Saw (2004)

Director: James Wan

This was on SBS tonight as part of their Wednesday night horror series for October; I’ve been recording some of the others but decided to just watch this as it aired. I remember thinking it was a pretty grotty piece of shit when I first saw it (on DVD, not long after the original release), and I can’t really say I feel any better disposed towards it now… Wan & Whannell were kind of quick to distance their film from the “torture porn” trend that followed in its wake, arguing that it was the rest of the series that really fit that description (which was only applied retrospectively anyway), but this is bullshit, of course; the film is full of it. Maybe not all as physical as later films in the series seems to have turned, but let’s not kid ourselves, torture is what it’s all about… albeit torture dressed up as self-improvement, cos that’s the rationale behind the film’s somewhat singular psycho, Jigsaw; dying as he is, he takes various people he considers don’t appreciate their existence well enough and runs them through various ghastly mechanical traps to see how far they’re willing to go to not get killed by them. This would be all fine and well if Saw gave us any reason to care about Jigsaw’s victims, but our two “heroes” in the body of the film, as played by Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell’s put-on American accent, are frankly a pair of irritating shits; Elwes the doctor having an affair with one of his medical students and Whannell the photographer hired to pursue him by a cop who suspects Elwes of being Jigsaw. Which, of course, he proves not to be, as we find in one of the most idiotic, logic-defying, you-have-got-to-be-fucking-joking climactic twists in film history… if the film had just been irritating up to that point, it suddenly turns actively insulting. I don’t think I’ll be missing much if I don’t give this a third go some time in the future, nor if I never see any of the other films in the series even once.

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