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Saw is an American horror franchise distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment and produced by Twisted Pictures that consists of seven feature films and additional media. In 2003, Australian director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell created a short film to help pitch as a potential feature film. This was successfully done in 2004 with the release of the first installment at the Sundance Film Festival. It was released theatrically that October. The sequels were directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, David Hackl, and Kevin Greutert, and were written by Wan, Whannell, Bousman, Patrick Melton, and Marcus Dunstan, and were released subsequently every October, on the Friday before Halloween, between 2004 and 2010. Both of the creators remained with the franchise as executive producers. On July 22, 2010, producer Mark Burg confirmed that the seventh film, Saw 3D, is the final installment of the series. Series creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell are still open to continuing the series, however, if they can do something “different” with the material. The films collectively grossed over $873 million at the box office worldwide. Lionsgate reportedly expressed interest in continuing the franchise in 2012 with a reboot. However, in November 2013, it was reported that they were in active development of a sequel.
The franchise revolves around the main antagonist, John Kramer, also called the “Jigsaw Killer” or simply “Jigsaw”. He was introduced briefly in Saw and developed in more detail in Saw II. Rather than killing his victims outright, Jigsaw traps them in situations that he calls “tests” or “games” to test their will to live through physical or psychological torture. Despite the fact that John was murdered in Saw III, the films continue to focus on the posthumous influence of the Jigsaw Killer and his apprentices by exploring his character via flashbacks.
The film series as a whole has received mostly mixed to negative reviews by critics, but has been a financial success at the box office. While the films are often compared to Hostel and classified as torture porn by critics, the creators of Saw disagree with the term “torture porn”. Writer Luke Y. Thompson of OC Weekly argued that, unlike Hostel, the Saw films actually have less torture than most in the sense of sadism or masochism, as Jigsaw believes that those who survive his methods will be stronger people for it. He called him a kind of a “(deranged) philanthropist“.
Flashbacks from Saw IV reveal the roots of the series, presenting John Kramer as a successful civil engineer and devoted husband to his wife Jill Tuck, who opened a rehab clinic for drug addicts. Jill lost her unborn baby, Gideon, due to the unwitting actions of a drug addict named Cecil, who fled the scene. Saw VI later showed that another drug addict, Amanda Young, also had an unintentional role in the death of Gideon. John grieved over the loss of his child, and distanced himself from his friends and his wife.
John and Jill eventually drifted apart and divorced. After this turn of events, John found himself trapped by his own complacency, until he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Extremely bitter over his squandered life and the loss of his unborn son, John began observing the lives of others and became even more depressed as he saw those around him squandering the gift of life that he had just been denied. John went to a man named William Easton to get money for a cancer treatment, but was denied. Flashbacks from Saw II show that, after surviving a suicide attempt where he drove his car off a cliff, John was “reborn”, and nurtured the idea that the only way for someone to change is for them to change themselves. Then, in Saw IV flashbacks, he designed the first trap and test for Cecil and decided to use the rest of his existence to design more of these “tests” or “games” as a form of “instant rehabilitation” that would change the world, “one person at a time”. John was soon given the name “The Jigsaw Killer” (or “Jigsaw”), because he removed a puzzle-piece-shaped chunk of flesh from those who did not escape his traps. John stated that this name was given to him by the media, and that the cut piece of flesh was meant to represent that these victims were each missing something — what he called the “survival instinct”.
Few of Jigsaw’s victims are able to survive his brutal mechanical traps, which are often ironically symbolic representations of the problems in the victim’s life and require them to undergo severe physical and psychological torture to escape.
In Saw V, police lieutenant Mark Hoffman‘s ties with John are revealed in a series of flashbacks during the film. Hoffman’s sister is murdered by her boyfriend, Seth Baxter. Seth is arrested; however, a technicality allowed him to be released, and Hoffman, feeling Seth had not served the full capacity of his sentence, kills him in an inescapable trap designed to look like one of Jigsaw’s, laying the blame on him. Jigsaw then kidnaps Hoffman and blackmails him into becoming his apprentice in his “rehabilitation” methods, though eventually Hoffman would become a willing apprentice, helping set up John’s tests from almost the beginning, starting with Paul‘s trap.
The first surviving victim, Amanda Young, views Jigsaw as a hero who ultimately changed her life for the better. Amanda, upon Jigsaw’s request, agrees to become his protégée. After Amanda survives, John shows Jill her rehabilitation, and Jill then becomes knowledgeable of John’s traps and becomes somewhat of an accomplice as well.
