Saw opens with fair warning in the form of a production company logo for Twisted Pictures. Razor-sharp barbed wire twists into the center of the frame, where an iron spike impales the wire. No raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens here, my friend. Saw, scripted by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan (newcomers both), is sick, demented, wrong, and just the sort of movie we deserve at Halloween time.
Whannell plays Adam, an insufferable whiner who wakes up chained to the wall of a grimy, long-vacant bathroom. Vacant, that is, except for his new roommate, chained to the opposite wall: one Dr. Lawrence Gordon (played by Cary Elwes). Neither man knows how he got there, though they gradually piece together who brought them there: a serial criminal known as the Jigsaw Killer. The Jigsaw Killer is the sort of evil genius found only in movies, and you can count your lucky stars for that. In fact, the Jigsaw Killer isn't a killer at all, but a mastermind who forces people into moral dilemmas which frequently result in death.
The killer informs the duo, by tape recording, that Gordon must kill Adam by 6 o'clock, or the doctor's family will be killed. In rolling flashbacks, the pieces of the puzzle come into focus through the history of the police investigation into the killings, led by Danny Glover's cop-on-the edge. This has Seven written all over it, with the grisly murder scenes, moral judgment (each victim has a lesson to learn), and kinetic bursts of action. But Whannell and Wan pull the strings skillfully, right up to the rug-pulling final-reel kicker.