STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $26.90
RUNNING TIME: 100 Minutes

On-set preview of Saw 2
Hacking Away at Saw – Behind the Scenes
Exclusive episode of "Full Disclosure Report" – Go inside the real Jigsaw investigation
Alternate storyboard sequence
Jigsaw’s workshop (Build a puppet DVD-ROM)
Saw Director’s art gallery
Saw: Director’s original short film in 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Commentary with director James Wan, writer / actor Leigh Whannell and Cary Elwes
Commentary with producers Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules
Easter eggs

It was a good thing that Adam was chained next to a toilet cause…well…

This little review now marks the fifth time that Saw has been covered by our fine website. Three theatrical takes by the CHUD Tribunal:

Saw Theatrical Review: Dave’s Take

Saw Theatrical Review: Devin’s Take

Saw Theatrical Review: Nick’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Take

As well as a solid disc review by your old pal and mine, Superyam:

Saw DVD Review

"What the hell do you mean I’m contractually obligated to do Twister 2?!!
I got killed by a tornado in that movie!! WTF??!! They’re saying
instead of me dying I got sucked up into Oz???!!!!!" (to be

Now thanks to the industry standards of the double dip and the cross promotion, I’m weighing in a year later on the Saw – Uncut Edition just as the sequel is about to slice its way into theatres. Double dips are nothing new for me. I’ve had plenty of sloppy seconds…but enough about my relationships….

The Flick

If this were a DVD Rack, the way I’d describe Saw is that it’s Se7en meets Cube. People wake up and typically find themselves in a race to save their own lives in Rube Goldberg situations from hell thanks to a serial killer named Jigsaw. Jigsaw’s puzzles often involve complex, customized machinery that’s designed to kill, or live or die scenarios that would have Solomon shitting cinderblocks. In the past, he’s orchestrated one poor (and fat) bastard to find himself in a cage full of razor wire with a deadline to slice himself free or be entombed in a basement. Needless to say, the man ended up like a tenderloin. And in another scenario, there was a man in another dingy basement covered in flammable gel with only a candle for light and the key to his freedom in a safe. The combination was part of thousands of numbers scrolled on a wall and there was oodles of shredded glass on the floor. Crispy critter is the appropriate description for how that one turned out.

Having H.R. Giger design your retainer has its good points and bad ones.

Of course that’s just preamble to how the story opens up. Two strangers, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, not the Hellboy producer) and Adam (writer Leigh Whannell), wake up in an squalid, abandoned bathroom chained to opposite ends of the room. Between them is some poor schmuck who blew his brains out with a gun in his left hand. In his right hand is a mini-tape recorder. As the story develops, Lawrence realizes that they must be the latest intended victims of Jigsaw, and he fills Adam in on the killer’s background as he’s had prior experience with one of his victims. They find envelopes with tapes that give them instructions in order to get out of their situation: Lawrence has to kill Adam or his wife and daughter (Monica Potter and Makenzie Vega) will be slaughtered by a man who appears to be Jigsaw. They also find hacksaws that they quickly dicover are useless against their heavy leg shackles.

Admittedly, the set design needed a little work at first…

As they get to talking to figure a way out of their predicament, the story of how they came to be where they are and how Jigsaw orchestrated similar scenarios in the past come to light. The most heinous is when he kidnapped a young drug addict, Amanda (Shawnee Smith, who looks good in blood by the way), strapped a heavy steel jawbreaking device on her head and told her the only way she would survive is if she cut the key to the device out of the stomach of her "cellmate," who is drugged in a corner of the room. Adding to the fun is the fact that Jigsaw frequently uses a disturbing Killer Clowns-looking puppet named Billy to be his spokesperson. Lawrence was there for the interrogation by Detectives Tapp (Danny Glover) and Sing (Ken Leung). Thanks to evidence found at one of Jigsaw’s crime scenes, Lawrence is an early suspect in the killings. That was about five months prior to Lawrence and Adam’s current quagmire.

The CHUD pop-up ads just keep getting weirder and weirder…

As time ticks away, and more of the story is revealed, we see that the two detectives had managed to track down Jigsaw. But Tapp got his throat cut and Sing became familiar with one of Jigsaw’s booby traps. Tapp survived and then became obsessed with Lawrence, certain that he was Jigsaw. He was drummed off the force because of it and has become an OCD vigilante, staking out Gordon’s apartment, talking to himself and wallpapering his stakeout HQ like John Forbes Nash. Meanwhile, Lawrence and Adam grow more suspicious of each other and it’s discovered that they’re not completely strangers, which only adds to their paranoia.

"Hey Danny, were you ever scared working on Predator 2?"
"Only around Gary Busey."

