from Film Forum, 11/04/04
Once again, moviegoers are spending their hard-earned money to go into a theatre and watch a sadistic killer torment victims in a spectacular variety of ways. James Wan's film Saw, which stars Danny Glover and Cary Elwes, is clearly appealing to fans of grisly thrillers like Se7en. It's unlikely that the film will appeal to anyone else.
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says Saw "appears to be nothing more than a gory exercise in depravity devoid of any redeeming moral value. But if you look past its severed limbs and shock-value story line, you realize that's exactly what it is. The setup is actually quite intriguing. But any hopes of Hitchcockian suspense are soon dashed by a stomach-churning barrage of stylized sadism parading as entertainment."
Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) says, "In warped fashion, Saw's goriest scenes—from mutilations to amputations—become freeze-frame shots, as if to intimate that treating the subject matter like a crime-scene investigation somehow excuses over-the-top violence and gore. For Wan, detective work as a plot point must mean nothing more than an opportunity to display graphic, up-close depictions of unthinkable cruelty—with lots of obscene language added for full effect."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "Watching a horror film is not my idea of a good time. Not only do I find blood, gore, and the idea of violent death disturbing, the films in the genre are, for the most part, so mindlessly predictable that they becoming boring to me. Saw demonstrates that it is possible to find some freshness in a much overworked genre. [The filmmakers] keep the suspense strong by telling the story largely from the victims' perspectives. We only know as much as they can figure out and the pieces of this particular puzzle appear slowly."
Most mainstream critics wish they hadn't seen Saw.