This has got to be one of my favorite franchises of all time. It either ties with (or come in close second with) Nightmare On Elm Street. I can’t decide which. Mostly because I liked NOES first but Saw kind of tops all of that. Then again, Saw is far more of a thriller/action than a horror movie. It’s jammed into the horror movie category because we apparently now think that slasher films are horror. They are just slasher films. Oh to go back to the days when horror was something that included a supernatural element. There is nothing supernatural here. Except maybe in the way that Jigsaw was able to build so many Rube Goldbergian death machines in a ton of empty warehouses and never get caught setting them up. Him or Mark Hoffman. As usual, there will be spoilers, but the last movie in this series came out almost seven years ago. I won’t feel too bad if you get spoiled. You’ve had plenty of time to see them.
Saw I: This movie was a brilliant concept. More or less built on the idea that they could only have two guys in one room (because they only had one room to film in). Leigh Whannel and James Wan built an entire fucking empire. It’s one of the most profitable horror movie franchises of all time and it started with this movie. Which I saw in theaters in 2004 when it came out. I liked it so much I saw it 4 different times. Yes, in theaters. That’s before the days when I had high-speed internet and an easy ability to torrent shit that I wanted to watch. In any case, this movie stunned me. I can’t say it terrified me but I was definitely stunned. The main characters (Gordon and Adam) trapped in a room and are given a task. Well, Gordon is. He has to kill Adam by 6:30 or else they both lose and will be locked in the room forever.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a hospital orderly that cared for John Kramer (Jigsaw) is running things to make sure the test goes smoothly. The two main characters talk about the Jigsaw killer which Gordon knows way too goddamn much about. Which is when you find out that he was investigated as possibly being the killer but it turns out that he was not. Enter in detective Tapp and Sing who are shown in flashbacks investigating. It is revealed that Sing was killed and Tapp was taken off of the case. He’s still obsessed with it and tracking everything. At the very end of it all, Zepp comes in, to “enforce” the rules (after Gordon goes insane and saw’s his own foot off hence the name) and is beaten to death by Adam. Jigsaw (the dead body in the middle of the room where they woke) stands up and tells Adam the key is in the bathtub. Then leaves and locks Adam in. Roll credits. Pretty bone chilling and epic moment in horror movie history.
The best part about Jigsaw is he doesn’t actively kill his victims. He puts them in horrible “traps”. Situations that the victim can escape from but it’s extremely hard. They usually have to sacrifice something in order to escape. Shed some blood, or one of their limbs. Every trap has a way out (as is reinforced by the rest of the movies where Jigsaw explains this over and over) but to the people in the traps, at times it can seem impossible.
Saw II: This one is in a house with a group of victims locked in. Including a victim from the first movie (who I didn’t mention because I don’t like her) Amanda. The second important victim in this house is a new detective’s son. Detective Matthews. His son is some kind of wannabe punk emo kid and he is a dirty cop who likes to frame people. The people in the house are all criminals that Matthews brought in. Then they find out that “OMG they are totally in the same house with the son of the cop who arrested them”. Amanda is there to make sure the kid doesn’t get his dick cut off and shoved down his throat. Matthews is up in Jigsaw’s ass demanding to know where his son is. Jigsaw says that if he “plays by the rules” he will find his son in a “safe place”.
There are 80 million traps in the house, all of them completely escapable, except the criminals in the house are pretty much too stupid to even listen to any of the rules. They also don’t figure out they need to work together because the combination numbers to the safe they need to get into are on the backs of their necks. The obvious solution seems to be that one of them (Xavier) goes around killing the shit out of people to get the numbers. It all leads back to the original bathroom where Amanda and the cop son are, and they kill him. By that point, Jigsaw has tricked Matthews into leaving the warehouse they are in to go to the house. Only to find out that the video feed they were watching was pre-recorded. Matthew’s son was in the same room the whole time, literally in a giant safe where he had an oxygen mask on. Jigsaw is left beaten and bloody in a van while Matthews explores the death house, only to be trapped by Amanda in the original bathroom. Chained there like Adam and Gordon were in the first movie. Turns out Amanda is Jigsaw’s apprentice because yeah he still has a brain tumor and is still gonna die. He needs someone there to “finish his work”.
Saw III: This is when they start to get into the real “morals” of life deal. The man being tested is a man who cannot let go of his anger towards his son being hit by a car. That and the man who did it getting off for doing it. He wants revenge on the judge, the woman who witnessed it, basically fucking everyone. In each case, he has the ability to save all of them after the test has started but he has to make sacrifices to do so. The whole ordeal is supposed to teach him that revenge doesn’t solve anything and won’t bring his son back.
