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Saw Trilogy, The
Like it or not, the "Saw" series has been the most influential and successful horror franchise of the past decade. The question is, does the "Saw" series deserve all the fame and fortune? Considering it's a fun, cleverly written twist filled series, I would have to say yes.
"Saw" begins with Adam (Leigh Whannell) waking up in a bathroom along with another man named Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) and a dead body in the middle of the floor. Adam and Gordon are both chained up across the room from each other and can't escape. As the two discover a series of clues, they soon realize that they are the latest victims of Jigsaw. Jigsaw is a notorious serial killer who never actually kills his victims. Instead he sets traps for his victims in which people can either live or die. Through flashbacks we begin to learn more about Jigsaw's reasons for kidnapping the two men. Throughout all of this, the police are desperately trying to track down Jigsaw. Will he be caught? The unrated edition contains very slight amounts of added gore and alternate shots.
"Saw" may be a relatively low budget horror flick with some clunky dialogue, MTV style editing, and hammy acting by Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, and Cary Elwes, but the film essentially revitalized the horror genre. What could have been another tired and formulaic serial killer tale turns out to be a unique horror film complete with a different type of serial killer, deliciously twisted plot surprises, and (more importantly) the story spends time getting to know the characters. Characters aren't pointlessly killed off in this film. There is a method to Jigsaw's madness, which is what makes the character so fascinating. Not since Hannibal Lecter has a killer been so fascinating.
A note for TV geeks: Look for Michael Emerson who plays Ben/Henry from "Lost," as well as Benito Martinez from "The Shield" in the film.
The story begins with Detective Eric Matthews finding Jigsaw and his lair. Just as the police are about to haul Jigsaw to jail, Matthews learns that his son and 7 other people are trapped somewhere playing one of Jigsaw's nasty games. Will Eric be able to save his son? Is there more to Jigsaw's game than meets the eye? Note: The special edition contains two minutes of added gore.
When I first viewed "Saw 2," I can't say I was a fan. I felt it was more or less a rehash of the first film only with more traps and a wimpy father/son story at the center. Upon viewing "Saw 2" for the second time, however, I find myself enjoying it more. "Saw 2" still suffers from being less horror oriented and more action oriented than the first and contains way too many characters whose sole purpose is to die, but the film works primarily because of Jigsaw (played by Tobin Bell). In "Saw," we only get a glimpse of Jigsaw, but here we learn more about his character's background via flashbacks. As an added bonus, we get to find out who Jigsaw's new partner in crime is.
Aside from Tobin Bell, the rest of the cast is fairly solid. Donnie Wahlberg is one of the notable performers here. You really get a sense of his anger and frustration with not only his life, but with Jigsaw's power over him. It's a shame Donnie hasn't been able to achieve the same amount of success that his brother Mark Wahlberg has as he has proven to be a fine actor (see "Band Of Brothers").
The story: Jigsaw and his new apprentice Amanda have set a trap/test for a Doctor and a man named Jeff. Unbeknownst to Amanda, Jeff is actually the Doctor's husband. As it turns out, Jigsaw is using the Doctor and Jeff as a test for Amanda to see if she is capable of replacing him. Will she pass the test or will the game be over for her? The director's cut version contains an added 8 minutes of footage. The highlight of the new footage is a few new scenes that add more depth to Amanda's character.
I may be in the minority here, but I believe "Saw 3" is the best of the series so far. The third installment contains gripping character development for both Jigsaw and his crazy replacement in training Amanda. We get to see a few major flashbacks regarding Amanda's involvement in Jigsaw's games from the first two films that will make fans giddy. The real highlight of "Saw 3" is the truly risqué ending. I won't give away any major spoilers out of respect to those who haven't seen it, but the ending comes as a huge shock considering this franchise is going to continue for at least 6 films. I am certainly going to be shelling out the green to see where the story goes from here because I honestly have no clue what will happen next! Note: "Saw 3" is the nastiest of the series thus far. There are scenes of brain drilling, pig guts, and chained flesh. Not for the faint of heart.
In conclusion, the "Saw" series is arguably one of the best horror franchises since the 80's. Not since "Friday The 13th" and "Nightmare On Elm Street" has there been such a devilishly fun series with a new installment each year. Hopefully, "Saw 4" and future sequels will continue to have creative stories and quality characterization.
Note: The "Saw trilogy" comes in a fantastic 3D box with the puppet's face on the front.
"Saw" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, while "Saw 2" and "Saw 3" are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the locations and atmosphere are meant to come across as nasty and dark, the three films often appear TOO dark to see what a character is doing on screen. Seeing as how the films are going for gritty realism, however, I can forgive this minor issue.
All 3 "Saw" films have English 6.1 Dts Es Digital Audio and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Ex audio tracks. Additionally, the first "Saw" film has an English 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround track. As the dialogue, music score, and sound f/x of the trap noises all sound clear, I can't say I have any complaints with the audio.
Saw Uncut Edition- Disk 1:
* A fun commentary by Leigh Whannell, James Wan, and Cary Elwes. The three joke around and praise everyone involved in the production, talk about improvised scenes, mention shots put back in for the uncut edition, and even discuss Elwes turning down "Critters 3."
* Commentary by producers Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules. This track gives some interesting background information into the film's financing. Basically, the producers took a risk and used their OWN money to make "Saw." It's always great to see folks believing in a person's vision/dream. I'm glad the gamble paid off.
