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James Wan
Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover
Writing Credits:
Leigh Whannell

Two strangers awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, and soon discover they're pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby Atmos
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 7/20/2021

• Audio Commentary with Director James Wan, Writer/Actor Leigh Whannell and Actor Cary Elwes
• Audio Commentary with Producers Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules
• “Game Changer” Featurette
Saw Original Short Film
• “Hacking Away at Saw” Documentary
• Alternate Storyboard Sequence
• Trailer


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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Saw [Blu-Ray] (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 15, 2022)

While the “torture porn” genre existed prior to 2004’s Saw, that film did a lot to make the format mainstream. Nearly 20 years down the road, the Saw franchise remains active, so I figured maybe I should finally check out the original.

Freelance photographer Adam Faulkner-Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) wake up in a disgusting bathroom. Now chained to secure pipes, neither knows how he arrived there.

They soon learn that the “Jigsaw Killer” brought them there, and that to survive, they’ll need to work through a series of violent, sadistic demands. This leads them through many dire scenarios as they attempt to get out of their deadly situation.

As noted at the start, I never saw the Saw that started it all until I got this disc. Of course, I maintained awareness of the franchise over the years, as Saw mustered a pretty strong pop culture presence.

Nonetheless, I didn’t experience any actual Saw flicks until I watched 2017’s spinoff Jigsaw. A screening of 2021’s Spiral followed, neither of which did a lot for me.

So why go back to the source? Because I felt curious to find out what made the series so popular. It doesn’t make sense to judge a franchise by its eighth and ninth entries.

Whatever else I think of Saw, I must admit it boasts a frightening premise. The idea that one might end up trapped by a madman with a need to resort to various violent tactics to survive certainly presents scary potential.

Unfortunately, Saw does less with its possibilities than I might like, partly because it seems unfocused. Although it tells a fairly simple story, the film can feel disjointed and without the tightness it needs.

A lot of this stems from the choice to deliver lots of flashbacks to convey exposition. The main strength of Saw revolves around its claustrophobic setting and concentration on two men stuck in a nearly no-win situation.

Rather than stick with that, Saw often departs that grotty bathroom to look at prior Jigsaw victims as well as a police investigation. I guess the filmmakers believe these elements add tension to the proceedings, but instead, they simply become an unnecessary distraction.

They also make a potentially novel movie seem much more conventional. A Saw that sticks virtually entirely with Adam and Lawrence can become a dark psychological journey.

However, the version we end up with seems more confused, and it veers far too much into standard “police procedural” territory. Granted, the nature of the Jigsaw crimes allows for some creepy menace, but these components feel gratuitous and unnecessary.

Perhaps those involved felt the “two dudes in a room” premise wouldn’t become enough to flesh out a full film, and perhaps they’re right. Saw first existed as a 2003 short that runs only nine and a half minutes, so the feature obviously needed to expand the basics.

I just wish the filmmakers came up with more creative and interesting ways to broaden the plot. As it stands, Saw comes with intriguing concepts and occasionally seems effective, but too much of it feels like tedious padding that leaves it as a strangely dull stab at a thriller.

Note that this Blu-ray provides only an unrated cut of Saw. Apparently it extends the “R”-rated theatrical version to include a whopping eight seconds of additional graphic content. Obviously this means the two editions barely differ.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Saw appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This never became an attractive image, but it seemed to accurately represent the source.

Given the nature of the story, Saw went with a grimy, gritty look. This meant heavier than typical grain, but the movie lacked print flaws.

Sharpness appeared adequate to good. With the murky conditions and grain, the film usually lacked great delineation, but the end result nonetheless mustered generally positive accuracy.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized. I also saw no signs of edge haloes.

Colors tended toward a fairly heavy sense of dingy blue, with some scenes that gravitated toward a strong green tone. As with everything else, these tones felt ugly, but the movie made them that way on purpose.

Blacks seemed reasonably dark and dense, while shadows brought good clarity. No one will use this presentation to show off the capabilities of their big TVs, but the product still seemed like an appropriate depiction of the source.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Saw’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack emphasized atmospheric elements. Nonetheless, it still delivered a fairly involving mix.

This meant that music used all the channels in an active manner, and various environmental elements also cropped up around the room with frequency. Though not a traditional action mix, the soundtrack still used the channels to the movie’s advantage.

Audio quality worked fine, as speech sounded natural and concise. The propulsive score appeared vivid and full as well.

Effects came across as accurate and dynamic. The mix lacked the ambition for a grade above a “B”, but it worked for the story.

We get a bunch of extras here, and we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director James Wan, writer/actor Leigh Whannell and actor Cary Elwes, all of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, the impact of the movie’s low budget, changes for the unrated version, effects, music, and related domains.

On the positive side, the commentary moves at a brisk pace. It also covers a reasonable number of production domains, and it remains lively and light.

However, the participants joke so much that they go off-topic a bit too often, and we also get a lot of happy talk, mainly from Elwes. This still becomes a likable chat, but I wish it came with more substance and less frivolity.

For the second commentary, we hear from producers Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules. All three sit together for their own running, screen-specific discussion of sets and locations, cast and performances, effects, some technical areas and general production notes.

Expect another semi-jokey track from the producers, though they pull off this attitude better, mainly because they don’t ladle out all the praise of the prior commentary. We get a decent look at the movie and find a mostly enjoyable discussion.

Two documentaries ensue, and the circa 2021 Game Changer runs 57 minutes, 59 seconds. It involves Whannell, Wan, Elwes, Burg, Koules, executive producers Jason Constantine and Peter Block, special effects supervisor Thomas Bellissimo, director of photography David Armstrong, production designer Julie Berghoff, editor Kevin Greutert, composer Charlie Clouser, filmmakers Eli Roth and Alexandre Aja, and actors Shawnee Smith and Tobin Bell.

“Changer” examines the project’s roots and development, cast and performances, various effects and design choices, sets and locations, photography and editing, issues related to low budget/short schedule, music, the movie’s release and reception, and the “torture porn” genre.

We get a reasonably good overview from “Changer”, though it can feel less than concise as it bops from one domain to another. Still, it covers useful topics, and I like that it explores the film’s aftermath and influence.

Created for the original DVD release, Hacking Away at Saw breaks into three parts that span a total of 36 minutes, 13 seconds. These feature Whannell, Wan, Hoffman, Burg, Koules, Elwes, Bell, Bellissimo, executive producer Stacey Testro and co-producer/1st AD Daniel Jason Heffner.

“Away” discusses the project’s origins and path to the screen, story/characters, cast and performances, the short/rushed production schedule, sets and photography, effects, and the movie’s release.

Inevitably, some of “Away” repeats material from “Changer”. Nonetheless, it gives us a lot of new information and some alternate perspectives, so it stands on its own well.

The Saw original short film goes for nine minutes, 28 seconds. Directed by Wan, it stars Whannell and offers the spine of the longer version but it differs in many ways. It’s not especially interesting.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc ends with an Alternate Storyboard Sequence (2:25). This shows Wan’s original intentions for a segment in Jigsaw’s workshop.

Presented as an animated sequence, the result approximates a “deleted scene” in a clever way. That makes it a good addition to the package.

Back in 2004, Saw became a decent hit that spawned a long series of sequels and spinoffs. I must admit I fail to see the appeal of this original film, as it squanders a promising premise to end up as a sluggish tale. The Blu-ray offers generally positive picture and audio as well as a nice array of bonus materials. Saw seems like a missed opportunity.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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