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Starring Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Michael Emerson, Tobin Bell, Ken Leung, Makenzie Vega, Shawnee Smith, Dina Meyer, Benito Martinez and Leigh Whannell
Screenplay by Leigh Whannell
Based on a story by James Wan & Leigh Whannell
Directed by James Wan

IN SHORT: Scarier than, and much more stomach turning, than Blair Witch Project. Leave your stomach at home. [Rated R for strong grisly violence and language. 100 minutes]

Of all the kinds of movies that now fall into the horror category there are those that make their bones by slice 'n' dice-ing until your stomach turns inside out. Then there are some that will give you agita while you wait for the inevitable slice 'n' dice to turn your stomach inside out moment. Finally, there are the old classics which will make you swear up and down that you saw incredibly horrific stuff when you really never did.

Saw falls into the middle category. While it pretty much avoids the usual blood letting of the standard slice 'n' dice flick, it keeps you so close to the edge of losing your lunch violence that only a major misstep at its end undermines it as a potential classic, in our book. That won't keep it from make a pile of money, as we haven't seen advance buzz of the kind Saw is generating since The Blair Witch Project. We put this in plain language, as we always do: Blair Witch, as you can look up in the archives, was junk. Saw, for 95% of its run time, is a much scarier (and just as repulsive) movie.

It's a fairly simple premise: Two men, a photographer called Adam (Leigh Whannell) and oncologist Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), wake up in a large, dingy bathroom. Both are chained to pipes in the wall, at opposite sides of the room. Neither know the other, and in between them is the corpse of a man who has shot himself in the head. He's got the gun in one hand and a microcassette machine in the other. Each man has an envelope in his pocket, with a cassette that contains "instructions" -- Lawrence is to kill Adam before 6 o'clock or his wife and kid will be murdered, for example, and Adam is given a clue to the location of the "saw" of the title -- that set most of the film in motion. Moving in parallel is a story of two detectives (Danny Glover and Ken Leung), both on the trail of the so-called jigsaw killer that is responsible for all the murders in the film. Two of those are seen in flashback, a third directly involves the detectives, and we're not going to say anything about any of 'em other than some very sick and twisted mind came up with all of 'em! Ditto the appearance of the maniac behind all the killings, who wears a mask that looks like a muppet designed by an acid head.

We're deliberately leaving out any mention of various bit players because any comment we make will wreck the experience of viewers who like to guess who done it -- those determined to do so will guess wrong. It is the need to drop the big surprise on (our) heads which is the downfall of Saw. When push comes to shove and the identity of the maniac killer is revealed for all to see, either the back story behind his/her reason for killing to the viewer, makes sense or it doesn't. In the case of Saw, for us, the latter is the case. That being said, until you get to the point where it all falls apart, Saw is a fine edge of the seat stomach turner. While the body count is fairly low, some of the violence built into the script is mind boggling sick. But that's just us. Horror geeks will love it.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Saw, he would have paid . . .


dateflick level; a rating offered with the following warning: you've got to really be in the mood to squirm in you seat. Between the violence real and implied, you may squirm and/or giggle -- nervously -- if the film hits the mark in your audience. If it doesn't hit the mark, there will be flat out laughter in the house. There was in ours, though we didn't suffer from the kind of disconnect that would have us giggling. Gagging, yes. Giggling, no.

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