Hello readers. You may have survived the first part of this Saw series review, but your FINAL TEST awaits just below these words! When last we met, I went over the first trilogy, and everything was going pretty damn good! However, the question remains! Can the series continue keeping its momentum up, or will it wither and die under its own weight? Let's find out! As always, beware of gore and spoilers, because I'll be spilling both onto this page! Also, keep your eyes out for in-text links, because there are all sorts of insane things to be found among the sentences! Here we go!
Saw 4 (2007)
The first question that came to my mind after the end of Saw 3 was "How the hell will the games keep going when Jigsaw and Amanda are dead?!" Luckily, the viewers don't have to wait very long at all to get a semblance of things to come! The opening scene shows us the full, gruesome autopsy of John Kramer in all its gory glory, and upon opening up his stomach, the coroner finds a cassette tape. The tape tells Detective Mark Hoffman that he will not walk away untested, and that Jigsaw's games have just begun. Then the film cuts to one of the more badass of the opening traps: THE MAUSOLEUM.
Somebody get this guy some chapstick! Where were we? Oh yeah, about to turn things up a notch or two! The protagonist of the film is SWAT Lieutenant Daniel Rigg, who is put through a series of tests in order to save Detectives Eric Matthews (HE'S STILL ALIVE!!) and Mark Hoffman in 90 minutes. Jigsaw is trying to help Lt. Rigg understand how to "truly save a life" via his "rehabilitation" method, and while Rigg watches people try to survive, the FBI is hot on his tale! Agents Peter Strahm and Lindsay Perez have been assigned to find the newest Jigsaw apprentice, and they think it's Rigg! Agent Perez is sliced by an exploding Billy doll, and Agent Strahm follows Rigg to the Gideon Meat Packing Plant, where he ends up chasing Jeff from Saw 3! After passing through three tests, Rigg has to overcome his FINAL TEST!! It's a Saw film, so I think we know how this will end.
In case you didn't follow the link, it all goes to hell when Rigg doesn't learn his lesson. He enters the final room too early, resulting in Eric Matthew's spectacular death by ice blocks crushing his head! Rigg is shot and left for dead by the successor to Jigsaw's legacy, HOFFMAN! Hoffman locks Strahm in the sickroom with the corpses of Amanda, Jigsaw, and Lynn (The doctor from Saw 3), as well as the frantic Jeff, who just listened to his tape. Jeff waves his gun, screaming at Strahm for his daughter, and Strahm shoots and kills him, thinking he's about to fire. That's what you get for being a spastic, Jeff. Hoffman is shown in the autopsy room with Jigsaw and his tape again, and we are told again that he will not walk away untested. He is the heir to Jigsaw's macabre kingdom.
So that's Saw 4 in a nutshell, and it's pretty damn awesome! The traps are gory as hell and creative, the protagonist is actually SYMPATHETIC, and the whole movie moved at a good pace while bringing everything I love about this series to the forefront. I thought this sequel improved on the excellent Saw 3, and having a main character who I didn't want to die was a major step in the right direction! Saw 4 is definitely the best so far! What zany contraptions will they conjure up next? Only one way to find out!!!
Saw 5 (2008)
Saw 5 picks up where the previous installment left off, with FBI Agent Strahm locked in a room with a bunch of dead bodies. He finds a way into a secret passageway where Hoffman knocks him out and puts him into an "inescapable" trap. Except NOT, because Strahm is HARD AS FUCK! Did he just give himself a tracheotomy with a PEN?!! After narrowly escaping his execution, Strahm goes on a personal mission to uncover the next Jigsaw apprentice. Meanwhile, we're treated to flashbacks of Jigsaw and Hoffman setting up the nerve gas house from Saw 2 and we see how John got Hoffman to join him. Meanwhile, five lucky contestants wake up in the NEXT Jigsaw traps and have to eliminate each other to advance through four trapped rooms! One such trap involves neck collars and razor blades, and it's PRETTY HARDCORE!
Unfortunately, the scenes in between the "Fatal Five" aren't all that exciting. Strahm figures out about Hoffman, there are about a million flashbacks throughout, and we find out that the opening trap (I know I didn't mention it, because you should SEE WHAT I SEE) was an execution set up by Hoffman to kill his sister's murderer. What a hell of a way to go! That's some Edgar Allen Poe darkness right there! While Strahm seeks to prove Hoffman's guilt, Hoffman races to plant evidence of Strahm at the latest crime scene. Strahm's FBI boss, Erickson, is on the case, and ends up finding Strahm's phone at the location of the current game just as the last two people make it into their final trap. Then we get a twist: if they Fatal Five had worked together, they could have all survived the traps. The games were set up so that nobody had to die, if only they could overcome their competitive attitudes. Alas, it's Saw, and people are pretty dumb.
