With Saw 3D, the latest incarnation of the franchise about to crash on to cinema screens everywhere, we thought it would be worthwhile revisiting the other movies for a reminder of how we got to this point. As you can imagine, this will be spoiler-tastic so if you don’t want any of the films ruined, look away now.
Are the Saw-free lot gone? Good. We never liked them any… Oh, you’re still here? Erm.. Hi!
Since debuting in 2004, the franchise has become the highest-grossing horror series of all time. Each film has had varying degrees of success with fans and critics, but everything looks to have been building up to this point, with Saw 3D being billed as the last in the series. Whether that’s true or not probably depends on the movie’s performance at the box office, but the producers have done a good job of gradually filling out the Jigsaw universe with each film, so don’t be surprised if there’s a Saw 8.
For those who know next to nothing about the series, it focuses on Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) who sees himself as a lethal moral crusader. He finds people who have followed a morally dubious path in life and attempts to help them see the error of their ways. To do so, he places them into deadly traps which can only be escaped by offering some form of physical or psychological sacrifice. His decision to test his subjects’ will to life stems from a terminal brain tumour, a miscarriage suffered by his wife and an unsuccessful suicide attempt he made.
A lot happens in all of the films, but I’ll try my best to give you a quick snapshot of each film in the series:
The original, and for my money best, film in the series, this is much more of a tension-packed thriller than a horror.
Two men, Adam Stanheight and Dr Lawrence Gordon, find themselves trapped in a disgusting bathroom, chained to pipes. There is a corpse on the ground which is holding a cassette player, which each man uses to listen to a tape. They discover that Adam has been instructed to escape the room while Lawrence has to kill Adam before the clock hits 6pm. If Lawrence fails in his mission, Jigsaw will kill his wife and daughter.
After hearing the testimony of Jigsaw’s only surviving victim Amanda, former police officer David Tapp has reason to believe that Lawrence is Jigsaw (who killed his partner) and is keeping a close watch on the Gordon family home. Before Gordon’s wife and daughter are killed by Zep Hindle — also a victim of Jigsaw’s master plan — Tapp shoots at and chases Zep who escapes underground.
With time running out and gunshots audible from a phone call to his wife, Lawrence picks up a hacksaw, cuts through his foot and shoots Adam. Zep then bursts into the bathroom and is killed (in my favourite death of the series) by Adam — who survived being shot — with the cover of a toilet. Then, the ‘corpse’ in the middle of the room stands up, revealing the true identity of Jigsaw — John Kramer — and leaves the room, slamming it shut and leaving Adam to die.
Jigsaw raises the stakes when he is discovered at his lair by detectives Eric Matthews and Allison Kerry, and Sergeant Rigg. He reveals a bank of monitors depicting eight people (including Amanda and Matthew’s son Daniel) locked up inside a house full of traps. Jigsaw says that those trapped in the house have two hours to find a way out or grab an antidote. However, Jigsaw says that if Matthews stays and talks to him, he will discover his son in a safe place.
In the house, Xavier realises that each of the eight victims has a number on the back of his or her neck. While the rest of them try to find a way out, he hunts them down to get their numbers, which Xavier believes combine to create the combination to a safe and the way out. Each of those trapped in the house dies in various ways until just Xavier, Amanda and Daniel remain. Daniel eventually kills Xavier with a hacksaw.
At Jigsaw’s lair, Matthews sees Xavier looking for his son and demands that Jigsaw take him to the house. The mastermind agrees and takes Matthews to the house, where he is attacked and locked up in the bathroom from the first film by Amanda, who is revealed to be Jigsaw’s assistant.
Meanwhile, back at the mill, a safe opens to reveal Daniel ‘safe’ and well.
Here, we learn more about the history between Jigsaw and Amanda, as well as more information about how they came to be killers (I know, they don’t kill anyone, but really, they kinda do). We see Matthews, trapped at the end of the last film, escaping from the deadly duo. We also see Detective Alison Kerry and Detective Mark Hoffman probe several Jigsaw traps that were made inescapable, going against Jigsaw’s normal methods.
The main plot of this one follows Jeff Denlon, a man filled with grief after his son was killed by a drunk driver, move through a series of rooms where people are trapped. He discovers that all of them were involved in the trial of his son’s killer — the drunk driver, a witness who did not testify and a leniet judge — and is given the choice whether to save them or let them die.
