Launching a new sub-genre, in this case the US branch of torture porn, is a difficult task, but can pay off in spades if done well. James Wan, writer/director of Saw, knows this, for although on the surface his creation looks like just another horror franchise kick-starter, scratch the skin and you’ll find an intelligent, tightly plotted thriller that just happens to be sick and grotesque enough to stay with you for days, if not years later.
A serial killer going by the nickname Jigsaw has been trapping people who he deems worthy of needing to re-evaluate their lives. His traps are deadly, but can be survived if the victims are willing to suffer physical and mental scarring, and abide by his rules. Awakening in a disgusting, windowless bathroom, Dr. Gordon and Adam (Cary Elwes and fellow writer Leigh Whannell) find themselves in such a predicament, each chained by the leg to opposite corners of the room, equipped with a tape recorder, a gun, a saw apiece and a corpse in a pool of blood, with the only way out looking to be losing a foot. Meanwhile, cops Danny Glover and Ken Leung are closing in on the criminal mastermind. The plot remains just on the right side of ingenious, with some of the best twists seen in horror, and the psychological scares do greater work on the psyche than any sudden jumps although a couple are thrown in to please those unable to fully grasp a new kind of horror film.
The sequels took a great premise too far, making the plot far too convoluted and the reasons for participants being tested too obscure and mundane – undoubtedly Jigsaw would find me worthy of testing for spending too much time watching films – so go no further along the Saw blade than this fresh cut.
Choose film 7/10