DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Saw

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Jan 25, 2005.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]

    Saw


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: Lions Gate
    Year: 2004
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 100 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Audio: DTS 6.1 ES, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Retail Price: $29.98




    The film opens in an abandoned bathroom where two men are chained to opposite sides of the room. Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell) don’t remember how they got in this room but soon Gordon begins to fear this is the work of a serial killer the police have labeled “The Jigsaw Killer”. This serial killer doesn’t actually kill his victims but instead puts them in a life or death situation where in order to live, the victims must kill the other person or instead, kill themselves. Gordon and Adam have just under eight hours to figure a way out of this puzzle before their untimely death occurs.

    I remember reading a review of Wes Craven’s Scream when it was first released and the reviewer, whose name I can’t remember, mentioned that the opening scenes were so intense and it took no time to reach that high level of suspense. Within the opening minutes of Saw I felt the same way because, just like a fast car hitting zero to sixty miles per hours in a few seconds, this film takes off just as fast and is pretty relentless in its scenes of torture. However, the film with its wonderful start and finish is like two great pieces of bread without any fillings in the middle.

    There is so much to admire in this film that I only wish the middle sections were half as brilliant as the rest of the film. The opening scenes have a certain dirty and grungy look to them that sets the film up perfectly. The idea of a serial killer who forces someone to kill themselves is another interesting idea that goes all out. Unlike many other horror films, we’ve actually got smart people thinking out their situations and trying to come up with the best way to live. We’ve also got an incredibly haunting ending that has such a claustrophobic feel that I was automatically reminded of the dinner scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    Another high aspect to the film are the performances by Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell who for most of the film are strapped to a pole. These two are the ones telling the story and it’s up to them to get the viewers drawn into the story and make us want to care whether these men live or die. I was rather shocked at how much development was allowed in the screenplay for the Elwes character to really grow on us. Elwes has many emotional scenes in the film, especially towards the end when he begins to fear he may never see his wife and child again. The actual look of fear in his eyes is quite remarkable and I’d be curious to know how Elwes got himself to that level. Whannell is the more quiet of the two but he too makes for an interesting characters as does Danny Glover who plays a detective trying to track down the killer.

    I mentioned the middle section of the film really doesn’t work and I think it’s mainly due to the fact that the intensity level from the start, once it hits the sixty miles per hour, slams into a brick wall and stops the film cold in its tracks. We get to see some of the serial killers previous victims but this really doesn’t add too much to the story when we’re supposed to be concentrating on the two men in the bathroom. The side story dealing with Elwes personal life isn’t too interesting either but I guess this was somewhat needed in order for the viewing to understand why he was selected to play this game. I think the film would have been better off without all the back story and instead focused on the two men trapped in this game. I personally feel their acting was strong enough that it could have carried the film a lot further than any of the flashbacks did.

    Having said that, the film hits full stride again towards the end with a finale that is downright shocking. I’m not going to give anything away but I wouldn’t mind comparing the ending to this as being just as shocking as the ending to Psycho forty-four years earlier. Not only does the shock ending work but so does the climax to our two characters fate. Again, the feel of dread, torture and pain are so agonizing that I’d rank this higher than what was seen and felt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film certainly isn’t for the faint of heart and I’m sure those with prejudice attitudes towards horror films will be left sickened but hey, that’s the point. Saw gets a marginal recommendation due to the wonderful start, ending and performance by Elwes.


    VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. As with Open Water we could debate the transfer on how ugly or pretty the thing is. Judging a DVD transfer and the actual look of the film is two different things so let’s start off with the actual look of the film. As I mentioned in the review, there’s a very dark and grimy look to this film, which was intended by the director and to my eyes these scenes come off looking very good. The scenes inside the bathroom are very low lit and have a green tint color to them that comes off looking very well. Several of the scenes were shot in a lower focus, which some may say looks like a soft transfer but judging with my eyes, it appears this is how the film is supposed to look and doesn’t reflect badly on the actual transfer. This dirty “look” to the picture is how it’s supposed to look and there’s nothing to complain about here. However, the actual transfer itself has a few minor problems, which really leaves me scratching my head. Thankfully there’s no visible edge enhancement, although minor traces can be seen in a couple brighter scenes but you’re really going to have to strain your eyes to notice this. The one big mystery is how a film made in 2004 has speckles on the print. There aren’t too many speckles but I can remember about six scenes that features one little speckle, which isn’t too annoying but again, this is a film from 2004 so it shouldn’t be there to begin with.