Saw Uncut Edition- Disk 2:
* A nearly 4 minute director's art gallery.
* A 2 ½ minute alternate storyboard sequence of an action sequence in Jigsaw's Workshop.
* "Hacking Away At Saw" (36 minutes) is a behind-the-scenes look at pre-production, production, and post-production work on "Saw." The featurette discusses how the story was written, how it was funded, where it was shot, how stylish editing was done to hide flaws and or gaps, etc.
* "Saw: The Original Short Film" (9 ½ minutes) is the gem of this 2 disk set. The short centers around a police officer talking to a man about being abducted and waking up with a trap on his jaw. Considering it's a low budget short, I have to say it's as equally impressive and creepy as the finished version in the feature length film.
* A weird mock news report about Jigsaw titled "Full Disclosure: Piecing Together Jigsaw" (14 ½ minutes).
* A DVD-ROM game tiled "Jigsaw's Workshop."
* A 3 ½ minute preview of the opening scene from "Saw 2."
* Previews for "High Tension," "Undead," "Desperate Souls," "Dark Harvest 2," "Ghostwatcher 2," and "Saw 2."
Saw 2- Special Edition- Disk 1:
* Previews for "Reservoir Dogs" DVD, "The Descent," "See No Evil," "Ju-On 2," "Saw 2," and "Saw 3."
* A commentary track by Darren Lynn Bousman, David Hackl, Kevin Greutert. This is a laid back and humorous commentary in which the three basically point out how flawed their film is. They mention all the continuity mistakes, slightly rough direction, and even poke fun at the production designer. Worth a listen.
* Commentary by James Wan and Leigh Whannell. This is another amusing commentary track in which writer Leigh Whannell points out films he ripped off ("The Shining"), and talks about the fans, the gore, and the even the bad PhotoShop work done on a photograph seen in the film.
Saw 2- Special Edition- Disk 2:
* "The Scott Tibbs Documentary" (26 minutes) is a completely flat and obnoxious fictional docu done by a fictional rock band member.
* An artsy and amateurish two-minute short film by Darren Lynn Bousman titled "Zombie." Viewers have the option to hear Darren's commentary on the short as well.
* A touching 6 ½ minute tribute to the late Gregg Hoffman (a producer of the first two "Saw" films).
* A 49 ½ minute collection of behind-the-scenes featurettes titled "The Saw Phenomenon," "Conceiving A Sequel," "The Players," "The Sets," "Cinematography," "Sound Design," and "Fun On Set." These 7 featurettes are all very brief and mainly discuss how "Saw 2" got a new director, a bigger budget, and how they gave fans what they wanted to see.
* An interactive Play Me set-top game in which you answer questions.
* "The Story Behind The Story"( 3 ½ minutes) is a quick little featurette in which the writers discuss how the story was inspired by a news story on a creepy criminal.
Note: Viewers have the option to go directly to the extras or they can wander through a 3D Jigsaw Lair and find the extras.
Saw 3 Director's Cut- Disk 1:
* Previews for "Saw 2- Special Edition" DVD, "The Descent," "Chicago Massacre-Richard Speck," "Night Of The Living Dead 3D," and "Captivity."
* A commentary track by Darren Lynn Bousman and J Larose. Right off the bat you can tell Darren is tired of doing commentary tracks. With all the double-dips for "Saw 2" and "Saw 3" (and eventually "Saw 4"), I can't say I blame him. Regardless, Darren lets loose some interesting "Saw 4" tidbits and shares his love of transition shots and Shawnee Smith.
* A commentary track by Leigh Whanell. Leigh talks about the overwhelming fan response to the series, the excitement of buying a Jigsaw action figure, and characters (mainly Amanda and her test).
* Actors Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith also have a commentary track. While the two are sometimes quiet, they seem to be having a good time recalling the fun they have on set with the cast and crew. The two also chat about how the appeal of the "Saw" series is due to strong characters and intricate continuity.
Saw 3 Director's Cut- Disk 2:
* A sneak peek at a scene from "Saw 4." Without giving away too much, the scene involves two men (one with his eyes sown shut, one with his mouth sown up) chained to a machine that is pulling in the chain little by little.
* A text questionnaire in which Darren Lynn Bousman, David Armstrong, Cristy Becker, Tobin Bell, Troy Begnaud, Kevin LeBlanc, James Wan, and Leigh Whannell talk about their favorite scenes, lines, and traps.
* An interactive trivia game titled "Jigsaw's Plan."
* A 14 ½ minute featurette titled "Looking Tortured" in which viewers are given the directions (and materials) needed to re-create four make-up jobs.
* A 3 ½ minute music video titled "Killer Inside Messed Up World Remix."
* "Choose The Death" contains commentary (as well as concept art) on 10 different death scenes from "Saw 2" and "Saw 3." The scenes are as followed: "Kerry's Angel Trap," "Frozen," "Eric In Chains," "Classroom," "The Meat Grinder," "Twisty Tin," "Michael's Trap," "Gus's Gun Trap," "Obi's Oven," and "Hand Trap."
If you already own these 3 particular editions of the 3 "Saw" films, there's no point in picking this set up. If you are a fan of the "Saw" films and want to own them, then by all means run out to the store and buy the "Saw Trilogy" box set before "Saw 4" is released.