In Saw, Jigsaw has chained the man who diagnosed his cancer, Dr. Lawrence Gordon, in a dilapidated industrial washroom with Adam Stanheight, a photographer who has been tailing the doctor due to a former police detective’s suspicions that Gordon is Jigsaw. Lawrence has instructions to kill Adam by six o’clock, or else his wife and daughter will be killed. Flashbacks show detectives David Tapp and Steven Sing, who suspect Lawrence of being Jigsaw, following a trail of clues from other Jigsaw traps. Sing’s death from a shotgun trap after saving a victim named Jeff causes Tapp to obsess over catching Jigsaw. Later on, he chases Zep Hindle, who monitors Adam and Lawrence’s tests, and gets shot in the chest. Eventually, Lawrence saws his own foot off in order to escape, leaving Adam in the bathroom while Lawrence goes to try to save his family and get help for Adam. It is later seen in Saw 3D that Dr. Gordon found a steaming hot pipe and cauterized his wound, stopping the bleeding and ultimately surviving the trap. John catches up with Gordon and makes him his next apprentice, a fact which he hides from his other accomplices. Flashbacks from Saw III show that Amanda kidnapped Adam and later returned to suffocate him as an act of “mercy killing”.
Saw II begins with the police tracking a severely weakened Jigsaw to his lair. However, another test is in place, as he and Amanda have kidnapped the son of Detective Eric Matthews and trapped him and a group of seven convicts, previously framed by Matthews, in a house that is slowly being filled with sarin gas, with Amanda Young among them. He will trade Daniel Matthews‘ life for Detective Matthews’ time, conversing with him until the game is concluded. Matthews loses his patience and assaults Jigsaw, forcing him to take him to the house, only to discover that the video feed from inside the house had been pre-recorded, the events actually taking place much earlier; Matthews’ son was locked in a safe in Jigsaw’s warehouse, being kept alive with an oxygen tank. Matthews is knocked unconscious by a masked figure and wakes up imprisoned in the bathroom from Saw, which is part of the foundation of the house. Amanda reveals herself to Eric as Jigsaw’s protégée before leaving him to die. In a flashback from Saw III, Matthews manages to escape the bathroom by breaking his foot. He confronts and beats Amanda, demanding to know where his son is. Amanda fights him off and leaves him for dead. A flashback from Saw IV shows Hoffman later dragging Eric to a prison cell, keeping him alive for a future game.
The events of Saw III and Saw IV occur concurrently. Saw III begins with Jigsaw, weakened and near death, confined to a makeshift hospital bed. Amanda has taken over his work, designing traps of her own; however, these traps are inescapable, as Amanda is convinced that Jigsaw’s traps have no effect and that people don’t change. A kidnapped doctor is forced to keep Jigsaw alive while another test is performed on Jeff, a man obsessed with vengeance against the drunk driver who killed his son. Jigsaw, unwilling to allow a murderer to continue his legacy, designs a test for Amanda as well; she ultimately fails, and it results in the deaths of both Jigsaw and Amanda. Saw IV, meanwhile, revolves around tests meant for Officer Daniel Rigg, which are overseen by Hoffman. Rigg fails his test, resulting in the death of Eric Matthews. Rigg is left to bleed to death by Hoffman, who later discovers the bodies of Jigsaw and Amanda. When an autopsy is performed on Jigsaw, a cassette tape coated in wax is found in his stomach; the tape informs Hoffman that he is wrong to think that it is all over just because Jigsaw is dead, and he should not expect to go untested.
The events of Saw V show one of Hoffman’s first solo tests, five people connected together by different roles in a disastrous fire that killed several others are put into four interconnected tests of teamwork, killing off one person in each trap. The two remaining test subjects realize at the final trap that each previous trap was meant to be completed by each of the five people doing a small part, rather than killing one person per trap. With this knowledge, the two work together and barely manage to escape. They are found alive by Special Agent Erikson. Meanwhile, Hoffman has set up FBI Agent Peter Strahm to appear to be Jigsaw’s accomplice, while Strahm pursues Hoffman and is eventually killed due to his inability to follow Hoffman’s rules, leaving Hoffman free to continue Jigsaw’s “work”.
Saw VI begins with Hoffman setting up a game as per John’s instructions left in a box for Jill during Saw V. This game centers on insurance executive named William Easton who oversees a team responsible for rejecting two-thirds of all insurance claims. As William progresses through four tests, he saves as many people as he can and learns the error of his choice to reject so many policies, which inherently “kill” the rejected. His last test is revealed to be a test of forgiveness by the family of Harold Abbott, a man to whom William rejected a policy in the past, whose son ultimately chooses to kill William using hydrofluoric acid. Meanwhile, Agent Erickson and the previously thought to be dead agent Lindsey Perez search for Agent Strahm with the assistance of Hoffman. Upon finding irregularities in previous murder scenes, Perez and Erickson discover Hoffman’s identity, but are killed by him before they can go public with his involvement. Hoffman travels back to the site of William’s tests in which Jill attacks him to obey John’s final request. She leaves Hoffman in a new Reverse Beartrap left behind by John, though does not leave a key for him to free himself. He is able to manipulate the trap and escapes wounded.
