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Saw (2004)

'Saw' is a 2004 horror movie that came out in the beginning of the newly founded "torture porn" era, and in many ways was vital to the success of the sub-genre. And whilst the franchise itself would go on to spawn countless convoluted and illogical sequels, there is no denying that the first installment was a record-breaking success, making a $104 million at the box office from a $1 million budget. This is not only a franchise that would change the direction of horror for many years to come, but one that would go on to dominate cinema screen every October for the next 7 years.


Directed by James Wan in his feature directorial debut, 'Saw' developed its own stylised brand of very fast-paced editing combined with a heavy Nu metal soundtrack. This is a technique that would go on to be a staple of every horror movie of the 2000 era. And whilst this fast choppy pacing and flashing onscreen montage shots give off an erratic scenes of urgency that makes us as an audience feel very uncomfortable, for me this style of film making is something upon a rewatch, I do not feel holds up well today. That's not to say I can't appreciate its impact upon the time of its release and its association with this franchise as a whole, I just feel its over use in the years that follow made this quickly become an annoyance more than anything else.


The cast mainly consists of the two main characters that are the focus of jigsaws trap in this installment, Dr Lawrence Gordon played by Cary Elwes and Adam played by Leigh Whannell. These two actors do a capable enough job of carrying this movie through to the finish line, but if I'm being perfectly honest I found their performances to be more on the amateur side than anything else. Especially that of Elwes, who we all know is a talented actor. We also have Danny Glover in a smaller role as the detective hot in pursuit of the Jigsaw Killer. Glover is a well seasoned actor at the time of this movies release and his no difficulties showcasing that.


One of saws most memorable attributes is is clever use of story telling and its plot twist ending that has gone on to be one of the greatest reveals in horror history. Whannell's excellent writing provides a constant sense of suspicion that regularly rotates between the two lead characters, one that has you second guessing every single word of dialogue that they say to one another throughout. I know in later movies it is clear who the antagonist of these movies is, however, the first time around we have limited exposition to anything and we are just as in the dark with this plot as everyone else involved.


Being branded as the movie that birthed the "torture porn" subgenre, it would be difficult for me not to touch upon the use of effects here in this movie. And I must say, given the limited budget at their disposal, they look phenomenal. Due to the utilisation of flashbacks we have various creative and blood soaked Jigsaw traps showcased throughout. Again, credit to Whannell's writing, this inventiveness paves the way for some fantastic practical effects works that holds up very well nearly 20 years later. Although rather tame in comparison to some of the movies that follow, 'Saw' is still as violent and as gore filled as I remember it being, yet not the driving force behind its storytelling.


Overall, there is no denying 'Saw' changed the way horror movies were made and is a pivotal point in horror history. Showcasing some incredibly creative writing and some unique direction that catapulted Wan and Whannell into the big leagues of Hollywood overnight. However, with that in mind, I do feel this movie has dated substantially since the 20 years of its release. This is possibly more so because of the over saturated sequels that followed its legacy, utilising the same formula and story telling than the actual movie itself.


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