I want to play a game. Here’s what happens if you lose…

There’s a reason Jigsaw is one of the most recognizable faces of horror today.

The debut of the Australian director/screenwriter duo of James Wan and Leigh Whannell, Saw is now considered a classic with a cult following. It begins with two men who wake up in a deserted public bathroom, chained to the lead pipes. Between them is a corpse with a revolver in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. Both men have tapes on them. Adam’s tells him he has to escape. Lawrence’s tells him he has to kill Adam before 6PM or his family would die.

With a budget of only about $1 million and only 18 days of filming, Saw takes advantage of the tense atmosphere created by a game of cat-and-mouse playing out in a closed space. The Jigsaw Killer doesn’t strictly kill his victims, but he does put them in the situations that most of the time results in their deaths. We see his motivation as well as the execution of his little games through flashback, and we notice a moralistic, although disturbing message in them. The Jigsaw Killer chooses bad people on purpose. His victims are the people who don’t appreciate life, so he designs traps that would make them realize that and take life into their own hands.

This often means sacrificing something. The victims who can’t do that are considered “unworthy” of life. Jigsaw’s philosophy is one of strict rules and cold cruelty.

The flashbacks distort the storyline a little but ultimately serve their purpose in maintaining suspense and slowly revealing everything we need to know about the main characters. The first Saw movie does this better than its successors. A lot of the material that “fills the gaps” in the story wasn’t originally intended as an artistic choice, but ended up becoming a recognizable and praised feature of the movie.

The limited setting allows the performances of the main actors to really shine through. Their characters feel a variety of emotions, from confusion to anger to helplessness. Adam is played by the screenwriter, Leigh Whannell, while Lawrence is played by Cary Elwes, who turns out to be the star of the film.

Something that might not be apparent at first is the importance of the sequence with a survivor of Jigsaw’s game, Amanda, played by Shawnee Smith. The flashback with her trapped in a reverse bear trap will chill you to the bone.

From the modern perspective, despite being a classic, Saw is a little crude, although not as much as the rest of its series. Sure, it was original, the twist is satisfying, and the budget didn’t really allow for smoothing out some of the rougher edges, but sometimes it feels less scary and more disgusting. Some loose ends remained to be explained in the following movies, and that’s a little annoying. But hey, for a debut, it’s impressive regardless of its flaws.

Visually, Saw was at first intended to be filmed from a CCTV perspective, and the style kind of shows in the final product. The moody atmosphere, minimalistic setting and suspenseful music create a gritty canvas for the creators of this movie to play with, and the result is something really special and thought-provoking. It’s not often that we see horror villains that aren’t murdering maniacs, but are still frightening enough to keep us up at night.

In the end, it’s only a question of what matters most: one’s own life, the lives of his loved ones, or a body part or two.

IMDb 3.8 /5
3.8 out of 5
Rotten Tomatoes 2.4 /5
2.4 out of 5
Rogue Cinema 4 /5
4 out of 5

Combined average

3.4out of 5

3.4 out of 5
Category Horror

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