Posted October 24, 2017
James Wan has proven himself to be one of the best horror directors out there with The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2. But his first feature film, Saw, is almost always overlooked. I think the reason for this is that people hear the title and automatically assume that it is a grotesquely violent movie like its sequels. But this one avoids using too much violence and leaves quite a bit up to the imagination. It’s a really well-thought-out, exciting, and intelligent movie. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that this is one of the greatest low-budget horror films of all time.
Look, there’s no denying that the Saw sequels are bad movies. I’d actually be shocked if the new sequel Jigsaw, which is the eighth movie in the franchise, was legitimately good. The sequels may be incredibly entertaining as fun, gross-out Halloween guilty pleasure films, but the writing and acting are generally both terrible in each sequel. But this one is so far beyond a mindless guilty pleasure movie.
Saw’s story is absolutely awesome. The movie unravels the Jigsaw killer’s motivations without beating the audience over the head with them or making them too obvious. The idea of a serial killer doing horrible things based on what they believe is right has been a terrifying story element in many previous movies. Saw, despite clearly homaging classic thriller movies like Seven, still feels like an extremely unique and clever vision that stands on its own. The fact that Jigsaw makes victims hurt themselves or others may be an even more terrifying prospect than him just doing it himself. The traps that Jigsaw sets for his victims are truly terrifying, but it’s not because of an excessive amount of gore. There is some violence, of course, but it is often shown off-screen or isn’t shown up close. That is something that the Saw sequels did that made them feel like they were just trying to gross out the audience rather than having them be engaged in the story. The scene involving Amanda is truly one of the best scenes in the history of horror because of how psychologically disturbing it is. Would you be willing to kill an innocent person to save your own life? Saw makes you ask questions like this that will make your stomach churn. I also have to mention Billy the Puppet, who is, in my opinion, the greatest horror movie puppet ever put to screen. The way he seemingly operates by himself makes him feel alive despite the fact that the viewer knows that it’s just a puppet. The design of Billy has become incredibly iconic and, whenever he is in a scene in this movie, he adds a lot to the atmosphere. Seeing the main characters, Adam and Dr. Gordon, trying to figure out how to escape their trap is incredibly thrilling as well. But it’s not just because it’s well directed and involves creepy and disturbing tasks; the characters have a ton of personality and are actually quite deep. Upon rewatch, I realized how little I appreciated the character writing in this film during previous viewings. Also, the twist at the end of this movie is still one of the great movie twists of all time. If you’ve never seen the movie before, you will be caught completely off-guard.
The movie’s not perfect, though. Some of the line delivery is bad on occasion and I feel like overall the acting left a bit to be desired. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of good acting in this movie. But I feel like having truly excellent performances could have elevated this movie to yet another level. Also, I would have liked the storyline involving Detective Tapp, played by Donald Glover, to have been stronger. It was entertaining, but it felt like the most cliché element of this movie and they could have gone a little deeper with that.
Overall, Saw is a must-watch around Halloween time. It is one of the best horror films ever made and I highly suggest that you check it out if you’ve never seen it before. It’s an extremely riveting ride from start to finish.