Eventually, time runs out on Lawrence and Jigsaw is getting ready to off his family because Lawrence didn’t find a way to kill Adam. But Lawrence’s family doesn’t exactly go quietly and Tapp drops in on the proceedings to lend a hand. There then follows an inane chase sequence where Jigsaw – who as it turns out, apppears to be an orderly from Lawrence’s hospital, Zep Hindle (Michael Emerson) – shows up to check on Adam and Lawrence’s situation. But for Lawrence, who was provided a phone by Jigsaw to listen to the goings-on with his family, the situation has become desperate and he has to do more than one desperate act to get out of it, one of which Adam’s not too happy about (I was crying laughing when he did the deed on himself thanks to Elwes’ performance). There’s then a twist ending that was in plain sight the whole time and Jigsaw has himself a few more victims.

Things got really interesting when Adam discovered a mini-version of the jawbreaker gizmo on his nutsack…

The comparisons of Saw to Se7en and Cube are more than just cosmetic. There’s the same air of dread, paranoia and sadism as well as gory endings for participants in the story and a brilliant killer behind it all. The movie is shot in grimy, dreary blues and greens that paint the dark underbelly of the world that Jigsaw likes to play in. Kill or no kill, Jigsaw’s purpose is to instill a perverse morality into his victims, who are frequently imperfect beings to whom Jigsaw is looking to show the folly of their misdeeds in life or let them know that he has deemed them unworthy to live and that they must prove their right to continue to exist in the same world as he.

"Twister 2: The Twizard of Oz???!!! A disaster musical??!!!!! God what was my agent thinking? Still…it could
be good for my career. I mean it’s not like I’ve been in anything truly
cutting edge lately…. Maybe if they get Glenn Close to be the Wicked
Witch of the West… Sure, what the hell? I mean, I did Robin Hood: Men in Tights didn’t I?…." (to be concluded…)

But what Saw ultimately lacks is clarity of storytelling. The most glaring examples of this are when you get flashbacks within flashbacks and the two protagonists who miraculously remember how they came to be where they are not at first but later in the movie when it’s convenient for storytelling yet not realistic. If you had the encounters that these two had with Jigsaw when he abducted them, it’s doubtful you’d take hours to recall it. What also leads the story astray is that Glover’s Det. Tapp just becomes a gun-happy, blithering idiot in the third act whose sole purpose is to give chase to Zep with a conclusion that not only borders on lame, but actually moves into the same neighborhood and sets up residency. Jigsaw’s twist at the end is also a little hard to buy. Not impossible, just tough. And I’ve heard comments in other reviews about Elwes’ acting woes in this film. I’d have to say that to some extent I agree. Glover is just plain wasted and Dina Meyer shows up for a blink-and-miss-it early role as a detective that is forgotten about less than halfway through the story.

Caption A: In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea for King Kong Bundy to agree to that one last cage match…
Caption B: Can those Minnesota Vikings party or what?

Saw is a great premise and story problems aside, I still fairly enjoyed it. Wan is able to paint an ominous picture with Jigsaw and how he works. Some of his failings as a young director are noticeable if you’re looking for them. But to Wan’s credit, he’s very open about what he did wrong in shooting this film and how he needed to improve in certain areas. Chief among these are when he had to use production stills or security footage to fill gaps in the movie and use a double to sub for Det. Sing during his fateful pursuit of Jigsaw. As for this being an uncut edition, it turns out that most of the changes dealt with extra shots of the gore, and changes in the music, dumping much of rock songs du jour for Charlie Clouser’s score. Wan stated in the commentary that he used almost every shot that he did for this film, so if you’re expecting 10 – 20 minutes of extra footage, you’re going to be disappointed. But as it stands, I thought the film was decent, a bit derivative and with room for improvement. I’m waiting to see what the sequel offers.

7.1 out of 10

No one was more surprised than me when the killer turned out to be Joey Ramone…

The Look

The look of this disc is great. Cinematographer David Armstrong painted the picture in a lot of grimy blues and greens that highlight the dinginess of many of the sets, especially the bathroom. The transfer of the disc is crisp and excellent and all of the gore comes through nicely.

8.7 out of 10

"Come on, the third act is in here somewhere…"

The Noise

As good as the look is, the sound is better. It’s offered in 6.1 DTS ES Digital, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. If you’ve got a kick-ass sound system (unlike me), you’re going to get your money’s worth with this thing. Add in the two commentaries and you’ve got a lot to choose from.

9.4 out of 10

Goddamn, that’s sexy.

The Goodies

On-set preview of Saw 2 – This is a three-minute slice of footage of another Jigsaw soon-to-be-victim who’s in a contraption similar to the jawbreaker. This time he’s wearing a death mask, a spring-loaded device with spikes on the inside that’ll close shut on him if he doesn’t cut the key out of his eyesocket. I’m getting the feeling this one’s not going to end well.

"Cary, I’ve always loved y-y-y-."
"Yesterday’s Hero."

Hacking Away at Saw: Behind the Scenes – This is the meat of the special features whereby you get three making-of featurettes that total about 36 minutes. They’re broken down into pre-production (Bone), production (Tendon) and post-production (Skin) and they detail how two guys from Australia came to America and made this imperfect but interesting little fright fest. Cary Elwes, writer / actor Leigh Whannell, director James Wan, Tobin Bell (Jigsaw) and the producers give insights on how the whole thing came together and the limitations they faced with time and budget. I’m kind of annoyed that a pipsqueak like Wan (he’s 28 but he looks like he’s still in middle school) can get this thing put together. But I respect what he and Whannell were able to do with this movie. I’m interested to see what they come up with next.


