– Saw is a horror film franchise that was distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment and produced by Twisted Pictures. The franchise consists of seven feature films. It began when Australian director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell created a short film in 2003. It was a pitch for a feature film, and was successful. The first installment debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, and was released in theaters that same year. The sequels were written and directed by other people, however the creators remained as executive producers for the remainder of the series. The films were released every October between 2004 and 2010, and were always released on the Friday before Halloween. There have been talks about rebooting the series or creating another sequel, and the latest reports say that it is in active development. The film series as a whole received mixed reviews, but was a financial success. It has been deemed “torture porn” like movies such as Hostel, but there are also arguments against that. The series is the fifth highest-grossing horror franchise in the United States and Canada, grossing a total of $457.4 million. The only four franchises that grossed more are Halloween, Scream, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Child’s Play. The franchise follows a fictional character known as the “Jigsaw Killer” or “Jigsaw” who traps his victims in situations known as “tests”, “games”, or “traps”. Instead of simply killing his victims, he tests their will to survive through physical or psychological torture. The franchise uses flashbacks and simultaneous stories.
Saw (2004): 9/10
– The first film of the franchise is the only one to be directed by James Wan, who remained as an executive producer for the rest of the series. It was an independent film with a low budget of $1.2 million and was shot in a total of 18 days. Despite this, it grossed more than $100 million worldwide and was one of the most profitable horror films since Scream in 1996. The majority of the film follows the story of a photographer named Adam Stanheight (played by Leigh Whannell, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie) and an oncologist named Dr. Lawrence Gordon (played by Cary Elwes). They both wake up in a run down bathroom with their legs chained to pipes on the opposite sides of the room. A corpse lies between them holding a gun and a tape player. They each find tapes in their pockets and begin to listen to them. Adam’s tape tells him to escape the bathroom or he will die where he is. Gordon’s tape tells him to kill Adam by 6:00 PM, or else he, his wife Alison (played by Monica Potter), and his daughter Diana (played by Makenzie Vega) will die. They find hacksaws in the room and try to cut through their chains, realizing that they are meant for feet. Gordon then realizes who they have been captured by, and tells Adam about the Jigsaw Killer. The film then proceeds to go through flashbacks of previous Jigsaw victims, how Gordon became a suspect, how Gordon and Adam ended up in the bathroom, the situation that Alison and Diana are currently in, as well as previous attempts by the police to catch the Jigsaw Killer. The movie is full of twists, turns, and interesting connections between characters and situations. The acting is a little shaky at times, but overall, the low budget feel of the movie really works to its advantage. The movie is known for its twists, but is a good movie to come back to and watch every so often because of the attention to detail as well as the amazing atmosphere.
Saw II (2005): 8.75/10
– This movie was the first one to be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who would go on to directing Saw III and Saw IV as well, making him the only person to direct three movies in the series. In addition to directing it, he also co-wrote the script along side Leigh Whannell. As opposed to beginning the film with the main trap or segment of the movie like the first one did, this movie starts off with a trap of a minor character, who briefly gets tied into the character. This would become the case for the rest of the series, as it allowed the movie to start off with a bang. From there, we are introduced to Detective Eric Matthews (played by Donnie Wahlberg) and Detective Allison Kerry (played by Dina Meyer). They find a message directly from Jigsaw to Detective Matthews, and he reluctantly joins the case. He helps Lietenant Daniel Rigg (played by Lyriq Bent) lead a SWAT team into an older factory, where they find The Jigsaw Killer. They also find computer monitors that show several people trapped inside a house. They realize that this is a game that is currently going on, and Eric’s son Daniel (played by Eric Knudsen) is one of them. We then go back and forth between the police dealing with The Jigsaw Killer and the people currently trapped in the house. They are informed that a nerve gas is filling the house and will kill them in two hours, unless they find antidotes that are hidden around the house. Many people enjoy this film because of the house trap. It makes for an interesting situation as the people try to work together, while trying to figure out how they are all connected. It also adds a sense of danger as they do not know what are behind the doors of the house. It still suffers from moments of shaky acting, but benefits from the simplicity of the traps.
