While many classic horror franchises were born in the 20th Century, there are a few terrifying icons that arrived (and thrived) in the 2000s and beyond. A twisted psychological saga filled with drama and gore, the Saw series has managed to deliver nine films over the years. Although the movies have become more complex, the franchise began with a simple tale focused on two men trapped in a bathroom. Released in 2004 and directed by James Wan, the original Saw portrayed a captivating story and successfully earned the right to be known as a horror film for the ages.
Finding themselves chained up with a dead body between them, two men must play a deadly game if they wish to survive. These individuals are played by Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell. The supporting cast includes Donald Glover, Shawnee Smith and Tobin Bell.
For a franchise known for its excessive gore, the original Saw is not the splatter-fest that some might expect. Of course, the film is filled with death and violence but much of it is depicted off-screen. Instead, the movie focuses on a thrilling scenario that is incredibly dark but will no doubt have you on the edge of your seat. As each step of the game unfolds, audiences are offered deeper insight into the characters taking part, ensuring that we care about them throughout. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell perfectly portray flawed individuals that have far more depth than your usual horror film victim.
Taking place in just a few locations, Saw uses its dialogue to keep us engaged. Even during periods when little is happening, the script (written by Leigh Whannell) ensures that we are anticipating the next plot reveal. While the small budget benefited the narrative, it also, unfortunately, hindered it when it came to certain scenes. This picture utilises a lot of quick cuts to convey a frenetic feeling. It may be due to the film’s age, but this element comes across as cheap and unnecessary. It’s true that this technique became a staple of the franchise going forward but its use in the original movie still distracts from what is otherwise a phenomenal picture.
The villain at the core of the film (and the entire series) is the Jigsaw Killer. Although his motives are fleshed out more in sequels, his twisted philosophy on life is loud and clear here as well. For many fans, Jigsaw is the reason that they love these movies. He doesn’t see himself as a murderer and instead claims to be testing his victims in order for them to appreciate life more. As many horror stories feature your typical masked man with a knife, this more psychological approach to a villain is truly refreshing.
An iconic film that birthed an extremely popular franchise, Saw is a thrilling feature that focuses on interesting characters within a terrifying scenario. Whether you love horror or not, this is a movie that can be recommended to all fans of cinema.