Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Saw (2004)

“I want to play a game…”

I’ll be honest; most of what I’d heard about Saw had been very negative, with the phrase “torture porn” being bandied about a lot. But I wanted to give it a chance, especially as my very lovely girlfriend is a huge fan. And, well, it’s gory, but it isn‘t what I expected at all.

To begin with, there’s absolutely no way that this is a horror film in any way whatsoever; it’s a violent thriller. Chills and suspense do not feature in any way. And the central conceit, of a criminal who torments his victims with “games” where they have to use their wits and their suffering) to survive, is a brilliant concept, though rather evil. Yes, it looks less than lavish, and the American accents from Cary Elwes and creator Leigh Whannell are often arse-clenchingly embarrassing, but I rather enjoyed the film. Which is a good thing, as my girlfriend has brought a lot of DVD’s of Twisted Pictures films to our new home, and no fewer than four of them are still in my backlog of films to review…

The mystery unfolds perfectly, starting out like a rather less glamorous version of The Crystal Maze but expanding to become more and more horrible. There’s also a strong aspect of the police procedural; I’m reminded more of Seven than any slasher movie I’ve seen. It’s gory, yes; very gory. But this film, at least, doesn’t seem to justify the label “torture porn”, although I accept there’s nastiness on show. The more dominant impression I have is of very, very clever plotting. The final montage revealing, we;;, not everything but enough for now, is all the more powerful for consisting mainly of snippets of scenes we’ve already seen, showing us that we had the clues all along.

Best of all is that Jigsaw, with that iconic, nightmare-inducingly ugly puppet, is a bloody brilliant baddie. THAT voice is just perfect, as is the revelation of his identity. Ironically, though, the puppet is a puppet master, having all sorts of effects on all of the other characters, and not just the ones whom he directly manipulates. Danny Glover’s obsessed police detective is every bit as manipulated by him as are the two main protagonists, Most interesting is Amanda, who genuinely seems to think she’s been helped.

Adam and the good doctor are ciphers, perhaps, but effective ones- the impulsive young man driven by id and emotion versus the repressed cold fish driven by duty. There’s a nice role reversal as Adam becomes increasingly logical and the doctor slowly loses it to the point of sawing his own leg off. This may not be the most three-dimensional kind of character development, but it’s enough to add depth to the film and ensure that there’s more to it than gore and clever plotting.

So… I liked the first film. What of the second…?

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