Geek of the Day
Barry the Bachelor
Start your own Cult
""Most people are so ungrateful to be alive, but not you. Not anymore."
The last movie that I saw in a theater was this past Friday night, when I went to see THE INCREDIBLES. While it was a great movie, I found that I was craving something a little more. . . substantial. My old college roomie was feeling the same way, as he had begged a night off from family to go and do something overtly masculine. We've both spent a lot of kid time lately, so we decided to wallow in evil by going to see the film SAW.
Incidentally, you DO need to refer to it as going to see the film SAW. If you simply tell people that you're going to "see SAW," they look at you like you're a dork. Then, you realize that you just told them that, in effect, you're going to a playground and will be getting your jollies by playing with another person on a long, flat surface balanced on a fulcrum. Sounds stupid, I know, but the mind just naturally seems drawn down that particular road.
First, though, come the previews. Last night had all kinds of good horror offerings, including a couple of welcome surprises. THE RING II is coming, and still nobody has destroyed the tape. I'll reserve judgement, if only because I actually got a kick out of the first one. It actually gave me the willies at a couple of points, which is a rare thing. Bobby DeNiro and Dakota Fanning have a new one coming in 2005 out called HIDE AND SEEK. Call it Drop Dead Fred with balls and a meat cleaver. Raimi has a new one coming called BOOGEYMAN. It didn't look that hot, but we could tell from watching SPIDER-MAN 2 that he's feeling that horror itch beginning to come back. Sorry, no Sumatran Rat Monkeys of Skull Island in this one. I think. There was a preview of a flick called HIGH TENSION, which most of us in the theater thought was another TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake. I'm still not sure. Last, but not least, it looks like Rob Zombie is at it again! After House of 1000 Corpses was finally released, Rob has been brought back to make THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. He's brought back several actors from the first to take part in the sequel, which makes the point that no horror flick should end without all of the bad guys being decisively killed. Twice. What's nice is that it looks like his Zombieness has gotten some professional tips. While I liked the grainy, jerky aspects of the first film, I think that Zombie has it in him to become a kickass horror filmmaker. I'm looking forward to this one.
SAW is one of those rare motion pictures that came from out of nowhere and smacked me in the head like a piece of lumber. Who is the director? Some guy named James Wan? Use IMDB.com on the guy and you come up with bupkis. No background, no paying dues as a PA, no idea where he came from or how on earth he managed to get brought on as director of the movie that he wrote. Whatever Wheaties he's been eating, they worked.
The film opens and the scene is set. Two men awaken on opposite sides of a very old, very used restroom. Each has an ankle shackled to thick piping that runs into the walls. There is a corpse of a man on the floor between them, the blood from his head already congealed. There is a pistol by his right hand, a miniature tape recorder by his left. The tapes let them know the state of affairs: the man on the floor is dead because, "When there's that much poison in your blood, there's nothing left to do but shoot yourself." The tape then gives them directions. Larry (Cary Elwes) must find a way to kill Adam (Leigh Whannell) before six o'clock. If he does not, they will both be sealed in the room forever and Larry's wife and daughter will be killed. Larry and Adam cannot reach each other. Then, Adam finds something that might help them: a pair of hacksaws. The catch is that the hacksaws are too dull to cut through either the chains on their ankles or the pipes to which the chains are anchored. The saws are sharp enough for flesh and bone, though. They have six hours to decide and act.
Neither man knows the other, but we come to learn things along the way. It seems that there is a serial killer on the loose, but the catch is that he's not killed anyone. He puts people in a very distasteful situation in which they can do something horrible to remain alive, or they can die. Our game player, you see, feels that people just aren't grateful for the lives they have. He will make them grateful, or they will die.
Throughout the film, though, we know and see that the shiny new clock is counting down.
We are treated to the work of some really sick and creative minds in this movie. One man awakens in the nude while a video is being played. The video lets him know that, in two hours, the room in which he finds himself will be sealed forever. There is a tunnel out of the room, somewhere, and there are two hours in which to find it. The room is filled completely with razor wire.
A junkie wakes up with a reverse bear trap locked onto her head. She's shown a video in which she's told that the trap is attached to a timer that will release at a set time. When the alarm goes, this trap will tear her jaw off. The only key is in the stomach of her dead "cellmate" in the next room. When she stands, the timer starts and she finds the dead cellmate. On his belly is a large question mark. Then, the dead man moves. He's not dead, but the timer is ticking behind her head and there is a knife next to the man on the floor. Can she do it? Is she willing to live that much?
A naked man awakes in a room filled with broken glass. He is covered in some kind of jelly, which the accompanying video tells him is a poison that will kill him in X number of hours. The antidote to the poison is in the safe in the middle of the room. The poison is also highly flamable. The only light in the room is a single candle. The combination to the safe is written very faintly on the walls. Can he trek over the broken glass enough times with the candle to get the combination and the antidote? Will he live, will he burn, or will he bleed out?
This movie honestly contains a level of suspense that has been conspicuously lacking from films in the last several years. We spend the film telling ourselves that we know who the bad guy is, only to change our view a few minutes later. We don't know what is driving this course of events, or why the people chosen to play are involved. As we see all of this pan out very slowly, we find that with every detail revealed come a series of additional questions that need answering. Unlike so much of the crap that is churned out these days, we DON'T know anything. We all know, somehow, that our suspicions are wrong. We don't know what the next two minutes will bring.
The best testament to this film was the reaction of the small crowd who sat around us in the theater. When the credits began to roll, nobody stood up right away. Instead, people sat perfectly still in their seats with their jaws on their chests. We all knew that it was over. We all knew that we'd been wrong. We all knew that we'd seen a truly new kind of evil reasoning at work, and the film was made excellent by that recognition.
There are several good things to come out of this film. Director and screenwriter James Wan delivers one hell of an initial effort, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that other studios are already throwing huge wads of money at him. The screenwriting team of Wan and Whannell (aka Adam) did very well. Like the crew from FINAL DESTINATION, I think that we may see these two at work together again in the near future. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Cary Elwes. He's a charming dude and he's had some good roles, but he's never been what one would think of as a master thespian. In this one, though, there is an evident change in him. He's rounder than usual, and isn't playing the usual semi-cool or super asshole that he normally is. Early in the film he's just another actor. Towards the end, though, we see some real talent in there. It's hard to accurately portray a father who is desperate to get back to protect his wife and child. Elwes manages to pull this off with uncharacteristic elan, and he's risen in my estimation because of it.
I would quickly recommend this film to any fan of intelligent horror. It's thought-provoking, gripping, occasionally fun and delightfully evil. Chris and I were both impressed and glad that we'd chosen to see it on the big screen. It's not Freddy or Jason (or even Ash). This goes beyond SILENCE OF THE LAMBS when it comes to the effect that it can have. It's a good movie, it's good movie making, and is definitely worth paying to see it on the big screen. The simplicity of it is compelling and the ending is a revelation. Check it out.
For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.