After what feels like the longest 85 minutes of the series, it's finally time for the big finale. Strahm has found Hoffman's lair, and in it a glass box with a ton of broken glass in it. There's a tape which tells his to trust Jigsaw and get in the box. Before he can listen to the entire tape, Hoffman comes in and they have a little fisticuffs battle before Strahm breaks Hoffman's nose and throws him in the box, sealing it and yelling, "I GOT YOU, you motherfucker!" So badass. But wait! The movie's not over yet! The door out of the room seals itself, and Hoffman points to the tape recorder. The second part tells Strahm that if he doesn't get into the box, he will disappear forever and Jigsaw's legacy will become Strahm's. Oh fuck, cue ending theme. Here's the awesome ending scene.
For a fifth entry, it's pretty damn good. The first and last scenes are both excellent in terms of excitement and execution (I couldn't resist haha), and both traps are among the most memorable in the series. Compared to fifth entries in other horror series, this stands tall. However, I'm not comparing this to other series. I'm comparing it to the other Saw films, and in that regard, Saw 5 falls a bit flat. While the bookends are awesome, the meat of the movie leaves much to be desired. The Fatal Five traps were lackluster at best, and the characters were all forgettable and not likable. There are more flashbacks in Saw 5 than its predecessors, and it just feels like we're being dragged along against our will through an hour of Hoffman and Jigsaw setting up the classic games. Didn't we already get enough flashbacks in Saw 3? This entry wasn't stellar. Let's hope Saw 6 can get the magic back and keep the game interesting.
Saw 6 (2009)
Here we go, the sixth installment in this horrific and gross anthology! Saw 6 begins with what I consider to be the most hardcore opening trap in the series, the POUND OF FLESH. I love Jigsaw's puns, and I especially like the idea that survival will cost one of them an arm or a leg to escape! And the acting is actually good in this opener! Great start so far! This film continues the story with Hoffman escaping the glass coffin and pulling Strahm's hand from the messy remains of his body and using it to contaminate the crime scenes in his lair. FBI Agent Erickson already thinks Strahm is the newest Jigsaw apprentice, so Hoffman feels he is in the clear. Meanwhile, Jill Tuck (Jigsaw's ex-wife) reveals the contents of the box she was given after John Kramer's death. Inside are new targets for another game, and the plans for their tests. Hoffman takes the envelopes and tells Jill he will continue John's work alone. The struggle for power begins.
We are then introduced to William Easton, the focus of the new game. William is an executive at a health insurance firm, and bases coverage on a survival formula which excludes people who are not likely to survive. As it turns out, John Kramer was refused coverage under this formula, as was another family man. Jigsaw doesn't take too kindly to people who don't value life, so he tasks Hoffman with kidnapping everyone in Easton's inner circle to test him on the value of one life over another. Watching over the game is Hoffman, as well as a mother and son who are in a cage, forced to witness the tests. The first test is a battle of endurance. William and his janitor, Hank, are strapped into ventilators which will activate a vise every time they take a breath. Hank is a smoker, and can't hold his breath very long, leading to one of the MOST PAINFUL DEATHS IN THE SERIES, and William advances to the next test.
The next trap forces William to pick who will live between his middle-aged secretary and his healthy file clerk. Again, good acting and a chilling concept. William's formula is put to the test, and he saves the middle-aged woman, while the younger man is hanged by barbed wire. The third trap has William attempt to help one of his workers escape a steel maze by diverting jets of scalding steam onto himself so that she can advance. If (More like "when" if we're being realistic) she fails, a metal rod will be fired into her head. The set they use is the biggest one so far, and the sequence is extremely brutal, with both William and his co-worker getting scorched by steam jets and ending with her HORRIFIC AND SUDDEN END. His FINAL TEST is the most grueling choice of all. In front of him is a cage with his six understudies who are spinning on a carousel. If he does nothing, they will be blasted into oblivion one by one by a rigged shotgun. He has the opportunity to save two of them by piercing his hands and pressing a button, and he must decide which of his pupils is worthy of life. This impossible choice is one of the best traps in the series, far and away. He chooses a mother and a caregiver to survive, and has to watch as the other four are killed. The reason I'm specifically outlining every trap in this movie and not the others is because Saw 6 has arguably the best protagonist acting (other than Rigg, perhaps) and the most excruciating traps in the series. Finally, William makes it to the end of his journey, and the mother and son, still locked in the cage, are revealed to be the family of the man he refused to cover in the beginning. The family is given a choice: forgive William and let him live, or kill him.
