R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir James Wan
scr Leigh Whannell
with Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Ken Leung, Michael Emerson, Makenzie Vega, Tobin Bell, Dina Meyer, Shawnee Smith, Paul Gutrecht, Alexandra Chun
release UK 1.Oct.04, US 29.Oct.04
04/US 1h42

Trapped in a sadistic game: Elwes and Whannell

elwes whannell glover
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saw One of the most fiendishly inventive thrillers in ages, this disturbing and violent movie gleefully plays with our minds as it twists and turns through its tricky, menacing plot.

When Adam and Larry (Whannell and Elwes) wake up chained to pipes on opposite walls of a gruesome public toilet, they have no idea how they got there or why anyone would do this to them. But as they examine clues in the room (including a body in a pool of blood between them!), they begin to piece together what's happening. And flashbacks tell us more about the sadist who planned this "game" for them, as well as the cops (Glover and Leung) investigating a series of gruesome deaths.

There are echoes of both Cube (a life-or-death game) and Seven (horrifically imaginative murders), and the film also adopts Seven's grimy look as it slowly gives us the puzzle pieces that fill in the story. And as one ghastly truth after another is revealed, the film really grabs hold of us. It helps that the entire thing is firmly based on the characters, all of whom are seriously flawed people. Writer Whannell is very good as the hapless, secretive Adam; and Elwes plays nicely against type as the seemingly straight-arrow doctor who has plenty of secrets of his own, as well as a wife and daughter (Potter and Vega) in danger back home. There's a clever dynamic between these two men who don't trust each other at all, but really need to.

Meanwhile, Wan cranks up the direction to almost unbearable levels. There is a lot of grisliness on screen and yet he knows that keeping some things out of view makes them even worse! The murder-game scenarios are so revoltingly awful that they'd be unbearable if it weren't for a stream of black wit running through the whole film, not to mention the script's striking inventiveness. There are several moments in which we simply cannot believe that a filmmaker would take us to this point. Then Wan and Whannell push us even further. And in the process create a thriller that's truly a classic.

cert 18 strong themes, grisly violence, language 16.Sep.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... saw Scott Andrews, Philadelphia: 2.5/5 "I really wanted to like this movie but I came away thinking that it was too derivative before I realized that the word I was really looking for was imitative. For me it was one of those movies that couldn't help but conjure up a whole list of other movies with similar motifs. My list so far: Cube, Seven, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Silence of the Lambs, The Game. I started having apprehensions early on when I noticed how little Danny Glover (an established Hollywood actor) was given to do. Also, the sped up, MTV music video treatment in the 'razor wire' and 'jawbreaker' scenes was very distracting and detracted from the atmosphere of slow, mounting tension and dread that I thought the movie was going for. As for the surprise at the end, I had guessed that that would be it even before I saw the movie. I liked the grim, grimy atmosphere of the movie but I just wished there'd been a better story to go with it. In my opinion the dirty, florescent lit bathroom was the star of the movie and without it the movie would have been even less satisfying. Oh well." (29.Sep.04)

estoy_un_punto, net: 4.5/5 "Oh my god! Such a twisted film! But I was riveted to it! I actually had to look away at some points, but it was brilliant. The twist was great and the final line - 'Game over' - inspired!" (3.Oct.04)

saw Miss fraft, England: 4.5/5 "What an absolute jaw dropper of a film! Yeah the story could have been improved, and the acting was pretty stiff at times - especially Elwes. But the general idea was fantastic. The cinema was pretty packed and at one point in the film the whole cinema gasped. See it with an open mind. There are parts of the film that are not new ideas, but if you want to watch an entertaining film that WILL keep you watching it is a must! This film is pretty gruesome at times - but it is more in the way of what your mind is telling you not necessarily what you see on the screen. There are disturbing flashbacks - but if you saw them any longer than a quick glimpse it would ruin the film (they are clues in themselves) and would be sick. As for the ending, I pretty much doubt anyone could honestly guess what was coming next! I only hope the film is a one off and no sequels are made. Yes you're beggin for more - but then that's the whole idea of a good film." (14.Oct.04)

DK, London: 5/5 "I thought this film was awesome, I truly left the cinema feeling a touch disturbed and thankful that a film was able to make me squirm in my seat again." (11.Oct.04)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall