James Wan popped up back in 2004 as a cult horror film legend, out of nowhere. He took the world by storm, because of a little film he made with a group of buddies on a very small, 1.2 million dollar budget. SAW was a passion project of director James Wan, who had basically done everything in his power to get this film made. It reminds me a bit of how Clive Barker did everything to make Hellraiser into a reality, and just like Hellraiser; SAW went on to become an instant classic!
How to Stream or Download Saw
To stream or to download the film from a digital store, click on the Download button at the end of the review. Consider also having a look at the reviews of other James Wan’s movies such as Dead Silence (2007), Insidious (2010), The Conjuring (2013), or Malignant (2021).
The Movie Review
SAW’s story revolves around two protagonists, a young photographer named Adam Stanheight, and an oncologist named Dr. Lawrence Gordon. The two wake up in an abandoned room, with Adam inside of a dilapidated bathtub while Gordon is across the room.
Both of them have their feet chained to a pipe, which does not bode well. The room also contains the dead body of an apparent suicide victim, who holds a cassette recorder and a revolver. Soon, they are met with the real villain behind this situation, The Jigsaw Killer. He instructs Adam to escape while instructing Dr. Gordon to kill Adam before 6PM in order to save his wife Allison and young daughter Diana from being brutally murdered.
The Jigsaw Killer’s innuendo is to play games with his victims, pushing them to their absolute limit to see the depravity they take part in order to survive.
James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s writing is the main thing that I personally just adore about the original SAW film. It’s a film that is based mainly within one room but manages to do so much inside the limited confines. It is a film that showcases the emotional turmoil of the two characters perfectly. It gives them long sequences of dialogue, long conversations, and moments of pure unfiltered rage and depravity.
The desperation that these two characters are facing is by far the most obvious in the case of Dr. Gordon, as he faces the conflict between killing an innocent person or saving the lives of those he holds dear. It’s a treacherously crafted film, with a very disturbing premise that keeps us on our toes.
It wouldn’t be as good of course, without the incredibly talented James Wan as the director. Wan’s direction for this film is clear cut, it’s supposed to be brutal, horrific, a bit of a tragic tale, and a story of pure desperation. The characters are suffering extremely, both mentally and of course physically.
They are also going through some intense moments of inner conflict as they can’t seem to understand what the point of it all is. Why they in particular were taken, and why the killer wants them to do such acts. There’s an aura of underlying mystery that constantly shrouds our attention, and that aspect just keeps you on your toes as a viewer.
When it comes to making this film as immersive as possible, the performances play a huge part. The characters of Adam and Lawrence Gordon are played wonderfully by writer Leigh Whannell and actor Cary Elwes give the performance of a lifetime. Of course, Leigh Whannell did feel a bit stiff when compared to Cary Elwes, with him not acting the best in some scenes. However, as a first-time actor, he did a splendid job. Cary Elwes was on a whole different level here though, and that is something I can appreciate!
The cinematography wasn’t anything special, neither were most of the visual effects. The practical effects were fantastic, but the shots in the film weren’t. That was due to the very limited budget this film had. The budget constraints affected the film drastically, but somehow in a good way! The way the camerawork is done in an amateurish way makes the SAW seem even more like a snuff film. That’s partly why the film seems so outdated, despite being released in 2004.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, the SAW film franchise got one of the strongest starts in horror history. Sure, the sequels didn’t live up to the hype at all whatsoever, unlike Hellraiser. However, the original film benefitted heavily from having a passionate director, a passionate writer, and a cast of some absolutely wonderful character actors.
SAW is an instant classic because the feeling of dread you see on screen, is elevated to feel realer due to the shoddy camerawork, but combined with some really decent gore and practical effects!