Saw 3D picks up with Jill and Hoffman battling for control of Jigsaw’s legacy. As Jill enters protective custody and makes Hoffman’s true identity public, Hoffman sets up a new game involving skinheads to find a way to Jill. Meanwhile, Bobby Dagen, a fraud who has written a book about escaping a Jigsaw trap he never experienced, is captured and forced to confront people who knew that he lied about being in a trap. Three of Dagen’s friends die and his test concludes with him being forced to reenact the trap that he claimed to have survived before. He fails, which results in the death of his wife. Meanwhile, Hoffman has posed as a corpse and killed several officers to infiltrate the police station. He finds and kills Jill using the Reverse Beartrap. Hoffman attempts to leave town but is captured by Lawrence Gordon and his accomplices, then placed in the bathroom from the first film. Revealing Jigsaw aided Gordon after his game and, in return, Gordon helped with subsequent traps. Hoffman is then left shackled in the bathroom to die.
Billy is a puppet resembling a ventriloquist’s dummy, sometimes seen riding a tricycle, that has appeared throughout the films and has become a type of mascot for the series. It is used by the Jigsaw Killer to communicate with his victims by delivering televised messages or occasionally in person to describe details of the sadistic traps and the means by which the victims could survive. Viewers have sometimes incorrectly identified the puppet itself as Jigsaw, because of its presence and connection to the killer.
Age and use of the puppet over the course of the films necessitated its reconstruction. According to Wan, the original puppet’s face for Saw involved clay, papier-mâché, and black ping-pong balls with the irises painted in for the eyes, but in later films more sophisticated construction included waterjet-cut foam for the body and remote-controlled animatronics.
The endurance and popularity of the franchise has resulted in the production of Billy merchandise, as well as references in other media and its use in promotions for the films.
“Hello Zepp” is a piece of instrumental music that was originally composed by Charlie Clouser for the first film in the series. In Saw, the implied villain, Zep Hindle, is revealed to actually be a victim of the Jigsaw Killer. (The character’s name in the script is spelled “Zep”, whereas the music titles are spelled “Zepp”.) As the series continued, the piece was reused in every film as a leitmotif, often being renamed and remixed to accommodate the changing situations and characters. The music was used in every Saw ending, usually during the revealing of plot revelations and twists which Saw films often use and it serves as the main theme tune for the whole films.
An important component of each film is the variety of mechanical traps Jigsaw and his apprentices use on their captives to communicate his message.
According to David Hackl, all of the traps are real objects, and not CGI. They were designed to look horrific but ultimately be safe for the actors in them. Writer Marcus Dunstan said: “It’s built to function there on the day”, and added: “It works. So if there’s a scalping chair — there really was a chair with working gears to grind and pull your scalp back.” The most potentially dangerous item was a “water box” used in Saw V, in which one of the actors (Scott Patterson, as Peter Strahm) had to keep his head submerged as long as possible. Another element of the traps is that Hackl desired a specific look of rust and menace, but he also wanted them to have a type of beauty about them.
|Saw||Saw II||Saw III||Saw IV||Saw V||Saw VI||Saw 3D||Saw: Legacy|
|Director(s)||James Wan||Darren Lynn Bousman||David Hackl||Kevin Greutert||The Spierig Brothers|
Darren Lynn Bousman
|Cinematographer||David A. Armstrong||Brian Gedge||Ben Nott|
|Editor(s)||Kevin Greutert||Kevin Greutert and Brett Sullivan||Kevin Greutert||Andrew Coutts||TBA|
|Production designer||Julie Berghoff||David Hackl||Anthony A. Ianni||Anthony Cowley|
|ACB rating||MA15+||MA15+/R18+ (DVD)||MA15+||R18+||R|
|Running time||102 minutes||93 minutes||108 minutes||92 minutes||92 minutes||90 minutes||90 minutes||TBA|
Cast and characters
- A dark grey cell indicates the character was not in the film.
