(2004) dir. James Wan
Saw starts off promisingly enough. Two characters awake to find themselves shackled in a dark disused basement bathroom with a bloody body lying in the middle of the room between them. They spend the first half of the movie reconstructing how they got there (They were kidnapped but don’t remember the kidnap well). It reminded me of a similar transposition of random characters in a situation in which they have to suss out where they are and what is going on in Cube (1997)
This technique works to set an immediate mystery (and it works), engaging the audience right off the bat. There is, however, a lot of pretense in it, because the situation is so bizarre that it seems more hypothetical than real. It is, after all, the pretense of the movie, is it not?
I felt that the film weakened as it strayed from this perspective, focussing on the prisoners and their unravelling of the mystery as their desperation grows. Because there is this parallel story of the cops who are trying to catch the kidnapper/killer that is outside of this room, outside of this closed world of information, which is also done a lot in flashbacks, but it is a separate narrative trail, if you will.
All in all, Saw was above average as a thriller largely due to creativity. A friend of mine remarked that the film’s cleverness and twists at the end were not necessarily predictable, but that you could see what the filmmaker was trying to do, leading one through by the nose. While, I can see that, I wouldn’t say that that was any more criminal than most Hollywood flicks. Even if you know a surprise is coming, it can still be effective if you don’t know what it is.