Tag Archives: Leigh Whannell

Saw (2004) Review

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Saw

Time: 102 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sadistic violence
Cast:
Leigh Whannell as Adam Stanheight
Cary Elwes as Lawrence Gordon
Danny Glover as David Tapp
Ken Leung as Detective Steven Sing
Monica Potter as Alison Gordon
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Director: James Wan

Photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and oncologist Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) regain consciousness while chained to pipes at either end of a filthy bathroom. As the two men realize they’ve been trapped by a sadistic serial killer nicknamed “Jigsaw” and must complete his perverse puzzle to live, flashbacks relate the fates of his previous victims. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon’s wife (Monica Potter) and young daughter (Makenzie Vega) are forced to watch his torture via closed-circuit video.

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Saw was where horror director James Wan started as a filmmaker. The film was a surprise hit back in 2004, with it gaining back over 86 times its own budget, and went on to create a long running series that were huge hits at the box office. I wanted to watch all the Saw movies before the latest film, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, comes out. The first movie isn’t great by any means and has its very visible flaws, however it is still quite good.

Saw (2004)
Directed by James Wan
Shown: Cary Elwes (as Dr. Lawrence Gordon)

The movie is just over 100 minutes long, and it keeps you pretty invested from beginning to end. It’s very different from what you’d expect from a Saw movie based off its reputation, especially from the sequels. The movie doesn’t open with one of the infamous and grotesque Saw traps, instead the first 15 minutes was of the two main characters stuck in a bathroom not sure what’s happening. Indeed that’s the location where most of the movie took place, along with a lot of flashbacks. There’s not really any torture scenes in this movie, Saw is a psychological thriller, focused on mystery and tension and doesn’t focus on jump scares. Despite some of the traps that are in this movie, they are definitely more believable than what’s in the sequels. There are some traps that are pretty gruesome, but most of those moments are shown relatively briefly. The pacing of the movie and the use of the plotlines are actually well planned out, in terms of plotting it succeeds very well. It is a fairly contained movie too, with its fair share of twists and turns including the ending, which is one of the most famous horror movie endings. Having only seen a couple of the Saw sequels, it’s interesting to see how Jigsaw had been changed as a killer. While the character is definitely crazy to set up all these traps and all that, the sequels made it so that he was some kind of vigilante going after mostly bad people. However, Jigsaw’s victims in this movie don’t quite fit that same criteria. Now there are clearly some issues with the movie. There are some moments that are slightly implausible and far-fetched for sure, though I think that’s the case for each of the movies in the series. Saw also very much aims to be Se7en-esque, with the gruesome crime scenes, the serial killer, the detectives in the flashbacks, and occasionally the colour palette. It is pretty far from reaching the level of that movie but does enough to make itself its own thing.

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Some of the acting was generally decent but nothing special really. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell do well in the lead roles, and other actors like Danny Glover, Ken Leung and Michael Emerson provide good support work.

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Saw is James Wan’s first film, and this was a really solid debut for him, even if it’s pretty clear that he’s made better movies since then. The movie had pretty low budget at $1.2 million, and considering all the issues and rushes that Wan and Whannell went through making the movie, it’s impressive that the end product was as good as it turned out. It is very rough around the edges because of the lack of time and money that they had for the movie, that ended up enhancing the movie. Again, Saw does borrow a little too much from Se7en’s aesthetics, but it still establishes its own distinct style and feel that is iconic to the series. It’s great on a visual level, really gritty and sickly looking, which fits the tone of the film perfectly. Saw is known as one of the movies known for popularising the torture porn genre but the first movie in the series certainly doesn’t fit into that genre. Yes, it is violent, bloody and gruesome sometime, however it actually used those moments effectively, and don’t feel gratuitous. Even some of the most gruesome traps in this movie was shown relatively quickly. The room that the main characters are stuck in (which was also the only set in the film that had to be built) was simple but ery gritty and effective as it was. The score from Charlie Clouser fits the Saw movies really well and are excellent, from the eerie vibes throughout, to the more intense moments. With that said you do notice some issues, if not on a budget level then a directing level. Some of the frantic editing is pretty familiar and even iconic for the series but it can be very over the top and goofy most of time, especially in the instances when it spins around the room. In fact, some of the editing feels like it is from a music video. There are some moments that do feel a bit amateurish especially with regard to the camerawork, again though that’s to be expected considering the tight schedule Wan and writer Leigh Whannell were under (there were times where Wan wasn’t even able to film the shots that he wanted).