The movie also goes into a bunch of background information. Why Jigsaw is the way he is a bit. He had a brain tumor (well, HAS one) and he took his life for granted. Now he doesn’t want others to do the same. It explains a bit more about Amanda being the apprentice and shows flashbacks of Jigsaw with a wife in the park. Amanda is sent to kidnap a woman named Lynn because she’s the wife of Jeff (the man being tested). She’s also a brain surgeon or something and can help operate on him. Which she does at one point when his brain swelling gets too high. This is all being done at the same time as Jeff’s test and in the same location. Lynn has a collar around her neck with shotgun shells aimed at her face and if she gets too far away from Amanda who has the remote then they will go off and kill her.
Even though Jeff seems to have learned something by the time that he gets into the room where Jigsaw is, Lynn gets shot. She gets shot because Amanda gets all upset about John…something something. Well, the truth is you don’t get to find out. You just see her reading a letter and it seems to indicate that she’s not the true apprentice or whatever and she feels betrayed. Which leads her to Lynn getting shot. When Jeff sees this he kills the shit out of Jigsaw which goes completely against the lessons he should have just learned about how revenge solves nothing. Though Lynn could have survived, him killing Jigsaw (and Amanda dying) leads to the remote being triggered and killing his wife as well. Leaving Jeff there all alone with three dead bodies and PTSD until the end of time.
Saw IV: At this point, they are testing a detective named Rigg. This detective has a problem letting go of things and a deep seeded desire to save everyone. He needs to learn the lesson that he can’t save everyone. At the same time, Jigsaw’s shitty lawyer is being tested and running around like a little test minion to make sure everything goes alright. His name is Art Blank. Seriously, part of me thinks they were going to come up with a last name for that guy later and wrote in “blank” and just never corrected it. To be fair, these movies were written, filmed, edited, and produced in only a year so they could be ready every Halloween so I’ll give it a pass.
Rigg keeps following clues which also keep telling him to give up and walk away and everyone will be fine. Which he doesn’t believe (and for good reason, I probably wouldn’t believe the clues either). He keeps failing at every test because every test causes things to fail when he attempts to step in and save people. The driving force behind all of this is to save his partner, Detective Matthews, who has been missing since the second movie. Which I guess in Saw time is like 6 months? 4 months? I don’t know. He refuses to give up on saving his partner and eventually is led to a warehouse where Matthews and “the new guy” are being held hostage.
The new guy is Mark Hoffman (first appearance as an unnamed forensic detective in movie 3) he is tied to a chair and gagged while Matthews is hanging from a block of ice next to him. The more the ice melts, the closer the chair gets to electrocuting Mark. Art is there to tell them the rules and keep them behaving while they wait for the clock to hit ZERO. He keeps telling Mark and Matthews that they are free to go once the clock runs out. Which would have been true had Rigg turned back and went home. This is the Saw franchise, so obviously Rigg wasn’t going to do that. He gets to the room with the three. Art tries to warn him not to do anything but it doesn’t work. Art gets killed which sends a block of ice crashing down into Matthew’s head and smashing it to bits. Rigg is shot in the process (Art attempts to stop him by shooting him) and is laying on the floor only to watch Hoffman stand up from the chair (where he should have been electrocuted) and step out of the room telling him the signature line of “Game over”.
(Important to note that these games were going on at the exact same time that the events of the third movie were happening which somewhat makes this movie frustrating but it was still new information)
Saw V: This movie enters in a few more characters who are somewhat main and it gets a bit confusing. These characters would include Lindsey Perez, Peter Strahm, and Erickson. Not even sure Erickson had a first name. If he did, I can’t remember it, nor do I care to because he was a dumbass. By this point, it’s well known to the audience that Hoffman is the new Jigsaw. The movie opens with a pit and pendulum type trap that there is no possible way to win and the FBI is show investigating it, as well as Hoffman. He’s a local police detective he’s not FBI. Seems the FBI was brought in at the end of the last movie to hep investigate.
There is a bunch of background information on Mark in this installment. First off, you find out that he had a sister who was killed by her super abusive boyfriend. Then you find out that this guy walked away from jail time on a technicality. Mark’s sister was all he had in the world and so he decides “Fuck that” and kills the guy. He copycat kills him using a machine he built, except that trap had no way to possibly escape it. It is brought up that the guy in the trap is the ex-boyfriend but Hoffman is utterly nonchalant about it.
