Saw (2004)

Rating: B-

Dir: James Wan
Star: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, Monica Potter

Much credit to those who parlayed a $1.3m slasher film into a 2,500-screen theatrical release, for truth be told, this is a straight-to-video piece. While not a bad effort, certainly, it exhibits all the symptoms of an excellent central idea, stretched beyond its abilities. Two men (Elwes and co-writer Whannell) wake up, chained to pipes in a derelict bathroom, with no idea of why they’re there. Through cryptic clues, they have to work out the answers and find a way to escape – it’s like a twisted real-life version of a computer adventure game. Beautifully simple, and if they’d kept to one location and two characters, this would have made for superbly claustrophobic cinema [see 2LDK on for an example].

However, the further this strays, the weaker the plotting gets, particular in Glover’s detective, who has no concept of police procedure. Interrogation technique? Calling backup? Search warrants? Handcuffs? All conveniently forgotten, and the results stretch credulity past the point of breaking, well before a climax which needs to look up “plausible” in the dictionary. Still, both the killer and methods of dispatch are undeniably creepy, and debutant director Wan has put his obvious repeated viewings of Se7en to excellent use. But if it’s rare that more is less in cinema – especially where horror films are concerned (I don’t pay nine bucks to “use my imagination”) – it might just be the case here.