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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

Saw 2004 Reviewed

Updated: May 26

Featured Image For Saw 2004 Reviewed.  Movie poster for "Saw" featuring a severed hand in handcuffs, blood splattered around, with a gritty and gruesome visual style.
Brace yourself for a cutthroat game where survival comes at a sharp, painful cost. How much can you endure?

In the shadowy corners of modern horror cinema, there flickers a light so unnerving, so intricately woven into the fabric of psychological terror, that it compels the viewer to gaze, unblinking, into the abyss of human depravity. "Saw," directed by James Wan in 2004, is not merely a film but a harrowing journey into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. This masterful debut by Wan, co-written with Leigh Whannell, not only redefined the contours of horror but also etched the blueprint for what would soon be known, perhaps controversially, as "torture porn."

Key Takeaways From This Film

  • Ingenious and Unique Concept: The premise of "Saw," involving two strangers waking up chained in a mysterious, dilapidated room with a corpse, sets it apart as an original and thought-provoking horror film.

  • Psychological Depth: The film delves into the psychological complexities of its characters, exploring their fears, motivations, and moral dilemmas under extreme stress.

  • Moral Puzzles: "Saw" is renowned for presenting its audience with moral quandaries, challenging viewers to consider what they might do in similarly harrowing situations to survive.

  • Importance of Appreciation for Life: Jigsaw’s twisted ideology—that extreme measures are necessary for his victims to truly value their lives—raises disturbing questions about human nature and the will to live.

  • Minimalist but Effective Setting: The claustrophobic and grim setting enhances the tension and focuses attention on the psychological and physical plight of the characters, demonstrating effective use of a limited setting in storytelling.

  • Impact of Obsession: Characters such as Detective Tapp showcase the dangers of obsession, as his life unravels due to his fixation on catching Jigsaw, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

  • Survival Instincts: The film portrays the raw and primal instincts of its characters as they are pushed to the brink, providing a stark look at human survival instincts in dire situations.

  • Role of Choices and Consequences: Every trap and test in the movie underscores the theme of choices and consequences, emphasizing that every decision, no matter how small, has significant repercussions.

  • Innovative Use of Horror Elements: "Saw" combines traditional horror elements with inventive twists and devices, setting a new bar for future films in the genre with its clever plot twists and the infamous ending twist.

  • Legacy and Influence on Horror Genre: The film spawned a successful franchise and influenced many subsequent horror movies, highlighting its significant impact on the genre with its blend of gore, psychological terror, and intricate storytelling.

Woman with wide eyes and tense expression watching the horror movie Saw.
The fear in her eyes was almost as horrifying as what played out on the screen.

From the very opening scene, "Saw" thrusts its audience into a macabre tableau: two strangers, the calm and cerebral Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and the frenetic photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell), find themselves shackled in a decrepit bathroom, chained to the pipes. Between them lies a corpse holding a blood-stained tape recorder and a handgun, setting the tone for a film that is as much a puzzle as it is a story of survival. This setup, claustrophobic and stark, is emblematic of the film's ability to manipulate space and narrative to create tension that is almost palpable.

James Wan and Leigh Whannell craft a narrative that is as non-linear as the twisted games of the film’s antagonist, the now-notorious serial killer known as "Jigsaw." Played with chilling austerity by Tobin Bell, Jigsaw's philosophy is grotesque yet fascinating—he believes that his elaborate and sadistic traps serve to help his victims appreciate their lives by testing their will to survive. This sadistic moral undertone threads through each of the killer's gruesome contraptions, each one a morbid testament to Jigsaw's twisted logic.

The horror of "Saw" does not solely lie in its explicit scenes of gore and violence, which are indeed plentiful and gruesome, but in its relentless psychological torment. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell deliver performances that are raw and fraught with escalating dread, capturing the essence of men pushed to their absolute limits. Their interaction, rife with suspicion and desperation, mirrors the film's overarching theme of survival at any cost.

Supporting performances by Danny Glover as Detective David Tapp and Ken Leung as Detective Steven Sing add layers of intrigue and urgency to the narrative. Tapp, obsessed with capturing Jigsaw, ultimately becomes ensnared in a game too perilous, highlighting the dangers of obsession and the cost of justice. The film’s use of flashbacks to develop these characters and their motivations enriches the story, providing depth and a grim context to the ongoing carnage.

Elderly woman sits hunched in her chair, eyes wide with terror as she watches the Saw movie.
Even a lifetime of experience couldn't prepare her for this kind of fear.

One Of The Best Horror Movies In The Torture Porn Genre

"Saw" also innovatively employs its modest budget, a testament to the ingenuity of independent filmmakers. The grimy, almost claustrophobic cinematography by David A. Armstrong and the minimalistic but eerie score by Charlie Clouser work in unison to create a suffocating atmosphere of impending doom. The film’s clever plot twists and its infamous twist at the end—where the true nature of Jigsaw’s game is revealed—leave audiences both horrified and exhilarated, pondering the extents of human cruelty and ingenuity.

Yet, it's the philosophical undercurrent that perhaps most distinctively marks "Saw" as a seminal work in horror. It challenges viewers not only to witness the torment of its characters but to contemplate the moral puzzles presented. It asks: What would you do to survive? What sacrifices are permissible under the guise of self-preservation? These questions linger long after the movie ends, as haunting and unspeakable as the puzzles Jigsaw crafts.

The legacy of "Saw" is manifold. It spawned a sequel, "Saw 2," and several more, each delving deeper into the lore of Jigsaw and his complex traps. It influenced a host of imitators and admirers, striving to capture its blend of psychological depth and visceral horror. Critics and horror fans alike may debate the merits of its approach to storytelling and its impact on the genre, but the film's role in shaping modern horror is undeniable.

