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?
Judging any of the “Saw” movies on the video presentation is a bit tricky as they use some very odd stock and the hues are tinted so much that no color looks natural (unless skin really is supposed to be green and in that case, I give up). The original DVD of “Saw” had a fairly decent transfer but one that had a little bit of grain to it. Ok, that’s fine as I’m sure for a gritty horror movie a little grain was all that was needed. This Blu-ray version does clean up some of the “mess” that the standard DVD’s had, but the underlying concept with all three “Saw” movies is that they’re supposed to look a bit rough around the edges. In this regard, the transfer is a lot sharper than the first two versions of this movie (an unrated cut was released later with a slightly different transfer) but for the most part, they look identical. Seeing them side by side, as I did, really does give you a feel for how much more detail is in the Blu-ray version but honestly, it really won’t matter much. These movies are so stylized that unless you really want to be able to see the writing on the wall (literally), stick with what you have.
Audio: How does it sound?
I can vividly remember when I first put in the standard “Saw” DVD and remembered being very impressed at the sound. For this Blu-ray version, the same Dolby Digital EX track is included as is a DTS-ES mix. There wasn’t a lot of room for improvement from what I can tell, but then again it’s the little things in these new HD mixes that really make the difference. I had given the standard DVD a score of 5 and I stand behind that, the Blu-ray release sounds just as good as its predecessor and obviously excels when you throw in the DTS-ES mix that’s included. Surrounds are present at nearly every scene and some of the sounds are so real that I recall turning my head several times just to make sure Jigsaw wasn’t in the room with me (ok, that’s an exaggeration but you get the point). Suffice it to say that we’re getting the goods here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Well, here’s the deal. “Saw” contains no supplements whatsoever and all we get is the “R” rated version on Blu-ray. Yes, the picture is a bit better as is the sound, but if you’re someone who likes unrated cuts and supplements – look elsewhere. I’m sure that we’ll see another version of this on Blu-ray before long with some of the supplements from the standard DVD’s intact but as for right now, this is all you get.