Gory doesn’t make for scary in ‘Saw’

    he debut feature for writer/director James Wan, “Saw” tries desperately to put life back into the dead horror genre with loads of perverse visuals and an excellent concept, but fails to be more than promising. The makers of “Saw” apparently noticed that there hasn’t been a good psychological thriller since 1995’s “Seven”; with its dark, grainy look, claustrophobic camera angles and use of a serial killer with a message to tell the world, “Saw” seems influenced by the earlier film.

    With a very intriguing concept for a serial killer flick, “Saw” has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, poor scripting, weird editing and horrendous acting ruin any emotion the movie creates, and occasionally even turns it into an unintentional comedy.

    “Saw” opens with two men, Adam (Leigh Whannell, who also wrote the script) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), awaking in a dark and dingy bathroom, chained at the ankles, with a dead body lying between them. They have no recollection of how they ended up there, but soon discover that they have tapes in their pockets. Using a tape player situated in the dead body’s hand, they discover they are the pawns in a sick game invented by the sinister “Jigsaw,” who tortures his victims into killing themselves.

    The rest of the movie unfolds in a combination of expository flashbacks and scenes where the two main characters sit around and talk through the situation. The flashbacks are both absurd and annoying, breaking the tension the film frantically tries to create, while the moments with the two main characters drag on forever.

    The audience is also introduced to tons of other characters, many of whom are not important, but all of whom fall victim to mediocre acting. It’s hard to determine if the fault lies more in the script or the actual acting itself. Either way, it drags this movie down, dampening some of the more tense moments, especially during the ending, which should have been chilling, but sadly comes across as unnecessary melodrama. Elwes, who is best known as Wesley in “The Princess Bride,” is especially bad, showing why he hasn’t attempted many dramatic performances in recent years. Adding to the list of problems is a plot full of holes and conveniences. For a movie about puzzles, this film sure cheats a lot.

    “Saw” arrives with plenty of gore just in time for Halloween. Sadly, violence is all this movie will give you, and you’ll likely get more frights from a haunted house or any of the “Scream” movies. It’s really a shame though, as the filmmakers seemed to desperately want this to rise above the level of the lame slasher flicks that have plagued the horror genre of late.

    The creative premise and several original and disturbing scenes of torture save this movie at times, and show that the filmmakers began on the right track. In the end, however, all “Saw” adds up to is perhaps five good minutes of material, spread out over a 100-minute film that only gets worse as it nears its disappointing ending.

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