    AUDIO---We get a DTS ES 6.1 track as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX track. I went through both tracks and must say I’m really disappointed in both of them. With such a low budget film you really can’t expect too much action all around but there’s a seriously problem, which to me seems like the sound mixer fell asleep and mixed this track up very badly. Perhaps I shouldn’t say very badly but the big problem with both tracks is the dialogue, which of course stays in the center speaker. The problem is that the dialogue sounds so far in the distance that there were several scenes where I had a hard time understanding what the characters were saying. This was most noticeable during the opening segments when the two men first start talking. I was actually having to strain just to make out everything that was being said. I really don’t think the sound was recorded this way because everything else seems fine. Some of the sound effects from the Surrounds also seem to be a bit too high, which could be the problem with the low sounding dialogue. The dialogue on both tracks clear up after the first fifteen minutes and remain clear the rest of the way. The Surrounds get nice use age throughout but overall this is a fairly quiet track. The music score and a certain scene with a rock song sound the best. The rear speakers are very cleverly used whenever the killer is actually talking to one of the victims. This effect plays nicely throughout the film, especially the opening segment. I really didn’t notice too much of a difference between the tracks but if you have a DTS system then select this option. The clarity is a little more defined in this track and some of the more minor sound effects sound a bit fuller.

    EXTRAS---Up first is an audio commentary with director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell, which fans of the film will certainly enjoy. The two friends are constantly talking going all through the production of the film. The two men talk about early drafts of the screenplay and a few alternate scenes, which never got filmed. They also talk about the actual shooting of the film and how they landed Elwes and Glover. The two appear to be fans of the genre and it’s interesting hearing how they wanted to change a few things as well as stick to some cliché motions. The movie was shot in just 18 days, which leads to some more fun talk about how they were able to do this.

    Sadly it’s pretty much downhill from there. Sawed Off: The Making of Saw runs just over two (yes 2) minutes. This making of featurette features brief interviews with Wan and Whannell is way too short for us to get any real knowledge of the film. Everything mentioned here is covered in better detail in the commentary. Up next is a music video, which is available in rated and unrated versions. I’m not a fan of the song so this here really wasn’t anything too interesting. We’ve also got a making of featurette for the video, which actually runs two minutes longer than the doc about the film. A poster gallery is next and runs for about three minutes. This here just gives us a look at the various promotional material the film used. Finally we get two theatrical trailers and three TV spots.

    As most of you know, the film was cut by two minutes to avoid an NC-17 rating but unfortunately these scenes are not added back into the film and they aren’t included in any of the extras.

    OVERALL---I wrote the movie review section of this around five hours before filling in this overall section. The ending is still stuck in my mind as is the performances so on that level I’ve got no problem recommending this film to horror fans or those wanting a strange trip of a film. If you enjoy the middle sections more than I did then I’m sure you’ll find this one of the better horror films to be released in recent years. The Lions Gate DVD is a bit of a letdown considering we know there’s an NC-17 version of the film out there. The lack of any real extras with the cast makes me think we could see a Special Edition of this sometime in the future. The transfer is good but the audio mix is another letdown so with that in mind, I’d recommend a rental until something better comes along.

    However, if you’re a fan of the film, the film is the most important thing so pick the thing up.


    Release Date: February 15th, 2004
     
  2. Daniel Windsor

    Daniel Windsor Stunt Coordinator

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    The UK DVD is uncut apparently. Looks an interesting film.

    www.amazon.co.uk


    I'll probably just rent it.
     
  3. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

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    What are the chances of a US uncut version coming out at some point? I'd get the UK version but the exchange rate nearly doubles the price right now.

    -paul
     
  4. Elbert Lee

    Elbert Lee Supporting Actor

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    I thought this was a surprise sleeper. There were "horrific", "spooky" and "gory" moments to this horror film that leaves the viewer with a bit of everything. The more emotional moments were cheesy and not done very well at all, which may cause some viewers to laugh. I look forward to this release as a true sleeper that can be viewed several times with different guests as it's sure to be a film that not everyone has seen.
    Elbert
     
  5. Brian.L

    Brian.L Supporting Actor

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    I agree that the emotional moments were pretty bad, though I'd say that's mostly due to Cary Elwes' performance, which is almost shockingly terrible.
     
  6. Elbert Lee

    Elbert Lee Supporting Actor

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    I blame the director for those poorly constructed emotional scenes. SW EP1 is also an example of poor direction even with A List actors (not to start a SW debate here, but just drawing an example) You're right that Elwes is not top talent, but more takes, better editing and a screenplay revisions could have fixed it.
     
  7. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    I absolutely love this film. Its so well constructed, and the ending truly is amazing. I also think the performances are nowhere near as bad as they're made out to be, but hey, that's just me. As I'm sick of LG's cut releases, I'll probably just order the UK disc.
     
  8. Brian.L

    Brian.L Supporting Actor

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    You may have a point there. Watching Portman in the SW movies and then some of her more recent work in Closer or Garden State is quite a contrast. Or it could be that Elwes is just one of those guys who's best when playing a smug hero (Robin Hood:Men In Tights & The Princess Bride, two movies where I think he's great) [​IMG]
     
  9. Mike~Sileck

    Mike~Sileck Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review.