Talk about a gruesome death! William is stabbed by a large metal block of needles, and then injected with hydrofluoric acid, melting in half in front of the family and William's kidnapped sister. In the observatory, Hoffman is tasered by Jill and she reveals that there was another envelope for her which contained an updated Reverse Bear Trap and instructions to test Hoffman. Jill fits it to his head and leaves him to die, but Hoffman breaks free of his restraints and jams the trap, ripping open his cheek but freeing him, and leaving him screaming on the floor.
All in all, Saw 6 delivers gut-wrenching gore, cool story lines, a pair of fun twists, and reasonably good acting. It's definitely one of the better sequels, if not the best. Oh god, now I have to review the final sequel. The 3D gimmick-y one. Fuck my life.
Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)
When I first heard about this 3D bullshit to finish off the series, I was convinced that this movie would be shit. And guess what? I was RIGHT! I'm not going to insult you by suggesting you watch this crap. I'll save you the trouble and tell you WHY you shouldn't watch this crap. The film opens with Dr. Gordon crawling out of the bathroom immediately after the events of the first film. He cauterizes his stump and then we cut to a trap that is so goofy and cheesy, you'll think you were watching rejected cartoons. There's a woman (pictured above) and two guys who are in the trap because the woman used manipulated both of them to commit crimes for her. They have to decide which of the three will be killed by circular saw blades. If one of the men is to die, they have to push a table all the way to the other side. If they want to kill the girl, the just leave it in the middle. Oh, and the trap is set up in the middle of the city, because setting up a death machine in a crowded town square is no big deal, right? Also, pink fake blood is not scary. Bad start so far. We are introduced to Bobby Dagen, a fake Jigsaw survivor who has gained fame and fortune by lying about his experience with one of the killer's traps. Jigsaw hates liars, so he kidnaps Bobby, his wife, and his publicity staff and puts them in a series of tests. The traps are boring. The acting is sloppy at best. The gore is very generic and there's BARELY ANY OF IT!
Bobby has to finish his tests in an hour in order to reach his wife, who doesn't know he's a fraud. Meanwhile, Hoffman tries to kill Jill, but she turns herself into the police and offers to give them evidence against Hoffman if they'll grant her immunity and protection. This segment is actually okay, because everyone forgets how ruthless and badass Hoffman is when he is challenged. He murders the shit out of the new detectives on the block, and half the precinct, before taking Jill to the evidence room and putting the original Reverse Bear Trap on her, watching it snap open and splatter blood at the camera. Okay, so it was kind of cool.
Bobby gets to the end of his tests and reaches his wife, but then he has to go through the trap he supposedly survived once before. He must put hooks through his chest and hoist himself up to a pair of extension cords. If he can put them together, his wife will be set free. But wait. It's such a surprise, are you ready? he can't do it. whoaaaaah, never saw that coming. (I couldn't find a sarcasm font. That'll have to do.) So Bobby watches as his wife is boiled in a Brazen Bull, which is hokey and full of CG shit. Great. At least we'll have a decent finale, right? Oh wait, this is a 3D movie. Hoffman goes to his lair and burns the motherfucker to the ground, taking a big bag of money (where he got that from is never explained) and making a run for it. Then three pig masked guys come out from nowhere and drug him, with the leader pulling off the mask and revealing Dr. Gordon's face. Flashbacks happen. Dr. Gordon has been helping Jigsaw all along, doing the precise surgical work on the trapped victims in all the other movies. Then Gordon locks Hoffman in the bathroom from Saw beside the very decomposed Adam and throws the hacksaw away, right at the camera. Fucking 3D.
And thus ends the saga of Saw. While the last movie was total shit, the series as a whole was pretty damn awesome! Great traps, a cool and engaging story (minus a few gratuitous plot twists, of course), and awesome antagonists made for an entertaining ride, and when all is said and done, the Saw series is a horror MUST-SEE! Do yourselves a favor and check 'em out if you haven't already! If you made it to the end of this gargantuan article, congratulations! You passed your FINAL TEST! Most people are so ungrateful for the most commercially successful horror movie franchise in history, but not you. Not anymore. I'm Tony, thanks as always for checking me out, and let me know what you thought of this series!