The movies of James Wan, part I – Saw (2004)

Regarded by many as the best horror director working today, James Wan (27 February 1977) went on also screenwriting and producing many of his movie as well as various flicks connected to his works, such as the Saw and Insidious sequels.

Being able to revitalise several horror clichés, such as tiresome jump-scares and redundant possession-driven plots, Mr. Wan is surrounded by a claque of die-hard fans.

Independently from the single person’s opinion, throughout the last 15 years or so James Wan has had a strong impact of both the independent horror market and the public discussions on the genre. Because of his impact, I decided to analyse and review his movie from the perspective of a neutral horror-lover and passionate moviegoer. I hope you will enjoy this new series.

*Check my previous series on here and here*

Saw (2004) is the movie that set Wan to the Olympus of horror cinema directors and gave birth to the second highest grossing horror franchise in movie history – only behind the Friday the 13th films by a margin of $10 million. Also, alongside with Leigh Whannell – who went on writing and producing nearly all the Wan’s movies – Mr. Wan has been working on the synopsis of Saw for almost 10 years.

Beyond the technical aspects, indeed the passion behind Saw is clear, almost tangible. Most of the horror fans have noticed it, since this film is considered as a masterpiece among them; however, the critics have drastically scaled it down and given it quite mediocre grades.

As per usual, though, I am not quite apt to be convinced by others’ opinion and I try to be unbiased as much as possible in my reviews.

That’s why, even from a technical standpoint, I’d say Saw looks carefully made, with great attention to the locations, smart utilisation of colours and tones, spot on and subtle soundtrack. The production values, although not perfect, are astounding considering the small budget Wan and Whannell had on their disposal.

saw-1-01Assuming that everybody knows the plot, I am going to explain it very briefly: two men awoke in a dirty, desolated bathroom. They are chained to the furniture and nearby a dead body with its head smashed. While they are figuring out a way to escape from this nightmare, Jigsaw – the villain – talks to them through a creepy doll, telling them what to do and explaining his motivations. In the meantime, a police squad led by Danny Glover is trying to solve the mystery surrounding tons of gory and nasty deaths which occurred in the area and that eventually will lead to save the two trapped men and reveal Jigsaw’s identity.

Despite its alleged originality, Saw clearly has its ancestor in Cube (1997) in regards to tone and plot. However, James Wan’s first film is executed in such a mature and convincing way that it is tough not to praise him for what he has achieved. The twist at the end, which I am not going to spoil, although probably everybody has seen it, is amazing and totally unexpected.

jeff-tapp-singUltimately, even though most of the people seem to enjoy this movie for its gory element and the complexity of the tortures, the great extra value of Saw consists of utilising them as accessary to the movie, not as necessary. Whereas the sequels did the exact same opposite, which is the main reason why I simply cannot even stand their existence and, thus, their success.

Nevertheless, this film has a couple of flaws, namely the acting, which is really amateur and unconvincing, beyond the performances provided by Danny Glover and Tobin Bell, who was born to be Jigsaw, honestly.

Yet, a couple of gory scenes are a bit damaged by the improper camera movements and they would have been highly more effective if filmed in a more static way.

Overall, Saw is quite a cult, a film able to combine the expectation of soft and hard core horror fans altogether, filled with interesting ideas and seeds typical of a well-done thriller, featuring an astounding plot twist. For those of you who have not check it out yet, go see it now. Cheers!