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If you like horror movies, definitely check the first Saw movie out. I would never call it one of the best horror movies ever, even from the 2000s, but it is undeniably iconic and influential. Even if you’re worried about it being ‘torture porn’, don’t let that stop you, because it’s definitely not that kind of movie. It does have some problems, again the budgetary issues, some of the amateurish filmmaking and some parts of the writing. Overall though, it’s an effective and well made horror thriller that deserves to be judged on its own merits rather than be lumped in with what at least most of the sequels are.

The Invisible Man (2020) Review

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The Invisible Man

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty, self-harm & domestic abuse
Cast:
Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass
Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Adrian Griffin
Aldis Hodge as James Lanier
Storm Reid as Sydney Lanier
Harriet Dyer as Emily Kass
Michael Dorman as Tom Griffin
Director: Leigh Whannell

The film follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), who receives the news of her abusive ex-boyfriend’s (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) suicide. She begins to re-build her life for the better. However, her sense of reality is put into question when she begins to suspect her deceased lover is not actually dead.

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The Invisible Man was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020, although the concept of a remake of a classic horror monster movie seemed like it was destined to fail. There were a few reasons I was very interested in this movie however. First of all, you have Leigh Whannell directing, who showed himself to be a massive talent behind the camera with his last film Upgrade, so I knew that this movie was in good hands. Second you have Elisabeth Moss in the lead role, I haven’t seen her in a ton of movies or tb, but she’s been great in the few things I’ve watched her in. Third of all, they seemed to be modernising the story into something different, which at least showed it had potential to have a fresh and different take on the story. I was really excited for the movie, but it was actually lot better than I thought it would be.

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The Invisible Man is a modern version of the original story, both of the book by H.G. Wells, and the original 1933 movie of the same name. Of all the classic horror stories, this seemed the hardest to adapt, since it’s pretty hard to make one invisible man actually scary, even though I liked the 30s movie, the titular character really wasn’t all that scary. However, Whannell and co. managed to pull it off. He definitely reworked a lot of the story to modernise it, but it works to some great effect. Although the movie features a man who it is invisible, the story is really about domestic abuse and gaslighting, and explores the traumas on an abusive relationship. That aspect was handled very well, and was probably more unsettling than the actual invisible man part. The movie can be very unnerving, and you feel paranoid throughout, just like the protagonist. Some of the concepts and ideas on paper at first sound silly, specifically the whole invisible aspect (without spoiling anything), but Whannell manages to make it work. I know that some people were a little worried about the trailers showing too much, but I can assure you there’s more to the movie than what was shown there. There’s only a couple of slight issues I had with the movie. The second act had some slow moments, even though I was invested in the movie throughout. Also, while cameras play a part in the movie, there are times where they are conveniently involved, and felt conveniently not involved at other specific points. They didn’t affect the movie too much for me however. Overall I was consistently captivated by The Invisible Man.

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Elisabeth Moss is one of the best parts of this movie, she plays her part excellently. As well made as the movie is, much of the film is riding on her performance, she provides such an effective emotional centre throughout and really sells everything the main character has to endure throughout. A lot of the time she has to essentially act on her own with an invisible person, and sell it convincingly, and she definitely does that. The rest of the cast with the likes of Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are good, and play their parts well enough. However, it really is Moss’s show throughout.

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Leigh Whannell directed this movie excellently, and was one of the parts that made it work so well. It’s one thing to just have an invisible person as a villain messing with the main character, it’s another to make it feel a threat to the audience, and he definitely did that. The use of camera shots and movements are so effective, really making you unnerved at what you’re seeing (or rather what you’re not seeing). It’s not just seeing a seemingly invisible person throwing objects (or people) around that’s scary, it’s the lingering shots at empty rooms that really gets to you, as you’re not sure whether The Invisible Man is indeed there. The actual visual effects on the Invisible Man could’ve been really goofy, but they work greatly here. The sound design and the score by Benjamin Wallfisch are powerfully effective, escalating the tense atmosphere. There are so many sequences in The Invisible Man that are among the most memorable scenes that I’ve seen in recent horror movies.

