Year: 2004
Production Co: Twisted Pictures
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: James Wan
Producer: Mark Burg/Gregg Hoffman/Oren Koules
Writer: Leigh Whannell/James Wan
Cast: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Dina Meyer, Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell
Like historical war movies and romantic comedies, there's very seldom anything new on offer in serial murderer thrillers.

It's always about a sensitive and talented detective who discovers the particular quirk of the killer (whether he's copying the crimes of famous murderers, taking over his victims' lives when he kills them or making suits out of their skin). They close in on him until it inevitably gets personal and leads to the climatic showdown, the police backup arriving in time for the victorious hero to wander dazedly out of the warehouse, tenement or power plant.

The story of Saw is now legend in Hollywood and RMIT University, Melbourne, where the two studied and came up with the idea for it. When told by their manager that a trip to America to sell the script might be prudent, they went ahead and shot one of the scenes to be their calling card.

The plot isn't without its weaker links, but from the opening frames where two men wake up in a filthy industrial bathroom block, chained to opposite ends of the room with a dead body in between them, you're on the edge of your set waiting to see what it's all about.

If you love mysteries, the story will keep you gripped. If you love imagery, director Wan grasps a Se7en -inspired visual of filthy water, clanking metal and the stink of fear and malice beautifully.

Confrontingly violent at times (though not as gory as you'll remember because of the high shock quotient), Saw looks initially like it's just the story of two guys who wake up chained to bathroom walls with a tape in their pockets that contain cryptic messages from their captor.

One scene at a time, the mystery is peeled back to reveal how they came to be there and what they have to do with each other. Exposition and action are wound so tightly together your attention will never slip.

Whannell and Wan are two filmmakers who deserve the success Saw has gained for them around the globe because of three yardsticks with which to measure it; the idea, the story and the execution. Each one is as strong and distinctive as any established Hollywood studio hack has ever come up with.

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