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Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A
Video/Audio/Extras: B+/A/C+

Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Produced by: Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules
Starring: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Mike Butters, Paul Gutrecht, Michael Emerson
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Rent it

"Hello, Amanda. You don't know me, but I know you. I want to play a game. Here's what happens if you lose. The device you are wearing is hooked into your upper and lower jaws. When the timer in the back goes off, your mouth will be permanently ripped open. Think of it like a reverse bear trap. Here, I'll show you. There is only one key to open the device. It's in the stomach of your dead cellmate. Look around, Amanda and know that I'm not lying. Better hurry up. Live or die. Make your choice."

That quote perfectly sums up what Saw is -- a brutal, unflinching, gory suspense-thriller filled with twists and turns. Grisly horror has always been a cult favorite with its origin found in films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left. As of late, it's been creeping its way into the mainstream and most gore hounds, like myself, are loving it. However, none of the other recent titles have managed to live up to Saw, an independent film shot in eighteen days by two very talented young Australians, James Wan and Leigh Whannell.

Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) wake up in a dirty old bathroom, each of them chained to a pipe at opposite ends of the room. After a little searching, they find that they have become victims of the notorious Jigsaw killer, a very dangerous man who wants to teach his victims to appreciate their lives. They have eight hours to find an escape from this hell. "There are ways to win this hidden all around you," Jigsaw says. Most of the film is spent in the bathroom, but the other half concerns detectives David Tapp (Danny Glover) and Steven Sing (Ken Leung), two men who are extremely close to discovering the true identity of Jigsaw.

Saw is my favorite horror film of recent years. Most of the time nowadays, a horror movie is considered to be some piece of PG-13 garbage like The Fog or When a Stranger Calls. It is for that reason that Saw is such a nice change from the norm and I award the film an "A" for bringing horror back to its roots. Lions Gate released a two-disc uncut edition of the film to coincide with the theatrical release of Saw II (a trend I pray that they don't continue), but this review is for their original DVD release. The anamorphic widescreen video on the disc is pretty good, though there is some grain present. From what I've heard, it's the upgrade in video quality that makes most people purchase the uncut edition (which I haven't). Video gets a "B+." The audio is where the disc really shines, with its Dolby 5.1 and 6.1 DTS ES tracks doing their job very well and making for a very atmospheric viewing experience. A big "A" for audio.

There could have been more extras put onto the disc because what we have here is mostly studio fluff. The first and best extra is an audio commentary by director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell. It's an excellent track with loads of information about the eighteen-day production. Speaking of which, at the end of the track, Whannell suggests that viewers play a drinking game with the commentary on in which we should finish our shots any time Wan mentions that production was completed in only eighteen days. Though I don't think I'll try that, feel free to do so yourself. (I wouldn't recommend driving afterwards.) After that, the extras begin to go downhill.

"Sawed Off" is an extremely brief behind-the-scenes featurette (so brief that it barely constitutes the use of the word "featurette") that consists of Wan and Whannell telling the story of how they came up with the idea for Saw. Up next are rated and unrated versions of Fear Factory's "Bite the Hand That Bleeds You" music video, along with a five-minute featurette on the making of the video (ironically, it's longer than the one for the actual film). Rounding out the disc are three theatrical trailers, two TV spots and a poster gallery, which is actually a video presentation of the various posters with eerie music and sound effects playing in the background. Sadly, I have to give the extras a "C+."

Saw is an excellent film and very much a Se7en meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre affair, but since the two-disc edition doesn't feature the commentary track (it has two different tracks instead), just rent this one and if you like what you see, buy the other.

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