Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.


For months now I've used Saw as a default "violence-for-violence sake movie" whenever I need to cite one quickly, dumping it into the category of gore pour la gore.

My interest was pinched, however, when my two workmates - young, female horror addicts - sneered at Hostel. One said "I could never watch that!" As I seemed so interested in film, they kindly offered to lend me a copy of “best film ever” Saw.


I'm sure I've made my stance on horror films quite clear. Don’t like em one bit. Not for some sneery film buff “Hitchcock was scarier” way – I’m an unashamed chicken. But within a few minutes of seeing Saw, I realised it wasn’t really what I’d call horror at all…

What we have here is a case of reputation overrunning what it actually is. Saw is not goreno (gore+porn=gorenography). You are not invited to enjoy the bloodletting. And there's not as much of that as you've been lead to believe. What we have here is the results of putting Se7en and Reservoir Dogs in a blender.

You think I'm joking? Well, admittedly I haven't seen Se7en. And I have been sneaking Dogs into my posts as often as possible. But I defy you to watch this next to Tideland and see which one strikes you as creepier. If I see a horror film, I expect to be scared – Saw was icky at times, but it didn’t really b0ther with terror.

No, this film succeeds because you’ve got two characters chained up opposite sides of the room, a body in the middle and the unspoken promise that eventually, somebody may just have to saw their own foot off. It’s like cracking a joke ten minutes in and making us wait two hours for the punchline.

Predictably, I loved it best when it was in Dogs territory – all that character tension which arose as our heroes tried to work out how they got there and how to get out.

In between, they show character flashbacks and real-time views of what’s going on outside. These are the weaker parts of the film – they detract from the tension of the bathroom stuff, and are relentlessly predictable. Serial killer dens, dedicated detectives, crime scenes and investigations. We’ve seen it all before, to the extent that I wasn’t particularly concerned for the fate of the kidnapped wife and child. Once you’ve seen a pair of hostages weeping and sobbing, you’ve seen them all…it would have been far more interesting if they dispatched with all the Se7en wannabeing, and concentrated on the central premise. Made the six hour deadline for our hapless heroes into a one hour deadline – virtually realtime and far more pressing. I find it hard to believe they frittered away six hours of reminiscing without coming up with any decent plans. Or playing I Spy.

Saw is far from perfect. It doesn’t ever really generate any fear, just revulsion – and there’s not enough of that to entertain true gorehounds. Its main problem is spending too long on the most feeble part of the story, instead of revelling in its uniqueness and treating the bathroom as a stage for minimalist psychological drama. Filmed in order and not rehearsed beforehand, these scenes have great raw emotional power which occasionally overleaps the uninventiveness of the script.

As soon as you reveal your secrets, the interest dies. Saw surrenders far too quickly – we never get long to wonder what is going on. The characters, the situation soon becomes very clear. Even though Jigsaw’s motivation is what makes him unusual, his true identity is revealed far too soon. OK, I know what you’re thinking: yes, Michael Emerson isn’t really the killer. But you think he is, and the payoff isn’t worth the resulting lack of suspense in the second half. Much of the threat dissipates at this point – he isn’t scary, just generic. My directorial instincts started screaming “you can’t do this!!!!!”. What were they thinking?!

In fact, I could point out flaws all day. What was the point of Danny Glover’s character? Why did Jigsaw need a massive countdown timer when a stopwatch or computer widget would have served as well? Who reckoned that forcing people to kill would make them appreciate life? The characters soon felt old and repetitive (Adam PANICS while Lawrence is CALM; though there are later character moments which more than make up for it.) The fun twist felt like it’d been tacked on more by contractual demand.

Yet having said all that, and picked it up for virtually every cinematic trick going, I do recommend it. If merely for the penultimate scene. The grungy feel is great, it’s nice to know what everyone else is talking about, and the opening few minutes are a lesson in how to start a good film.

What I did think was “this isn’t sequel material”. How many times can you repeat the set up, merely making the tasks more extreme? I was very fond of this film, yet I might not bother with the sequels. My theory for why Saw has such a foul reputation: the sequels wade deeper into goreno territory, and give it a name for excessive yuck. Take the gore out of this and…well, what gore? I was watching the uncut version and there was nothing too out of line Nothing I’d want to show children, but still. Yes it was twisted, yes it was grim, yet I’d be disappointed if I’d seen it for that alone. This is not the film you’ve been warned about. If my colleagues are right, then that would be Hostel


Rob said...

I haven't actually seen Saw, though it caused some buzz here because the two guys couldn't get it made in Australia, and it became such a hit. So everyone was a tad ticked off at the Australian Film Commission because they keep funding crap which makes no money.

I had a similar problem with Das Experiment, in that any tension was broken when it left the experimental block. It would cut back to the protagonist's girlfriend just kind of hanging around in his apartment. She was annoying, but also those sections were terrible, particularly when compared to the "experiment" parts.

It brought the film down as a whole, which is disappointing because it could have been great.

BC said...

Thought you might like to know that Score-Stream is back (formerly Movie-Stream) at

Ninquelosse said...

Rob - "keep funding crap which makes no money." oooh, that sounds exacly like the British equivalent. As for Das Ex, my point exactly. Makes me wonder what they were thinking. (to me at least) it's obvious that leaving the environent will kill the tension,

BC - amazing, thank you for telling me. I've really missed the site.

friend 2 said...

I disagree.. there was some real tension/fear at times, judging by the bruises on mine and friend X's hands. but here, watch this: it's only 2 mins long, go on...

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