More flashbacks happen as time goes on. The main group in this are people who scam other people (the usual) and once again (like in the second movie) they need teamwork in order to survive the traps. Which of course they don’t use ending in fucked up deaths and whatever. How the traps are set up, it always looks as if one person has to die but by the end of the run it becomes obvious that they all could have survived had they worked together.
While this is happening (and Mark is periodically checking in on them) it is shown how Mark met Jigsaw and that he’s basically being blackmailed into helping out. Jigsaw will go to the police if he refuses to help. Jigsaw’s very first victim, Cecil is shown. Cecil is one of the two people involved in attacking his wife and her losing the child they were going to have together. Which seems to have made Jigsaw crazier than the whole cancer and brain tumor thing. There are flashbacks to that show Amanda was the second person involved in that. Flashbacks that show that Mark wrote her a letter telling her to kill Lynn or he’d tell Jigsaw she was there on the night that Jill had the miscarriage. All of this while explaining that Hoffman was working with Jigsaw way before anyone thought he was.
In the meantime, Hoffman is framing Strahm for all of the Jigsaw crimes, and doing a pretty good job of it. Mostly because the supervising agent to Perez and him is a total bag of brainless dildos and easily believes everything. This movie ends with Perez “dying” and Strahm being crushed in a mechanical room to leave basically no trace of him. This makes him a “fugitive” where the FBI thinks that he did it and Hoffman is more or less completely off the hook.
Saw VI: Other than the first and second installments, I regularly see this one listed as “one of the best” in the series. Which it is. I agree. Other than the bullshit plot hole the had to cut in the script to get Hoffman caught, it really was. I think it’s enjoyed the most because Jigsaw takes on the big, powerful, unfair as fuck insurance companies. There is a man named William Easton who was in the habit of using an unfair formula to deny people insurance. Including Jigsaw himself. Easton is then put in life or death situations where he personally has to choose who lives and who dies. As that is essentially what he does with his policy every day. He goes through an entire warehouse where his friends and coworkers are (also his crazy ass lawyer) trying to choose who he thinks should live and die according to various factors.
While this is going on, Hoffman is being investigated for, well everything. Perez comes back as it turns out they faked her death for some reason. Erickson is there too. There are a bunch of bullshit moments that make no sense and of course this leads to Hoffman being caught. It seems that the writers knew they wrote themselves into a corner with Hoffman and pretty much made him infallible. They had to then take that away to give them a reason to put him in a position to make him possibly vulnerable to death. I will write a whole separate thing on this in the future.
In any case, Jill is shown getting a box from John’s will which he left to her after death. There are a bunch of names, files, pictures, and people in the box. 6 different envelopes. Unfinished business for her to take care of. The last one being Mark. She traps him and puts him in what the fandom calls “The Reverse Bear Trap 2.0” being that the first reverse bear trap (or RBT) in the first movie was way more hideous looking. This one does the same shit but looks way less disturbing. Though she’s supposed to allow some way for him to escape, she doesn’t because she wants him dead. Mark isn’t a little bitch, though, and breaks his own hand and rips open his own face to get out of it just barely in time.
As for William, even though it’s clear he learned his lesson by the end, he is killed. The choice of if he lives or dies was left up to a family who’s father he had turned down for health insurance. This left them devastated and even though they saw him go through all of the tests they decided to kill him anyway. Actually, the mother didn’t seem to want to but the little dickhole son threw the switch and killed William right in front of his sister. Yes, Pam was there. The reason I didn’t explain anything about her was this seems to be a side plot or something they wrote in and then cut all of out (and never revisited) so there’s not much point in mentioning her. Other than she was a tabloid news reporter always snooping where she shouldn’t and Hoffman really fucking hated that.
This, right here, is where the franchise should have ended (considering what they did with the seventh movie which I’m not even going to write about). It should have ended with Mark on his knees and his face ripped open. That’s it. As that’s a completely survivable situation to be in. It should have been that open-ended because the actual ending they gave him was far lamer (and involved Gordon) which I already wrote about not too long ago.
I can’t deny that a big appeal of these movies is the traps and how people will die in them. However, I think this routinely gets these movies pushed aside because people assume they can’t have any substance or plot. I can assure you that the plots, characters and the underlying message of the entire franchise (cherish your life and punishing the wicked) are very well done. There is a deep story that attaches through each of the six movies that lead to an amazing conclusion. Don’t discount these movies as pure torture porn. They are far more cerebral and rewarding than that. Give them a chance. You won’t be disappointed.
Note: I haven’t watched all of these movies in order for a very, VERY long time. As such I may be melding the events of these movies together and I may not have them entirely correct. These are the over all plot points though, so if any super huge fans are reading, be aware that I’m aware that I most likely made some errors.