Exclusive episode of "Full Disclosure Report": Go inside the real Jigsaw investigation – This is a 14-minute faux news piece that details the Jigsaw killings and community reaction to them. You’ve got to admire the effort they put into this here, even if none of the acting in it is going to win an Oscar…or Emmy…or Kid’s Choice Award…

Alternate storyboard sequence – This is a pretty cool two-minute feature where they take James Wan’s original storyboards for the chase sequence at Jigsaw’s workshop where Det. Sing pursues Jigsaw down the corridor. Initially there was to be a bit more shooting and a sequence that ends in a bloody mess thanks to a giant vise. I prefer this type of storyboard presentation than flipping through individual drawings. It’s too bad they didn’t have the time nor budget to do this sequence as it’s presented here.

Reminds me of my wedding night…

Jigsaw’s workshop (Build a puppet DVD-ROM) – A neat little feature where you can create a greeting card by building your own Billy doll and attaching a creepy message and send it to a buddy. I would have done it, but I got too scared.

Director’s art gallery – A four-minute feature similar to the storyboard sequence where they showcase Wan’s original conceptual artwork. Wan’s a pretty good artist and a lot of the stuff he came up with is translated directly to the screen from his drawings. It’s also presented in a video-style where you don’t have to click through the pictures one by one like a moron and lose interest by the fifth drawing.

it looks like this poor bastard blew his brains out with the gun in his
left hand, in actuality he was listening to the new Ashlee Simpson
album on the tape recorder in his right…

Trailers – For other Lions Gate horror flicks such a High Tension, Undead, Desperate Souls, Dark Harvest 2 and the upcoming Saw 2. Several of the trailers are the restricted kind, which is kind of cool. A couple of the movies don’t look like they completely blow either.

: Director’s original short film – A nine-minute short from which the jawbreaker sequence was taken for the theatrical version. This original short is almost shot for shot from the theatrcial version and pretty intense, though nowhere near as gory.

Commentary with director James Wan, writer / actor Leigh Whannell and Cary Elwes –
These three have a lot of fun with the commentary and it’s a gas to listen to. Elwes shows that he has a great sense of humor about the whole thing and they spend half the film cracking each other up. They do, however, have a lot of funny anecdotes and fill in some of the gaps on how this whole thing came to be, the challenges they faced and how they got around Wan’s inexperience in directing with a bit of ingenuity.

Those shaving cuts are a bitch aren’t they?

Commentary with producers Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules –
This commentary isn’t as fun as the other one but it’s pretty boilerplate. They fill in a couple more things about how the film Came together and toss in more production tidbits.

Easter Egg: The Cast and Crew on Billy the Puppet – Some goofing by Wan, Whannell and Elwes and others on Billy, Jigsaw’s puppet in the movie: how he had a bigger trailer than Wan, how he got shots in one take, he’s a big star now, blah blah blah. It’s cliched but harmless. The egg is on the Dissection menu on disc 2 just to the right of the Director’s Art Gallery and is a picture of Billy on his tricycle.

Easter Egg: – There’s another egg on disc 1 on the Sounds menu. It’s the ankle chain in the bottom right corner. Highlight it and you get the address of the website which features character info for Saw 2.

How f**king small are these damned Ipods gonna get?

Easter Egg: See Saw in 60 – a super quickie recap of the entire plot using dolls. What’s scary is that it made more sense than the movie…

There’s a lot of good stuff on this offering, which from what I take it, is lightyears better than what they had on the original disc. All around this is a great DVD.

9.1 out of 10

The Artwork

The artwork kicks ass. It’s a clear case with a packet full of fake blood and a saw blade that floats around in it. You can even take it out and play with it for hours, or use it as a mousepad, although I’d suggest having a light mouse instead of one of those roller kind. Those roller kind suck don’t they? My last one had a drifting problem when I was surfing online porn or playing Castle Wolfenstein for the PC. Those Uber Soldats (Super Soldiers) on that game were deadly but Heinrich turned out to be a pussy, although he did have those freakin’ black ghosts that would take half your life away. That’s not to say that black ghosts are all bad or anything. I got nothing against black ghosts. I’m not some kind of spectral racist or anything. I think it’s great they used black ghosts. Heck, brown ghosts, yellow ghosts, white ghosts, red ghosts, it’s all the same right? Speaking of red, the fake blood on the packaging is red. Is that a coincidence or what?

9.5 out of 10

"What??!!! Uwe Boll is directing Twister 2??!!! No!! No I can’t do it!! I’ll be ruined!! Let me out of here! I’ve gotta talk to my agent!! Somebody help me!! Let me ouuuuuttttt!!" (The End)

Overall: 8.2 out of 10