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It’s never a good thing to find yourself laughing during a horror thriller, particularly one with a menacing title like Saw. But laugh, laugh, laugh you will — whether it be at the hare-brained plot, the white-hot overacting, or a disastrously edited car chase in which the automobiles stand in place and the people inside jiggle at high-speed.
The concept behind Saw sounded promising — two men are chained in a dank, dirty bathroom with a hacksaw at the ready. The saw isn’t strong enough to cut through chains, but it’ll easily slice through a tomato, a head of lettuce or an ankle. Those expecting gore will find very little here — there’s more blood in a supermarket’s meat department. And those hoping for queasy, uneasy thrills are likely to find the expiration labels of ground beef more unsettling.
First-time director James Wan makes the thrill-killing mistake of recounting most of his story elements in flashback (and sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks), vanquishing any hope of a suspenseful build. The flashback construct is so disorienting — and Wan’s direction so hugely inept — that when the climax serves up its big silly twist, we’re left scratching our heads.
“How did I get here?” burbles Cary Elwes’s character at one point. The same could be asked of the actor’s career. Elwes’s line delivery is better suited to a junior high school production of The Crucible. And he’s not alone: Danny Glover, Monica Potter and Leigh Whannell (who penned the screenplay) join him for the ride. And what a pathetic, disappointing ride it is.