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The Invisible Man is an incredibly effective, unnerving and suspenseful horror movie, an excellent modern take on the source material. It’s very well directed by Leigh Whannell, and led by Elisabeth Moss’s powerhouse performance. I can’t wait to see Whannell direct even more movies, he’s shown himself to be a great filmmaker, especially within the horror genre. If you’re a horror fan, definitely check it out as soon as possible.

Upgrade (2018) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, horror, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace
Betty Gabriel as Cortez
Harrison Gilbertson as Eron Keen
Director: Leigh Whannell

A brutal mugging leaves Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) paralyzed in the hospital and his beloved wife (Melanie Vallejo) dead. A billionaire inventor (Harrison Gilbertson) soon offers Trace a cure — an artificial intelligence implant called STEM that will enhance his body. Now able to walk, Grey finds that he also has superhuman strength and agility — skills he uses to seek revenge against the thugs who destroyed his life.

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Upgrade is a movie I’ve been hearing about for a while. On paper it sounded like a really silly B movie but apparently it was quite good, so I had been meaning to check it out. Upgrade more than lived up to the hype, with its simple but effective story, really impressive direction and a great leading performance by Logan Marshall Green.

Upgrade has a pretty straightforward premise: normal guy and his wife get attacked, she dies and he gets badly hurt. He receives something that makes him a killing machine and seeks to find out who killed his wife. Director Leigh Whannell also wrote the script to Upgrade and he made this simple but effective story work really well. The plot is not overcomplicated and a little simple, but its not without some depth, asking some questions about technology and man vs machine. These concepts and ideas aren’t fully explored like other sci-fi movies but its still much more than you’d expect. It even has a twist ending that I wasn’t entirely expecting, really effective way to end the story. I actually wouldn’t mind a sequel, there’s definitely a lot of potential there. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, and it was the right length, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and yet its long enough, with a pacing that keeps the movie moving at an adequate speed.

Logan Marshall Green has been in many movies, the ones I’ve seen being Prometheus, Devil and Spider-Man Homecoming and while he was good enough in his roles there, with Upgrade he really gets to show off his acting skills. He has to show off so many sides to his character, he had to be vulnerable, he had to be convincingly badass, he had to be funny and deadpan, he has to show some of the conflict that he has (especially near the end), he has to show all of that, and LMG absolutely handles all of this with ease. I really do hope that Upgrade will make people take more notice of him because it really showed how talented he is. Make no mistake, while at least half of the movie working is due to the direction, at least 40% of it is due to Logan Marshall Green’s performance. Performances from other actors like Betty Gabriel were also good. On another note, Simon Maiden’s voice performance as STEM (the AI chip inplanted in Logan Marshall Green’s character) is also great, a real stand out character. I guess the one criticism that I could have with this movie is that the characters are written rather thin and there’s not really much to them, but there’s more here than you’d usually expect from a movie of this sort of plot.

Upgrade is directed by Leigh Whannell, who previously directed Insidious: Chapter 3 and while I liked that movie, he showed an immense amount of talent here. For a film with a 3-5 million dollar budget, the visual style on the whole was great, with great cinematography. Upgrade is definitely set in the future but it’s also grounded in reality with some grit, so it doesn’t go full cyberpunk or anything. The action is entertaining, fast and absolutely brutal. There are times where the movie is even somewhat reminiscent of body horror movies from the 1980s. Even the camera movements are great, a stand out being how sometimes the camera follows LMG whenever STEM takes over during action scenes, tilting and moving following his movements. The score by Jed Palmer is also great.

Upgrade is one of the most surprising movies of 2018. Leigh Whannell took this simple premise and worked wonders with it, delivering a fast, original, entertaining and brutal sci-fi action flick, made even better by Logan Marshall Green’s great performance. I suggest checking it out sometime, Upgrade looks like it’s going to be somewhat of a cult classic.