.

The screenplay by Whanell is gripping and effective. The characters are defined well within the context of their situations as it is vital to the story that information about the characters is slowly released to the audience in order to create and maintain the tension.

“Saw” is a true wonder as instead of being a simple horror film, it is a deeply complex and disturbing film that showcases two talented individuals in a very impressive debut. The images and story of the film stay with you long after the film ends and like it or love it “Saw” is a well crafted film that is not only disturbing, but refreshingly original. My only issue with the film is that it did drag just a bit while leading up to the finale, but that being said, “Saw” is easily the best horror film in many years.

5 stars out of 5

Gareth Von Kallenbach

International Association of Film Critics.


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More Saw (2004 movie) reviews
review by . December 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****      Before seeing "Saw", I will warn you that you may throw up. You may be unsettled by the film's violence and gore as well as the atmosphere, which could make it all the more upsetting. Nevertheless, that was simply a warning. I personally liked "Saw", as it was a well made thriller. By now I bet you're already saying, "Thriller? I thought this was a horror film." Allow me to explain some things. In the minds of many, "Saw" …
review by . May 16, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I Saw This Several Times
Prior to 2004, we rarely had the pleasure of seeing a psychological film with the level of intensity as seen here. In fact, Lions Gate was one of the few studios which actually would give us something as violent as this. Those of you who haven't seen this film are in for a nice surprise. Don't let the cast such as Cary Elwes or Danny Glover fool you. Saw is as vicious or bloody film as the multiplex theatres would allow you to see.      The premise is actually pretty …
review by . May 15, 2009
Saw is a excellent horror film. I went into the movie theater with pretty low expectations. Great, another lame horror film with a lot of jump cuts and flashing images. The film had those but they were used very well. The direction and acting were all up to par.  The story line's interesting as well because the characters seem real instead of your usual cardboard cut outs.    The film starts off with two guys in a barren wash room, decay is present everywhere and a corpse …
review by . November 13, 2008
With some of the PG-13 tripe coming out as horror nowadays, SAW is a refreshing step back into the good old days where horror meant blood, and blood meant horror. No annoying harpies or pretty pictures of hell or tragically humanized vampires here, just an ingenious killer with an obscure motive.     SAW dives right into the depths of the madness too, opening with our killer's current victims, two men chained on opposite ends of a filthy restroom, a body in the center clutching …
review by . October 23, 2007
Pros: Twisted plot (in more ways than one), get ready for a good scare     Cons: Twisted plot (in more ways than one), get ready for a good scare     The Bottom Line: High-end actors, buckets o'suspense, and plenty of twists to keep your heart rate up.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. I realize, as Halloween creeps closer, that I’ve failed to review SAW II, but I figure before I review that, …
review by . September 13, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
With an unoriginal script full of plot holes, a limited budget, cheesy acting, and a twist (though a cop-out) ending, SAW could have been another washed-up horror movie. Instead, it became the surprise horror hit of 2004, birthed a new killer icon--the Jigsaw Killer, prompted two sequels (so far), earned over $100 million worldwide, and revived the movie career of Cary Elwes.    The film opens in a disgusting, dirty, disused, and probably diseased bathroom with two men, Adam …
review by . June 03, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Saw, starring Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, and Cary Elwes is an intense roller coaster with twists and turns and hairpin curves. Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) wake up, each chained by the leg to a pipe in a filthy old utility room, prisoners of a criminal called Jigsaw who plays with the minds of his victims by devising tortuous games forcing them to choose between the lesser of two evils in order to live.    The movie transcends beyond a classic …
review by . April 04, 2005
Audiences are jaded, especially horror fans, so it's extremely hard in this day and age to make a truly disturbing film on either the visual or plot levels without coming across as trying to hard. This film skates the edge of "trying to hard", and in my opinion falls on the side of genuine. What I like is that this film is stepping in the right direction, away from teen horror flicks and the "I'm a ghost and didn't know it" flicks that seem to dominate the genre. One of this films strengths is that …
review by . February 17, 2005
Grand Guignol! This low budget horror flick falls into that category - stories that are meant to horrify audiences. And it succeeds, on many levels. Written by Director James Wan and actor (in this film) Leigh Whannell, SAW drags us into the darkened sewer where Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) are chained to opposite sides of a filthy room, the centerpiece of which is a corpse recently dead by gunshot suicide. Yet on this corpse is a tape recorder and after some otherworldly …
review by . December 30, 2004
I went to "see saw", simply because I am a huge elwes fan. I haven't always liked every film he's been apart of, but all in all he's very dependable. After reading the reviews of several critics and balancing whether or not I should spend the twenty bucks, I sauntered into the theater with low expectations. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised.    Saw opens with two men in complete darkness. Only their voices are heard, as they figure out a way to turn the lights on. It takes …
About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach ()
Ranked #111
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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About this movie


The first film of the Saw series.

Filmed in 18 days.

Originally rated NC-17 until the filmmakers slightly edited a few scenes in order to receive an R-rating.

Adam (Leigh Whannell) wakes up in a dank room across from Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and the body of a guy who has blown his own brains out. Not a happy place, obviously, and it gets worse when both men realize that they've been chained and pitted against one another by an unseen but apparently omniscient maniac who's screwing with their psyches as payment for past sins. Director James Wan, who concocted this grimy distraction with screenwriter Whannell, has seenSevenand any number of other arty existential-psycho-cat-and-mouse thrillers, so he's providedSawwith a little flash, a little blood, and a lot of ways to distract you from the fact that it doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Wan and Whannell (who's not the most accomplished actor, either) pile on the plot twists, which after some initially novel ideas become increasingly juvenile. Elwes works hard but looks embarrassed, and the estimable Danny Glover suffers as the obsessed detective on the case. The denouement will probably surprise you, but it won't get you back the previous 98 minutes.--Steve Wiecking
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Director: James Wan
Genre: Horror
Release Date: October 29, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Leigh Whannell, James Wan
Runtime: 98 minutes
Studio: Evolution Entertainment, Twisted Pictures, Lions Gate Films
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