    Unfortunate to hear about the bad sound and lack of deleted scenes. I had read in the thread on Saw prior to it's theatrical release (the one at HTF) that there was going to be an uncut dvd. Maybe that'll be in the future. Sadly, I can't pick up the UK version due to lack of funds and a R2 dvd player (or a pal tv). Looks like I'll be watchin the cut version again.

    Still a great movie in my opinion. You knew going into it the acting would suck but come on? There were plennntyy of scenes to make you jump in this one.

    mike
     
  10. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    The film lost a little on a second go around for me, but I still think that it was the best horror film of 2004. I'll definitely be picking this one up. I really agree with Michael that the largest problem was the middle section. I wasn't as disappointed with Elwes as others seemed to be, but I thought Glover was occasionally laughable. Still a hell of a ride though.
     
  11. Jesse Blough

    Jesse Blough Second Unit

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    Crap, this isn't the uncut version? [​IMG]

    I'm totally going to wait on this. I'm thinking "double-dip".
     
  12. David Dias

    David Dias Stunt Coordinator

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    To me, the ending was absolutely brilliant, I NEVER saw that coming. From the sound of it this DVD sounds a little subpar, with it not being the NC-17 version, audio quality and minimal extras, however I'll be buying it anyway.
     
  13. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Re: NC-17 version

    I didn't see this theatrically so I have no way of knowing if the DVD is cut or what exactly was cut out to begin with. I'm saying it's the R-rated cut because that's what the press release has on it. There's no mention of anything being added back to the film or a mention of any sort of director's cut.

    Re: Elwes

    My two friends watched this with me and they shared the same opinion that he was "bad" in the film. I guess I'm in the minority but I thought his emotional scenes at the end is what started the "terror" in the movie. Perhaps it wasn't so much his performance but the terror look he had in his eyes that caught my attention. Just looking at his face and eyes you could tell the hell that he was going through in those final minutes.
     
  14. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    The MPAA website itself (www.mpaa.org) lists SAW as having been "previously rated NC-17", and it's marked as having been "edited for re-rating". It seems odd that Lion's Gate wouldn't release an uncut DVD, since this is the company that released VULGAR with an NC-17, and they have the NC-17 HIGH TENSION in the pipeline for theatrical release. But then again, THE RULES OF ATTRACTION is cut. Talk about inconsistent policies.

    Vincent
     
  15. Rob Tomlin

    Rob Tomlin Producer

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    Good enough for a rental via Netflix!
     
  16. Jon B NY

    Jon B NY Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't see anywhere on Amazon UK's site stating that this DVD is unrated...can someone absolutely confirm that it indeed is? Because I desperately want it if so.

    Also - someone over at www.houseofjigsaw.com posted an alternate cover of Saw from another region (claiming he had just purchased it)...yet I can't find this DVD on any website...to my knowledge it is a region 4 (but I could be mistaken). Check it out:

    http://www.houseofjigsaw.com/board/a...entid=72&stc=1
     
  17. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    Same with House of 1000 Corpses. Though, I'm not sure if that is LG's fault or Rob Zombie's. I read interviews with him stating that the original cut received an NC-17, then I read him say he was editing together the unrated cut. Finally I heard him say that the reason behind not releasing the unrated cut on DVD was because he hadn't edited it together yet. Strange.

    BTW, I definitely agree with you regarding Elwes, Michael. You're not alone.
     
  18. Daniel Windsor

    Daniel Windsor Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't see anywhere on Amazon UK's site stating that this DVD is unrated

    Why would a foreign country use a censorship system from the USA?

    Especially since we have our own! [​IMG]

    The film is rated "Certificate 18" (those running times may not be accurate and PAL = faster frame rate) as it must have a certificate to be released on video. The reason the film is uncut in the UK is because it has a different distributor and it must be an international sales cut.


    That cover you link to looks like the uncut 103min Region 2 Japan (NTSC) DTS version (due 11 March) or maybe Region 3. It's looks nothing like an Australian Region 4. Or maybe he's got Photoshop.

    Normally I'd say fans should buy immediately but I'd be tempted to wait if I were in the USA for a Region 3 disc.


    Maybe [​IMG]
     
  19. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    I'm also still extremely annoyed at their cutting of Cabin Fever. I've seen the uncut version, and it makes quite a difference in understanding certain sequences. Then there's their upcoming DVD of Tobe Hooper's Toolbox Murders, which is cut and has the cut scenes as extras. As I said before, I'm really sick of LG's cut releases. I'll spring for another region Saw disc and stick with my R2 of Toolbox.
     
  20. Jon B NY

    Jon B NY Stunt Coordinator

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    Anyone know where I can get some more information on the Rs NTSC Japanese DVD or on the Region 3 edition? The more I think about it the more I really am not interested in the Region 1. It's practically begging for a "Special Edition! 2-Disc! Uncut! Unrated! Too Hardcore for Theatres!" edition that'll be released two weeks before the sequal is (which is due out on Halloween).
     

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