What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie is the stuff of nightmares, even if the inured horror aficionado might not find it scary. The images of torture and death are brutal and explicit, lingering in mind long after the movie ends. There are multiple on-screen deaths, a child's life is threatened, characters die, a father is forced to make terrible decisions to protect his family, and there are no scenes free of peril. There are references to suicide, adultery, drug addiction, madness, and self-mutilation. There is strong language, and characters smoke. Underlying the killer's motive is the notion that everyone deserves to be tortured and that there are no innocents.
What's the story?
A serial killer traps a doctor (Cary Elwes) and a voyeuristic photographer (Leigh Whannell) in a windowless room with a corpse. Together with the clues that they have been given, including a mini-cassette player, photographs and two small saws, they seek to solve the riddle and escape.
Is it any good?
A thoroughly intriguing if ghoulish premise, some original nightmarish images, and a young director eager to show off his talents make SAW atmospheric and intense. However, the whole thing gets caught in the razor wire of shoddy acting, a sociopath who makes you go "huh?", a lack of engaging characters, and a morass of internally inconsistent details. The bitter taste in your mouth when it's over will not be fear, but instead will be disappointment, that what could have been a smart, original horror-fest turned into such an uneven wannabe.
Wan and Whannell clearly have been influenced by modern horror stalwarts like Seven, 28 Days Later, and The Ring, which results in a stilted form of brinksmanship where the end game is the most memorable gruesome image. Tying the scenes together, much less ending the movie with a tight little knot, is beyond their story-spinning ken this time. However, they deserve recognition for aiming high and for providing an engaging if ultimately disappointing ride.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the killer's motivation, whether the deaths are consistent with that motive, and what the characters might have done differently. They also might wish to talk about the resonance (or lack thereof) of movies where characters face death and re-evaluate their lives and priorities. Do Lawrence or Adam become more appealing characters as you know them better and as their fate looks bleaker? Do their choices become clearer as they reassess their priorities? What do you think the "right" life would be like so as not to attract the killer's attention?