Dr Lawrence Gordon (Carl Elwes, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE; BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA) and Adam (Leigh Whannell, THE MATRIX RELOADED) awake in a filthy, disused public bathroom. Both main are chained by the ankle - Gordon to a radiator, Adam to a sink. Neither has any recollection of how they may have got there.

Betweem them (and just out of each other's reach) lies a corpse, covered in blood and clutching a tape recorder. The men discover cassettes upon their person, and manage to retrieve the machine from the corpse's hand. Upon playing their tapes, they discover they are part of a game being played by the notorious Jigsaw killer.

Gordon explains that he was once accused of being the killer himself, and that obssessed ex-cop Trapp (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2) still believes he is guilty. Via police interrogations, Gordon learnt a lot about the sadistic nature of the Jigsaw killer's "games". He shares these fond memories with Adam and, via the magic of cinematic flashbacks, the audience too.

And what a bastard the Jigsaw killer is! Stripping fat guys naked and forcing them to crawl through a room filled with barbed wire if they want to survive ... letting one female victim know that the only way to remove the barbaric contraption about to rip her face in half is to fish the key for it out of a drugged man's bowels ...

Gordon and Adam's game is simple. Gordon has until 6pm to kill his room-mate. If he doesn't, his wife and child get slaughtered. Rather than slay Adam, however, both men are convinced there must be a way to escape their prison and save the day.

Horror films have been in vogue for some time now, so it's hardly surprising how a lot of movies that would previously have been sold to audiences as psychological thrillers, supernatural dramas etc - anything BUT a horror film, in other words - are now wearing the 'H' cap with pride.

Indeed, there are a great deal of films that wouldn't normally meet the criteria of "horror", but are being advertised as such because distributors know that that's where the audience lies.

SAW falls into the latter category. It isn't a horror film, despite the marketing campaign desperately trying to persuade you otherwise. It is, however, an extremely dark, disturbing and at times ingenious psycho-thriller with a knack for building up tension and sustaining it.

From the opening scene, SAW barely puts a foot wrong as it roars along at gripping speed. Sure, the flashback scenes (in particular, those alluding to Gordon's personal life) slow things a tad, but ultimately this is 100 minutes of unrelenting thrills.

There's a strong cast on offer too, including solid support from Dina Meyer and Monica Potter. The two leads are especially good, with Elwes and Whannell evoking sympathy from two obstensibly unlikeable characters. In fact, only Glover with his wide-eyed gurning lets the team down.

The plot (written by director James Wan and co-star Whannell) is original and pleasingly full of minor twists throughout. Not to mention downright grisly at times.

There are couple of head-scratching scenes, admittedly (you know, where loose-ends just don't make sense) but they hardly matter as the viewer is too caught up in the thrilling finale to question certain absurdities ... until later, perhaps.

In short, SAW is a great film that has built up a considerable following over the last year due largely to fantastic word of mouth. Most of which has been deserved.

The video quality on Entertainment In Video's disc is superb. As you would imagine for such a recent production, the colours, lights, shadows - it's all crystal clear and pin sharp. The film is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and has been anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TV sets.

The 5.1 sound was particularly impressive, adding heart-jumping meatiness to the film's tenser moments. Heavy, solid and making good use of all channels - a sterling job.

Removable English subtitles are also available, and are very easy to read.

The main feature can be accessed via 18 chapters.

EIV have released two versions of this movie onto Region 2 DVD. One cut, the other uncut. By all accounts the difference between the two is minimal - though the exact cut(s) are unknown to me as I viewed the uncut version.

Which is all very well, were it not for the fact that the CUT version includes an audio commentary from Wan and Whannell on the disc ... whereas the UNCUT version doesn't!! How infuriating.

What you do get is a criminally short featurette where the co-writers discuss the making of the film. Both seem very enthusiastic about their pet project. It's just a shame this didn't last a little longer, or involve more of the cast.

Then there's two versions of a music video by metallers Fear Factory. Well, excuse me for not creaming in my pants. Nah, it's okay - the song in question is "Bite The Hand That Bleeds". There's also a brief "Making of the music video" featurette.

There's not even a trailer!

Ah well, the good news is the film is a corker and guaranteed to hold up to repeated viewings. The bad news is, SAW 2 is currently in production ...!

Review by Stu Willis

Released by EIV
Rated 18 - Region 2 (PAL)
Extras :
see main review