What's up, people! It's your friendly neighbor Tony here with some more horrific content for you! Today, we're taking a look at the most profitable horror franchise in the genre's history. Spanning 7 movies, 2 video games, one short-lived amusement park ride, and 7 years, the Saw series has permeated modern culture and become part of our collective conscious. However, as we all know, just because a series is financially successful, it isn't necessarily great! The question of the night is this: Can we call Saw an essential series in the annals of horror, or are its merits merely monetary? Let's embark on an in-depth analysis of the movies and then decide from there! Wanna play a game?
Oh, and by the way, I'll be spoiling the hell out of this series, so now's your last chance to go watch 'em if you haven't already! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
This is the flick that started a revolution in low-budget horror. Two men wake up in a bathroom with a dead body between them. Dr. Gordon (The man on the left, played by The Princess Bride's Cary Elwes) has six hours to kill Adam (The other guy, played by the screenwriter, Leigh Whannel) or else his family will die. The two men slowly piece together their situation through clues and micro-cassettes, while at the same time Detectives David Tapp and Steven Sing (Brought to life by Danny Glover and Ken Leung) try to find their captor, the elusive Jigsaw Killer. All the while, we are treated to the vicious death traps of Jigsaw as he "tests" people who he deems are lacking in survival instinct and moral fibre.
The most famous of the traps, the "Reverse Bear Trap", is introduced here, as well as a couple minor others, but the majority of the film takes place in the dirty, deadly bathroom. Eventually the film climaxes with the dramatic death of the supposed Jigsaw Killer, until one of the best twists in horror happens! I definitely didn't see THAT coming!
What made this first film so unforgettable? For one, that ending was a superb payoff to a very taut horror thriller. Everyone's minds exploded seeing that shit. If yours didn't you're a rotten liar! Another factor was the kinetic editing style which disoriented the viewers as the victims would have to try to survive their traps. Most memorable, however, were the traps themselves, and the tapes which accompanied them. The elegant brutality and MacGyver-esque contraptions made for some harrowing scenes and some gory fun. The original installment is definitely a classic. On to #2!
Saw 2 (2005)
Ah, the ever-so-daunting sequel! It's always a major problem to try to top your first film with a sequel, and Saw 2 certainly takes a run at it! This time, Jigsaw has been captured by Detective Eric Matthews, but it was all part of his dastardly plan! Matthew's son Daniel is part of Jigsaw's new game. And this time, there are 7 people all trying to get antidotes to a nerve agent in a trap-ridden death house! All the detective has to do is talk to Jigsaw for a while, and he'll let Eric's son go. This entry is awesome for a couple reasons. First, and probably most interesting, is the outline of Jigsaw's back story. We learn that the killer's name is John Kramer, and that he is a terminal cancer patient who tried and failed to kill himself. When he emerged alive, he was determined to make people appreciate their lives by forcing them to mutilate themselves! Wait, THAT'S the solution?! Not counseling or something?!
The dialogue between Detective Matthews and John is well written and acted, and Tobin Bell (The actor who portrays Jigsaw) certainly ratchets up the tension as the film progresses. The murder house is also awesome, and has some of the most gut-wrenching traps in the franchise. I'm looking at you, Pit-O-Needles! *Shudders deeply*
God dammit that's painful to watch! The traps in this one are WAYYY more hardcore, the pacing is a lot faster, and the victims, well, I actually wanted most of them to die. But hey, that's what modern horror movies are all about! In the end, THIS HAPPENS. The lesson from Saw 2 is that you should ALWAYS LISTEN TO JIGSAW, MAN! This sequel made more money than the original, and I found it to be more exciting simply due to the increased volume of traps and the origins of Jigsaw himself. A quality addition to the series. How long can they keep up this trend?
Saw 3 (2006)
Here we are, the end of the first trilogy, and already there is some seriously fucked-up stuff going down! We get the obligatory opening trap, and this one (pictured above) is the most gruesome yet. There are a LOT more chains than you can see here, and we see something very different in this trap. Although Troy doesn't quite make it out, it didn't matter because THE DOOR WAS WELDED SHUT! The officers who remain notice this and realize there must be an accomplice or a copycat killer. Meanwhile, the newly-added Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor, doing decent work here) pockets some evidence and away they go to analyze the crime scene! Then Allison Kerry (The only surviving cop from the first movie) gets kidnapped, and we see the most disturbingly beautiful trap in the series: THE ANGEL TRAP!
From here, the real story begins. A man named Jeff is kidnapped by Jigsaw and forced to pass a series of "tests". Jeff's son was killed in a car accident, and now he must choose whether or not to save the three people who were involved. Their traps are brutal. ESPECIALLY the liquid pig trap. Remember that one?
Nasty! Jeff survives his tests, but fails to save anyone else. Meanwhile, Jigsaw is very close to death. Jeff's wife Lynn has been kidnapped and must keep John alive until Jeff completes his tests, otherwise a collar will shoot five shotgun shells right at her head. In typical Saw fashion, things don't exactly work out. Jeff gets to Jigsaw RIGHT as Amanda (The apprentice, and victim from the first two movies) shoots Lynn. Jeff kills Amanda, and Jigsaw gives him a choice. Jeff can either kill Jigsaw or forgive him, and an ambulance will be called. Unfortunately people in this series are pretty stupid. THIS happens.
Now, for the actual film, it's slower and more torturous than the two before. Jeff is a decent protagonist, but he's really a dick and can't make the right decisions at the crucial points. The traps are more elaborate, and the usual dizzying cinematography accompanies each one. Gore is ramped up to new heights, and the story is actually pretty cool. This is the highest grossing Saw film for good reason. It's probably the best when all factors are considered, except, perhaps, for some weak writing in places. Still a great horror film though, and it'll sate your inner gore-hound for sure. Had they ended it here, the series would've been an amazing trilogy. However, the games continue, and now the question is: Can the last four live up to the hype?! FIND OUT IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT!! MUHUHAHAHAHA!
Thanks for reading so far, and have a KILLER weekend!