Celie and her younger sister Nettie are being raised by an abusive father in southern USA, near the start of the 20th Century. They have just lost their mother, and so far their father has taken the two children he raped into Celie and killed them in the woods. Now, though, their father’s eye has begun to wander onto the blossoming Nettie, so Celie is married off to a widowed man who needs a wife to take care of his house and his three unruly children. This new man turns out to be just as bad as Celie’s father, and it doesn’t help when he spends all his time pining for a lost love, in the form of Shug Avery.
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
Say what you will about Roland Emmerich, and many have and I’m sure many more will, but the man knows how to abuse a landscape. Given that within his back catalogue, the guy’s unleashed a giant reptile around New York, had aliens destroy all the major cities of the world and frozen the entire northern hemisphere, you’d think he’d be looking for something new, to stretch his horizon a little beyond the tedium of landscape desecration. Well now it looks like he may be doing just that, but before he goes, he wants to make sure he’s remembered for the disaster movie to end all disaster movies. So, in 2012, which historical landmarks are being reduced to so much dust in the wind? The Washington monument? The Sistine chapel? Christ the Redeemer? If you answered d) All of the above, congratulations, you’re correct, as Emmerich has had enough of humanity, and is blowing all of civilisation sky high. He even has a pop at Mount Everest, and we didn’t even build that.