The Final Chapter
|John Kramer/Jigsaw||Tobin Bell|
|Amanda Young||Shawnee Smith|
|Mark Hoffman||Costas Mandylor||TBA|
|Jill Tuck||Betsy Russell||TBA|
|Lawrence Gordon||Cary Elwes||Cary Elwes||TBC|
|Adam Stanheight||Leigh Whannell||Leigh Whannell|
|Zep Hindle||Michael Emerson||Michael Emerson|
|David Tapp||Danny Glover||Danny Glover||Danny Glover|
|Steven Sing||Ken Leung||Ken Leung||Ken Leung|
|Allison Kerry||Dina Meyer|
|Eric Matthews||Donnie Wahlberg|
|Daniel Rigg||Lyriq Bent|
|Daniel Matthews||Erik Knudsen||Erik Knudsen||TBC|
|Xavier Chavez||Franky G||Franky G|
|Jeff Denlon||Angus Macfadyen|
|Lynn Denlon||Bahar Soomekh|
|Peter Strahm||Scott Patterson|
|Lindsey Perez||Athena Karkanis|
|Art Blank||Justin Louis||Justin Louis|
|Dan Erickson||Mark Rolston|
|Mallick||Greg Bryk||Greg Bryk|
|William Easton||Peter Outerbridge|
|Bobby Dagen||Sean Patrick Flanery||TBC|
|Matt Gibson||Chad Donella|
Saw grossed $18.2 million its opening weekend and had become Lionsgate‘s second best opening, after Fahrenheit 9/11‘s $23.9 million (2004). Saw went on to gross $103 million worldwide, and is the second lowest-grossing film in the series after Saw VI. At the time, it became the most profitable horror film after Scream (1996). It is the seventh highest-grossing Halloween opening weekend.Saw II opened at number one with $31.7 million, and set a Lionsgate Halloween opening weekend record and is also the third highest-grossing Halloween opener. It became at the time, the widest release in Lionsgate history and one of the best opening weekends for a horror sequel. It is Lionsgate’s fourth highest-grossing film in the United States and Canada. Saw III placed first by grossing $33.6 million its opening weekend, making it the biggest Halloween debut ever and at the time, Lionsgate’s highest-opening weekend. It is the highest-grossing film in the series worldwide. It has the highest-grossing weekend in the series and also Lionsgate’s fifth highest-grossing film in the United States and Canada.
Saw IV premiered at number one with $32.1 million making it the second best Halloween weekend opener. In Saw V‘s opening weekend it placed second, being beat by High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and made $30.1 million. It is Lionsgate’s tenth highest-grossing film. Saw VI opened in second place behind Paranormal Activity to $14.1 million, which is the lowest of all the Saw films worldwide. It is also the lowest-grossing film in the series. Saw 3D placed first grossing $22.5 million its opening weekend, with 92% of tickets coming from more than 2,100 3D-equipped locations. It had the fifth best opening weekend in the Saw series. It is the most successful film in the franchise since Saw IV.
The Saw series, when compared to the other high-grossing American horror franchises – A Nightmare on Elm Street, Chucky, Friday the 13th, Halloween, the Hannibal Lecter series, Hellraiser, Psycho, Scream, The Exorcist, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — with figures adjusted for 2011 inflation, is the fifth highest-grossing horror franchise in the United States and Canada at $457.4 million. This list is topped by Friday the 13th at $687.1 million, followed by the Nightmare on Elm Street series with $592.8 million, with the Hannibal Lecter film series closely behind with $588.7 million. Then comes Halloween with $557.5 million, the Scream series with $442.9 million and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with $304.6 million, and lastly comes the Chucky film series with approximately $203 million.
