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Title: Saw

Director: James Wan

Stars: Leigh Whannell , Cary Elwes , Danny Glover , Ken Leung , Monica Potter , Dina Meyer , Michael Emerson , Makenzie Vega , Tobin Bell

Reviewer: Matt Eccles

Rating (out of 10): 8


Released in the UK in advance of the US, and without the MPAAs misguided cuts (to ensure a US box office-friendly R rating), this unusual, unsettling serial killer/horror flick is a refreshing return to straightforward shocks and scares that, though not unselfconcious, are unburdened by get-out-clauses of irony.

The set-up is simple, yet gripping: a Doctor and a photographer (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannel, who also penned the screenplay) find themselves chained in a grim, dingy bathroom courtesy of a particularly cunning serial murderer known as The Jigsaw Killer. But he is also holding hostage the Doctors wife and daughter, and the family will only be spared and released if the Doctor kills his co-captive before six the next morning.

Meanwhile, flashbacks show us Danny Glover's desperate, unstable cop on the killer's trail, and sub-flashbacks his quarry's warped, ingenious (if convoluted) tasks previous victims had to complete to avoid a grisly death and be freed; it is these scenes, the squeamish be warned, that invariably tug at the intestines.

Holding all this together is rookie James Wan's confident direction, his tight, well-crafted script co-written with Whannell and decent performances, particularly from Elwes as he suffers a series of intense mental and physical torments.

On this film's release, critics’ many comparisons with the menace of Se7en were inevitable, but wholly justified nonetheless; yet Saw somehow manages to add a drop of knowing humour in amongst the sloshings of blood and, assuming its contrived story is bought into, delivers the required relentless tension and delicious gag-reflexes that makes it the best straight-laced American horror film for a good few years.

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