In conclusion, "Saw" stands as a monumental work in the realm of horror. It is not just a film, but a reflection on the depths of human fear and the complexities of moral quandaries. James Wan’s direction and Leigh Whannell’s narrative craft a disturbing horror masterpiece that continues to resonate with audiences, urging them to look away, yet compelling them to watch. As we dissect "Saw," we find not only a tapestry of terror but a profound commentary on the human condition—a true horror that is as intellectually engaging as it is viscerally disturbing.

And That Is Saw 2004 Reviewed. Another modern horror classic that sparked a successful franchise. 

Stay tuned for more Horror Movie Reviews.

If You Liked Saw You Might Also Like These Films 

  • "Hostel" (2005): Directed by Eli Roth, "Hostel" follows a group of backpackers who are lured to a remote Slovakian hostel under false pretenses, only to find themselves in a sadistic game of torture and survival. Like "Saw," it features graphic violence and a tense atmosphere that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

  • "The Collector" (2009): Directed by Marcus Dunstan, "The Collector" centers around an ex-con who plans to rob a wealthy family's home, only to discover that another criminal has already rigged the house with deadly traps. As he navigates through the house of horrors, he realizes he may have to confront a more sinister force. This film shares "Saw's" focus on elaborate traps and psychological terror.

  • "Cube" (1997): Directed by Vincenzo Natali, "Cube" is a sci-fi horror film that follows a group of strangers who wake up in a maze of deadly, interconnected cubes. As they struggle to escape, they must navigate through various deadly traps and puzzles while uncovering the secrets behind their imprisonment. "Cube" shares "Saw's" theme of characters trapped in a deadly game, though with a more abstract and existential twist.

  • "The Belko Experiment" (2016): Directed by Greg McLean and written by James Gunn, "The Belko Experiment" takes place in a high-rise office building where employees are locked inside and forced to participate in a deadly social experiment. As the situation escalates, they must grapple with moral dilemmas and resort to extreme measures to survive. This film echoes "Saw's" exploration of human nature under extreme circumstances.

  • "Escape Room" (2019): Directed by Adam Robitel, "Escape Room" follows a group of strangers who are invited to participate in an immersive escape room experience. However, they soon realize that the stakes are deadly as they face increasingly dangerous traps and puzzles designed to test their wits and survival instincts. Similar to "Saw," this film combines psychological suspense with intense thrills and a focus on intricate puzzles and traps.

Saw 2004 Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is the movie "Saw" about?

A: "Saw" is a horror/thriller film directed by James Wan, centering around two characters, Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Adam Stanheight, who wake up chained in a decrepit bathroom. They are the latest victims of the notorious serial killer known as "Jigsaw," who is infamous for his elaborate and deadly traps. The film unfolds as a tense psychological game of survival, where the characters must solve puzzles to escape, while also uncovering the connections between them and their captor.

Q: Who are some of the actors in the movie "Saw"?

A: The movie "Saw" features an ensemble cast including Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Leigh Whannell as Adam Stanheight. It also stars actors such as Danny Glover as Detective David Tapp, Monica Potter as Alison Gordon, Michael Emerson as Zep Hindle, Makenzie Vega as Diana Gordon, and Dina Meyer as Detective Allison Kerry. Tobin Bell plays the critical role of John Kramer, also known as "Jigsaw."

Q: What makes "Saw" different from other horror movies?

A: "Saw" stands out in the horror genre for its minimalistic setting combined with complex narrative structure. It is particularly noted for its psychological depth and moral challenges, pushing characters to their limits to survive. The film's unique approach includes a heavy emphasis on the backstory and motivation of its antagonist, Jigsaw, setting it apart with a focus on psychological horror and existential dread rather than supernatural elements.

Q: Is "Saw" a movie worth watching?

A: Many viewers who appreciate horror films with a strong psychological element and ethical dilemmas find "Saw" to be a captivating and thought-provoking film. Its innovative approach to storytelling, combined with intense suspense and intellectual challenges, makes it stand out as a landmark in horror cinema. Critics and fans alike praise it for revitalizing the genre with its raw energy and intricate plot.

Q: How does "Saw" compare to other thriller movies like "Se7en" or "Silence of the Lambs"?

A: "Saw" is often compared to thrillers like "Se7en" and "Silence of the Lambs" due to its dark themes and psychological intensity. While "Se7en" deals with the concept of sin and "Silence of the Lambs" explores the depths of criminal psychology, "Saw" introduces a unique twist with its game-like scenarios and survival tests. The film creates a palpable sense of claustrophobia and impending doom, engaging viewers with its complex narrative and moral questions.

Q: What can viewers expect from the ending of "Saw"?

A: The ending of "Saw" is notorious for its dramatic twist, which has been widely acclaimed for its originality and shock value. It redefines the preceding narrative, challenging the audience's perceptions and leaving them to reconsider everything they have watched. This ending contributes significantly to the film's reputation and has been a topic of discussion among horror enthusiasts for its clever construction and impactful reveal.

Q: Are there any specific scenes in "Saw" that viewers should be aware of?

A: "Saw" is known for its intense and sometimes graphic scenes that are not for the faint-hearted. Viewers should be particularly prepared for scenes that involve extreme psychological and physical torture, including the infamous "reverse bear trap" and the gruesome choice Dr. Gordon faces towards the film’s climax. The film’s stark portrayal of violence and the psychological manipulation of its characters make it a disturbing, yet compelling watch for fans of intense horror and thriller genres.

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