Where does the barrier between grisly and mainstream films begin?
In the new film, Saw, that very aspect is explored so much that for more than half the film you aren't sure what you are witnessing.
Saw's premise begins something like this:
Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) awakens on a decaying bathroom floor. His ankle is handcuffed to one of the bathroom's many pipes. In the centre of the room lies a dead body that seems to have died by apparent suicide. Blood leaks from an open head wound and the victim holds a revolver.
On the other side of the room sits another man named Adam (Leigh Whannell, also the film's co-writer) who seems to be in the same situation as Gordon. On a microcassette, their abductor instructs Gordon to kill Adam or the two men will die and so will Gordon's wife (Monica Potter) and daughter. Other than the microcassette, their abductor has left the men a couple of clues and two badly-worn handsaws that are only strong enough to cut flesh and bone. What are they to do? Who is more desperate? What would you do?
We have seen so many of these grisly horror films, and some of the better-made films have gone on to be critically-acclaimed horror classics which include Se7en and Silence of the Lambs. That is just it â€" Saw isn't even in the same league as those classics.
What Saw has going for it is an unbelievable spine-tingling premise that is horrific unto itself. When the film veers away from the room holding the two men, it loses its momentum and its horrific impact.
The film tries to allow the audience to see what is going on away from the room with a disillusioned detective named Tapp (Danny Glover) and even allows us to see the long, drawn-out history between Tapp and the abductor. Not for one moment do we care and all we want to see is more of what is going on inside the bathroom.
I loved this film's premise and wanted it to slowly uncover the insanity of the situation and its grisly but all too human outcome. I didn't need to see some bloated detective chase down yet another serial killer again. I wanted more psychology and less grime.
I loved the performance of Cary Elwes as the desperate doctor and he is probably the best actor in the piece. This marks two stellar performances for Elwes, who was also incredible in the A&E film The Riverman, where Elwes played infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. If you haven't seen that film, seek it out.
As a premise, I would give this film a perfect score, but in overall execution I give it this... (2 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.