Saw III (2006): 8.5/10
– The second movie in the series to be directed Darren Lynn Bousman, also harkens back to the first film in the franchise, as the screenplay was completely written by Leigh Whannell. The film starts more intensely than the previous two did, as it shows the fate of Detective Eric Matthews from the previous movie, as well as two addition traps, before getting into the main stories. One of the two main stories involves Lynn Denlon (played by Bahar Soomekh), who is a depressed doctor. She is kidnapped by Jigsaw’s apprentice and is brought to Jigsaw. Jigsaw, who is quickly dying from a disease, instructs Lynn that she must keep him alive until another victim has completed his game. A collar is put around her neck. It is tied to Jigsaw’s heart rate monitor. If he dies, or if she movies out of range, five shotguns will shoot at her head. The other victim is Jeff. He awakens in a box in an abandoned meatpacking plant. He must go through a series of tests. Flashbacks show that his son Dylan (played by Stefan Georgiou) was killed by a drunk driver three years ago, and Jeff has become obsessed with revenge ever since. He has been neglecting his daughter Corbett (played by Niamh Wilson), who has been kidnapped by Jigsaw. The tests will lead him to the man who killed his son, but if he fails, his daughter would never be found. The movie continues to give more of Jigsaw’s backstory, while continuing to show the efforts of the police to catch him. This movie begins to isolate a lot of viewers in terms of the series as a whole. A lot of people began to lose interest in the series after this one, as the story starts to become more and more complex from here on out. It also begins the trend of more elaborate traps in the series, losing some of the fans who appreciated the simplicity of the traps in the first two films. However, I think this film has a lot of heart. The acting is solid, and Jeff’s story is one of the best in the series.
Saw IV (2007): 8.5/10
– Saw IV is the third and final movie in the franchise to be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. It is also the first movie in the franchise to have a screenplay not be written by Leigh Whannell. Instead, it was written by newcomers Patrick, Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Thomas Fenton. This movie starts off with a scene of a autopsy, setting a slow pace while still starting off gory. From there, the movie transitions to the first trap, which helps move the pace a little faster. The movie gets on to the focus of the film. It shows the police detectives who are on the case, and in particular it focuses on Lieutenant Daniel Rigg, who has been a minor character in the previous two movies. Rigg has developed an obsession with saving people, and in particular has an obsession with finding Detective Eric Matthews, who has been missing for six months. At home, he declines joining his wife on a trip, and is attacked later that night. He awakens in his home to find out that Matthews is still alive, and he has 90 minutes to save himself, Matthews, and Detective Mark Hoffman (played by Costas Mandylor) who had a minor role in the previous movie. He must go through a series of tests to face his obsession. These tests take him from his home, to a motel, to an abandoned school, and eventually to the warehouse where Matthews and Hoffman are trapped.While this is going on, we are also introduced to FBI Agents Peter Strahm (played by Scott Paterson) and Lindsey Perez (played by Athena Karkanis), who have been put on the Jigsaw case and are currently searching for Rigg while he is on his test. We are also introduced to Jill Tuck, Jigsaw’s ex-wife, who is brought in by the police for questioning. The movie continues to show Jigsaw’s backstory, while also looking at the possibility of another person helping out Jigsaw. For people who were not tired of the series yet and continued with it, many liked it more than Saw III.
Saw V (2008): 8.25/10
– This is the first movie since Saw to not be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. Instead it is directed by David Hackl and written again by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. David Hackl served as the production designer of the previous three films in the series and was the second-unit director for the previous two films in the series. This was his directorial debut. It starts immediately with a trap before having a brief flashback of the events at the end of the previous film. From there, the movie continues into the new story. Since the fate of FBI Agent Peter Strahm was left wide open in the previous one, it shows what happens next and how he was able to eventually escape. The movie then continues the story about Jill Tuck as we see her meeting with the attorney of Jigsaw. The attorney administrates Jigsaw’s will, and leaves her a large box and a video tape. She opens it with the key around her neck but does not show the contents. Hoffman has a memorial service during a price conference, and is promoted to detective lieutenant. With the help of his boss Dan Erickson, they continue to try and find the Jigsaw Killer, while Peter Strahm continues to try and solve the case on his own. Meanwhile, the main game of the movie is taking place. It involves five people (Ashely, played by Laura Gordon, Brit, played by Julie Benz, Charles, played by Carlo Rota, Luba Gibbs, played by Meagan Good, and Mallick, played by Greg Bryk) who are somehow connected, and have to go through a series of tests to survive. The movie bounces back and forth a lot between backstory on Jigsaw and his ex-wife Jill Tuck, backstory on the two people who helped Jigsaw make his traps, the police continuing with the investigation, and the 5 person trap. This can be a little bit difficult for the viewer to follow if they are not fully invested in what is going on. Especially with all the different names and faces involved in the story. However, the 5 person trap is one of the most memorable of the series (even though some of the acting is little bit shaky). The movie also does a great job leaving stuff unanswered for the next movie.
