For all of its mass appeal, Saw is a wonderfully weird film to be one of the most profitable horror movies of all time. For a start, it's a low-budget thriller made by two young guys from Australia — one of whom acted in the film to save money! — but that's not why it's really unusual.
Unlike almost any other modern horror movie, the interesting thing about Saw is:
- There are only FIVE deaths
- All of the deaths are MEN
- None of the deaths are LEAD CHARACTERS.
Just try to think of any other horror movie where this applies. Within the Saw franchise itself, these numbers are way different, with an average onscreen death count of 12 per film for each sequel. This seems like a good time for one of my fave vids ever — a Saw kills supercut!
If you think about it, part of the reason we get the 'Final Girl' trope is that a whole bunch of girls usually die first. Movie psychos are usually after girls, and even if they're more DGAF (like Jason Voorhees), they usually kill quite a lot of people — you can compare slasher movie kill counts here.
Amanda Young (Shanwee Smith) wriggled out of the reverse bear trap, Jeff Ridenhour-Thomas (Ned Bellamy) survives the drill chair, and Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) lives to appear in more Saw.
Take a closer look at the five victims: all dudes, all non-main characters.
Actor: Mike Butters
Although his story is expanded in Saw IV and V, Paul was one of Jigsaw's first victims, shoved in a room full of razor wire because his attempted suicide pissed John Kramer off (Jigsaw is not terribly sympathetic to mental health issues, clearly).
Actor: Oren Koules (also worked as a producer for the movie)
"There is only one key to open the device. It's in the stomach of your dead cellmate."
I mean, I'm guessing that Greco dies. An early script for Saw explains that Greco is Amanda's drug dealer, although this is never made explicit in the theatrical cut of the film. He is drugged by Jigsaw then stabbed in the stomach by a rather desperate Amanda.
Actor: Paul Gutrecht
For Mark's crime of faking sickness to get out of work, Jigsaw smothers him in flammable gunk, making him hobble around on broken glass trying out eternal combinations on a safe by candlelight. Fun fact: casting director Amy Lippens picked Gutrecht for the role — her ex-husband!
Actor: Ken Leung
Detective Sing is killed by shotgun blast while negotiating Jigsaw's traps. Despite his investigative role in the movie, it's hardly fair to say that he's a lead character, right?
Actor: Michael Emerson
Zep is bashed to death by Adam with a toilet lid — hardly a graceful way for anyone to meet their maker. Sure, you could debate that Zep plays a big part in the movie, but his screen time is small compared to the lead characters', Adam Stanheight and Lawrence Gordon.
Bonus: Adam Stanheight & Detective Tapp
Tapp only meets his demise in Saw: The Video Game, where he is shot (if you, the player, wish it so). We see Adam shut into the bathroom at the end of Saw, but we only find out his actual cause of death in Saw III, when Amanda reveals that she asphyxiated him with a plastic bag to hasten his demise.
Part of this slow-burn nature of the first Saw movie — and what makes it so intense with its prioritization of quality over quantity — is that it was never intended to be a horror movie. James Wan and Leigh Whannell conceptualized the project as a thriller inspired by Seven and Giallo movies. Whannell commented:
"It wasn’t ‘torture porn’ at all. I remember writing the first film and not thinking about the gore in any way. What I thought James and I were creating was a cool kind of locked-room thriller with this non-linear structure."
"To me it was a combination of Se7en, Cube, and Memento—all my favorite films at the time. So it was interesting when the film entered the public consciousness and became the yardstick for gory horror films. That wasn’t our intention.
Ultimately, it’s hard for James and I to be upset about the fact that they marketed it as a horror film—they made a good, smart move. They knew what they were doing. Their marketing choices led to it being a success. But James and I know that’s not what we set out to make."
If you think you watched Saw really closely, you might want to check out this other super cool thing nobody noticed in the first Saw movie. Or, if you're a fan of pig uteruses in horror cinema, read these odd (and at times, stomach-churning Saw facts).