Meanwhile, Jeff’s wife Lynn has been ordered to keep Jigsaw alive while her husband completes his game. If she does not, a series of shotgun shells on a collar a round her neck will detonate and kill her. As the movie progresses, Amanda begins to question Jigsaw’s devotion to her. While Jeff carries out his tasks successfully, Amanda refuses to let Lynn go and reveals that she had been the one who had designed traps which people could not escape from.
Amanda tries to kill Lynn but Jeff, who has reached the same room, stops her by shooting her in the neck. As Amanda dies, Jigsaw reveals that it was really her who was being tested all along.
Jigsaw then offers Jeff one last choice: if he forgives Jigsaw and lets him go, Jigsaw will save his family. If he chooses to kill Jigsaw his family will suffer. Jeff opts to slash Jigsaw’s throat with a saw and, before dying, Jigsaw reveals that Jeff’s daughter is locked in a room and he will have to undergo another test to save her. Meanwhile, as Jigsaw dies, Lynn’s collar explodes, killing her.
Detective Hoffman and Lieutenant Rigg stumble upon Detective Alison Kerry’s body, which had been rigged in an inescapable ‘Angel’s Wings’ trap by Amanda. They then meet FBI agents Strahm and Perez who are investigating the Jigsaw case. Strahm speculates that, given how high up Kerry’s body was positioned, Jigsaw must have had another protege assisting him.
Later, Rigg wakes up at his home to discover that he has been forced into a Jigsaw game which puts both his life and that of his former partner, Matthews, at risk. Rigg is implored to see the world as Jigsaw does, looking at criminals who have escaped justice. Rigg sees a female pimp, serial rapist and an abusive husband die, while managing to save the abused wife.
Meanwhile, Matthews is suspended over a melting block of ice and if he falls, Hoffman, who has been captured, will be electrocuted. Meanwhile, Strahm eventually finds his way to the factory where those two are trapped and he finds Jeff from the previous film, who he kills in self-defence.
Rigg, who was being tested to let go of his obsessions and acting more rationally, finds his way to the factory too and rushes into the room where the captives are, triggering a mechanism that leads to Matthews being crushed and Hoffman’s electrocution. Rigg also shoots another man who is in the room, believing him to be Jigsaw’s new apprentice. However, Hoffman stands up and walks out, leaving Rigg to die and revealing himself as Jigsaw’s new protege.
We see Strahm leave the building where Rigg had found Matthews and Hoffman after escaping from a Jigsaw trap. He believes that Hoffman is Jigsaw’s new apprentice and begins trying to find proof.
Meanwhile, five new victims are discovered in the film’s big trap. They are put through several traps, where they lose three of their number, before arriving at the final test and discovered that all five were meant to survive all of the tests so they could work together on the last task. (Phew. Almost confused myself there.) While the last two manage to escape with their lives, they have suffered a great deal of pain as their arms were mutilated.
Strahm eventually catches up with Hoffman, who had been planting evidence to pinpoint Strahm as Jigsaw’s apprentice and the two fight. Strahm pushes Hoffman into a box filled with glass, which was intended for himself as part of a test. The glass box then lowers into the ground while the walls of the room close in and crush Strahm.
The last of the series to date was a slight return to form after a disappointing few efforts and had plenty to say about the state of the American healthcare system.
William Easton, a health insurance worker, awakes in the film’s big game. He is forced to work with and against his co-workers, as well as choose which of them allows to live. Meanwhile, a mother and son are locked in a cage with a lever labelled “Live” and “Die”. Eventually, Easton comes along and the pair recognise him as the man who had denied their late husband/father health insurance. The son, Brent, moves the lever to the “Die” position, which sees acid being pumped into Easton’s body.
Elsewhere, Hoffman, who had been watching over Easton’s game, is ambushed by Jigsaw’s wife Jill. She places him into a trap, insisting that Jigsaw had asked her to test him. However, despite the trap being apparently inescapable, Hoffman manages to free himself.
So there you have it! All of the important info you need to know if you haven’t seen any of these films but still fancy seeing a horror movie which is not Paranormal Activity 2 this weekend. Saw 3D is likely to see Jill and Hoffman battle over Jigsaw’s legacy and I can’t wait to find out what happens.