Saw VI (2009): 8.25/10
– This movie is the first one to be directed by Kevin Greutert, the fourth director of the series. Kevin was the editor for the previous five films of the series, and this was his very first film as director. Melton and Dunstan returned to write the screenplay. It is the lowest grossing film of the franchise due to the loss of interest in the series as well as the popularity of another horror movie released in September of 2009 known as Paranormal Activity. However, it was still a financial success as it raised more than 6x its $11 million budget. It starts with a trap, this time consisting of Simone (played by Tenedra Howard who won the show Scream Queens to get this role) and Eddie. From there, we follow Detective Mark Hoffman and FBI Agent Dan Erickson who are still on the case. Hoffman meets reporter Pamela Jenkins who is covering the Jigsaw murders. It then gives more backstory to Jill Tuck and her job at a health clinic. We then get to the main story, following William Easton, a health insurance executive. He is kidnapped from his office at night and brought to an abandoned zoo. He is told by Jigsaw that he has one hour to undergo four tests to remove bombs from his limbs, or else he will lose his family. He goes through the tests, which all involve people from his work. While this is going on, his tests are viewed by Brent and Tara, who are trapped on a cage. Pamela also awakens trapped in a cage. Flashbacks reveal how William personally knew Jigsaw, and reeal why he is being tested. Erickson and Hoffman find clues not only about Jigsaw, but also about what Detective Peter Strahm is up to. The traps continue the trend of becoming more extreme and more elaborate, which may annoying for some viewers, but I really enjoy Williams backstory and how it connects to Jigsaw, as well as the focus on Jill Tuck. It is interesting to see how she is dealing with being the infamous ex wife of the Jigsaw.
Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010): 8/10
– The last movie of the series (so far) is the second movie in a row to be directed by Kevin Greutert. It was the first film of the franchise to be in 3D. An 8th installment was originally planned. However, due to the decrease of popularity the concept of the plot was incorporated into this one. David Hackl was originally planned to direct this one, but it got switched over two weeks before filming. It was originally rated NC-17 and had to be edited and re-submitted to finally receive an R rating (it was the only film of the series to receive a R18+ rating in Australia, as opposed to a MA15+ rating). It received mostly negative reviews, but was still a box office success. The film starts off with the first trap in the series to ever be out in public, as it takes place in the middle of a metropolitan storefront window in front of a crowd of people. From there, it briefly reviews the end of the previous film to show what happens next. Jill Tuck decides to go to the police and tell them what she knows about her ex husband in exchange for protection and immunity from prosecution. The film then shows another trap, involving a gang of skinheads (including Chester Bennington from Linkin Park as Evan). The movie than follows the main story, of Bobby Dagen (played by Sean Patrick Flanery), a self-help guru who is famous for his story of surviving a Jigsaw trap. One night, after a meet up with other survivors of Jigsaw traps, he is abducted and brought to an abandoned asylum. He must go through a series of tests involving the people closest to him within sixty minutes or else his wife will die. They are able to see each other through television sets that are placed around the building. While his tests are going on internal affairs detective Matt Gibson is brought into the case after receiving videos with cryptic clues to the location of Jigsaw. The movie goes back and forth between the police keeping Jill safe, Matt Gibson visiting multiple areas such as a junkyard (the site of a recent Jigsaw trap) for clues, the SWAT team being sent to the asylum to try and find Dagen, and the Jigsaw Killer trying to cover his tracks while finishing his work once and for all. The traps obviously catered to the 3D effects which can come off as being cheesy and over the top. Also there are some moments that have left fans of the series questioning why certain things had to happen or why certain things were never answered. It may not do a good job addressing every single open question that the entire series has brought about. But in the end, it has a really good ending which helps tie the whole series together through the use of flashbacks.