CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd:
Incorrectly labelled by many as the film that commenced the 'torture porn' phenomenon, Saw is director James Wan's debut feature which beautifully exhibits his instant grip & comfort with the elements of the genre this picture belongs to. And even though its strong cult following spawned a series that bathed in gruesome torture, this first chapter of the Saw franchise is undoubtedly the most compact, story-driven movie that works as an exciting, effective & shocking horror mystery full of twists & turns.
Filmed on a modest budget & shot mostly in a single location, the story of Saw revolves around two men who wake up chained in a dilapidated bathroom with a dead body in between them & are given instructions via a microcassette recorder explaining how to escape. With limited time in their hands, both men try to figure out why they were chosen for this scenario while in the meantime, police detectives try to uncover the identity of the mastermind behind these "games" by looking for clues in several other similar incidents.
The direction by James Wan is excellent considering the eerie vibe he was able to generate along with its unpredictability & cleverly executed twists. The script may lack a chunk of flesh when it comes to characterization but it still keeps the story far more believable than its successors. The rest of its technical aspects are finely carried out, the performances by its cast is quite amateur but Charlie Clouser's score is a definite plus here as it keeps elevating the tension throughout its runtime & is at its best during the final moments.
And despite the fact that it leaves many events unresolved in the end, which are dealt in its sequels, Saw somehow still manages to work as a standalone feature to a great extent & is skilfully crafted by director James Wan & screenwriter Leigh Wannell. On an overall scale, this independent horror certainly isn't the torture porn you might be expecting for it's a solidly structured, nicely assembled & violently narrated cinema that'll have you guessing from its opening moments & deserves to be seen by every horror fan out there.