Movie: Saw

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Our Rating: 4.50

Not only is James Wan's stunning, terrifying directorial debut, Saw, the first post-Bush horror film, it's the one the administration deserves. There's no subtext – the movie wears its themes of racism, social Darwinism and even healthcare outrage on its bloody sleeve. As the film opens, two guys – a wealthy doctor (Cary Elwes) and a poor photographer (screenwriter Leigh Whannell) – wake up chained to a wall in a filthy bathroom they share with a bloody corpse. A disembodied voice gives them a few hours to either kill one another or be killed. They recall now-significant memories in flashback form and a mystery plot coalesces. The spiritual kin of ferociously primitive, politically acute '70s horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, Saw is extremely informed by post-Sept. 11 anxieties. Its final, shocking 30 seconds reveal that the real evil is still out there, anonymous, its rage only vaguely defined and well up to the demands of a sequel.

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