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Saw

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // June 27, 2006
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted August 7, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:


It seems that every few years a small budget film will come along that
exceeds everyone's wildest expectations at the box office.  These
films often have a different feel from the regular Hollywood product and
have to rely on a strong story and creativity to make up for the lack of
money.  The most recent film like this to take the theaters by storm
is Saw, a horror film that was made for around a million dollars
but went on to gross over $100 million in worldwide (and that's not counting the DVD releases.)  This film is creative and eerie and filled with a good
amount of suspense and mystery.  It's easy to see why it did so well.

The film starts off fast and doesn't let up.  Two men, Dr. Lawrence
Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam (co-writer Leigh Whannell) wake up in an old,
decrepit bathroom, chained by the leg to metal pipes.  Laying on the
floor in between them is a dead man with a gun shot wound to the head. 
The men have no recollection of how they got there or why they are being
held.

Through cassette tapes left in their pockets they find that they are
being held by a serial killer, dubbed the Jigsaw killer by the press. 
This maniac has presented Dr. Gordon with a little problem:  his wife
and child are being held hostage and will be killed in eight hours. 
All he has to do to save their lives is kill Adam, a man that he can't
reach.  It's an interesting problem since he only has a few tools
at his disposal.  There's a key that doesn't seem to unlock anything,
some broken floor tiles, and a hacksaw that he could use to cut off his
own leg in order to be freed.

This film gets a lot of things right.  There are some weaknesses
in the plot, but these fly by unnoticed due to the way the film is constructed. 
Told through a series of flashbacks, the background becomes clearer as
the movie progresses.  As time marches on however the situation in
the room also becomes more dire.  The mystery of who these people
are and why they are in this bathroom really draws the viewers in like
moths to a flame.  The writers also did a great job of doling out
the answers slowly as the film unfolds so that the film doesn't have a
chance to get stale or dull.

There's a lot of suspense in this film, with even the flashbacks being
rather scary in parts.  As each piece of the puzzle gets put into
place, the tension continues to build, ratcheting up to a nail biting edge-of-your-seat
conclusion that is both surprising and well done.

This was a very entertaining and well done film, much better than its
miniscule budget would indicate.  There are a few minor plot flaws
but these don't ruin the film and are hardly noticeable.  The acting
is very good too.  Danny Glover is the only real name in the cast,
he plays a cop who is after the serial killer, and he does a very good
job with his role.  I especially liked the way the officer's character
changes over the course of the film.  The movie really rest on the
performances of the two main characters, and Elwes and Whannell were up
to the task.  Both of them really act like they are trapped in the
lair of a killer, alternating between trying to rationally think through
their predicament and being filled with mind numbing panic.  A very
well done job on both their parts.


The DVD:



 

There are two versions of this film that have been released on SD DVD: 
the theatrical release and a director's cut.  (A few minutes of the
movie had to be cut in order to obtain a "R" rating, and that 'edited'
version was released to theaters.  Those excised segments were then
restored and released on a director's cut DVD.)  This Blu-Ray disc
presents the original theatrical release of the film.

 

Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this
review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into the design,
and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned on which
creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this, or even an official
announcement from Samsung.

Video:

The widescreen color image had some good points, but there were some
problems too.  First the good: the image was sharp and had a great
definition.  The contrast was excellent, with details clear even in
the myriad of dark scenes that filled the movie.  I haven't seen the
standard definition DVD of this film, but reproduction here looked very
good.

Now for the bad part: There's a fair amount of grain in the picture,
but the digital noise is much worse.  The dirty white floor of the
room where Adam and Lawerance are trapped looks like it's moving and the
doctor's blue shirt seems to shimmer on his back.  The grain I can
live with but the noise was a bit distracting.

There are also a couple of spots on the print that was used for the
transfer, something I was surprised to see.  There were only five
or six defects through the entire film, but there shouldn't be any in such
a recent title.  I hate to be nit-picky, but with the cost of the
player and the discs, I think consumers should expect an outstanding product.

There's one more odd thing that I'm not sure is a defect with disc,
it could be a problem with the Samsung player.  In a couple of scenes
where there is fast movement, the image jerks a bit.  It is as if
every other frame was cut out of the film, or someone increased the projection
speed for just a moment.  This gives the characters movements an unnatural
look.  It happens quickly, and in only a few spots.  The first
time I thought I was imagining it, but the second time I played the scene
back again and the defect was repeated.  I checked other reviews,
something I rarely do before writing mine, and other critics have noticed
this too.  I could be a problem with the decoding algorithm of the
player or the disc itself.  It's hard to say.

Update: This jerky effect is only apparent when the DTS audio track is selected. When viewing the film with Dolby Digital sound, that defect isn't present. What and odd thing. Thanks to reader Steve Phillips for pointing this out.

Audio:

The disc offers a 6.1 DTS-ES soundtrack as well as a DD-EX 6.1 mix. 
There isn't an uncompressed PCM mix, but the two tracks that are provided
sound very good.  I screened the film with the DTS track and spot
checked the DD, and was very satisfied with both.  The soundstage
was used frequently, though not always as effectively as it could have
been.  (The scene where Adam hears the puppet talking behind him is
a good example.  They threw the puppet's voice to the front when it
would have been much more startling to have it come from the rear.) 
The music, though sometimes overdone, was reproduced well and comes through
loud and clear.  This was a low budget film, and some of the voices
are a bit hard to make out at times, but this is only when the characters
are whispering or the voice is coming over the phone.  I'm certain
that this is a problem with the master too, and a flaw with the DVD.

Extras:

There are no extras.  I am really getting tired of these bare-bones,
or nearly so, Blu-Ray discs.

Final Thoughts:

This was the first time I had a chance to see this film, and I was pretty
impressed.  The story was engrossing, the suspense was so thick in
parts you could cut it with a knife, and there were enough surprises to
keep viewers guessing.   The Blu-Ray release was a bit of a mixed
bag.  Though the image did look very good for the most part, the excessive
digital noise was a big negative.  The lack of any extras (the director's
commentary that is on the SD DVD would have been nice, and easy, to include)
was also a disappointment.  Even with these flaws I enjoyed this movie
and the disc, so it is recommended.

 

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