- Unadjusted for inflation
|Saw||October 29, 2004||$55,185,045||$47,911,300||$103,096,345||$1–1.2 million|||
|Saw II||October 28, 2005||$87,039,965||$60,708,540||$147,748,505||$4 million|||
|Saw III||October 27, 2006||$80,238,724||$84,635,551||$164,874,275||$10 million|||
|Saw IV||October 26, 2007||$63,300,095||$76,052,538||$139,352,633||$10 million|||
|Saw V||October 24, 2008||$56,746,769||$57,117,290||$113,864,059||$10.8 million|||
|Saw VI||October 23, 2009||$27,693,292||$40,540,337||$68,233,629||$11 million|||
|Saw 3D||October 29, 2010||$45,710,178||$90,440,256||$136,150,434||$17 million|||
|Total||$415,914,068||$457,405,812||$873,319,880||$64 million estimated|
- Adjusted for 2011 inflation
|Saw||October 29, 2004||$65,303,370||$56,695,965||$121,999,335||$1.2-1.4 million|
|Saw II||October 28, 2005||$100,291,115||$69,950,938||$170,242,053||$4.6 million|
|Saw III||October 27, 2006||$89,414,350||$94,313,972||$183,728,322||$11.2 million|
|Saw IV||October 26, 2007||$68,351,472||$82,121,566||$150,473,038||$10.8 million|
|Saw V||October 24, 2008||$59,606,215||$59,995,406||$119,601,621||$11.3 million|
|Saw VI||October 23, 2009||$28,023,839||$41,024,227||$69,048,066||$11.1 million|
|Saw 3D||October 29, 2010||$46,441,540||$91,887,301||$138,328,841||$17.3 million|
|Total||$457,431,901||$495,989,375||$953,421,276||$67.7 million estimated|
|Saw||48% (169 reviews)||46 (32 reviews)|
|Saw II||36% (117 reviews)||40 (28 reviews)|
|Saw III||28% (87 reviews)||48 (16 reviews)|
|Saw IV||17% (76 reviews)||36 (16 reviews)|
|Saw V||12% (73 reviews)||20 (12 reviews)|
|Saw VI||37% (70 reviews)||30 (12 reviews)|
|Saw 3D||9% (74 reviews)||24 (17 reviews)|
Merchandise and attractions
- Saw, a 2003 short film that served as a promotional tool in pitching the film’s potential to Lions Gate Entertainment, included on the second disc of the uncut DVD release of Saw, released by itself, and on the Saw Trilogy DVD containing Saw Uncut Edition, Saw II Special Edition, and Saw III Director’s Cut, packaged with a limited-edition 3-D puppet head box version of Billy the Puppet.
- Saw, released on October 29, 2004
- Saw II, released on October 28, 2005
- Saw III, released on October 27, 2006
- Saw IV, released on October 26, 2007
- Saw V, released on October 24, 2008
- Saw VI, released on October 23, 2009
- Saw 3D, released on October 29, 2010
- Saw: Legacy, planned to be released on October 27, 2017
Japanese video game company Konami currently owns the rights to the Saw interactive video game property. Konami stated in mid-2009 that they wanted to make Saw a series of video games to supplement the films. They also wish to make Saw their next big survival horror franchise next to their other property, Silent Hill. They stated that because Saw focuses on visual intensity and Silent Hill focuses on psychological terror, both could exist in the video game industry without directly competing against each other.
The first game in the series, Saw, set between first and second film in the series, was initially released on October 6, 2009. with a sequel Saw II: Flesh & Blood, released on October 19, 2010 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, ten days before the release of the seventh film, Saw 3D.
- “Saw: The Ride” is a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter roller coaster themed around the franchise, which opened on March 13, 2009 at Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom. It features an enclosed dark ride section with special effects, before cars travel outside and are pulled up a 100-foot vertical lift hill into a steep 100-degree drop.
- Thorpe Park opened a temporary Saw attraction called “Saw — Movie Bites” for their 2009 Fright Nights event.
- It was announced in October 2009 that Thorpe Park would also be adding a permanent, year-round live action horror maze themed around the Saw movies. It opened at the start of the 2010 season, and features six scenes representing one iconic trap from each movie to date.
- “Saw: Game Over” was a 2009 maze made by Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights, based on characters, traps and scenes from the films. At the Universal Studios Hollywood rendition of Horror Nights it was titled Saw: Game Over, while at the Universal Studios Florida rendition, it was simply titled Saw.
- “Saw”, a themed haunted house, operated during the month of October at Fright Dome, Circus Circus Las Vegas. It featured interactive, handcrafted replicas of the “games” set by Jigsaw. It was introduced in 2009 and partnered with Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures.
- In 2010, “Halloween Fright Nights” at Warner Bros. Movie World featured a maze created by Sudden Impact Entertainment, featuring characters, traps and scenes from the films. The maze was simply titled “Saw Maze”.
- “Saw Haunted Attraction” was a maze at the Brea Plaza Shopping Center in 2008 created by Sinister Pointe Haunted Attractions.
- “SAWMANIA” was a fan event in New York. Eventgoers were able to meet actors and directors, and view props used in the films.
Since Saw 3D’s release there had been numerous reports and rumors about a new entry. In a 2011 interview with IGN Wan stated “[The series] is finished for now, but since it’s such a huge, well-known franchise, it’s gonna come back at some point.” When asked in the same interview what it would take to come back and Wan stated “I would come back if we were allowed to do something different and really cool.”
During February, 2016, Lionsgate confirmed it had hired screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger to write an eighth installment in the franchise, which has been tentatively titled Saw: Legacy with Peter and Michael Spierig directing and filming will start in September 2016 for an October 27, 2017 release date. According to Clouser, Legacy is a re-invention of the franchise that will “establish a new story line and new characters that can carry the saga into the future.”