If you’ve caught the trailer for the new horror flick from young Australian filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannell, consider Saw seen. And then think about buying a ticket to something scarier—Shark Tale, perhaps. This one-twist splatterfest turns on the premise of a serial killer who doesn’t actually kill, but rather forces his victims into elaborate emprisonments in which they either have to do themselves in or commit murder. As the teaser has the balls to flash: “HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT?” When the film opens, the villain has already done his dirty work: Adam (Whannell, who also co-wrote the script with director Wan), wakes up chained in a tub of muck. On the other side of the tiled basement hall is the similarly shackled Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), who helpfully sets things in motion by saying, “Oh yeah, there’s this freak named Jigsaw who likes to watch people kill each other.” As the two talk—and talk—about their predicament, the backstory is provided by suspenseless flashbacks, including a couple of Jigsaw’s prior orchestrations (which Wan tries to jazz up with absurdly frenetic camerawork) and the requisite obsessed cop (Danny Glover). The killer’s current “game,” which the hostages discover by playing tapes they find in their pockets, is this: Lawrence needs to kill Adam by a certain time or his wallflowery wife (Monica Potter) and screeching spawn (Makenzie Vega) are done for. The movie’s only triumph is its dark ’n’ grimy, Se7en-esque look. Seemingly every surface here is befouled by the kind of ickiness that usually lurks only in the corners of men’s dorm rooms—which, come to think of it, is exactly where you’d imagine Saw was written, late on a Friday night, after many drinks: Dude, wouldn’t it kick ass if a chick was locked in, like, a reverse bear trap, and she had to cut the key out of some dude’s stomach?! Of course, the stiff dialogue—more stomach-turning than any of the carnage—actually makes it kinda fun to watch Elwes’ giant pussy of a man crumble under stress. At one early point, Lawrence entreats Adam to “Stop all your lies!” then succumbs to Planet of the Apes–worthy histrionics in which he pounds the floor and says “Gaaahdaaahm iiit!” a lot. How fucked up is that?—Tricia Olszewski

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