There are so few movies that take the time to think and give the viewers a ride that they are not expecting and cause us to rethink our entire morality Fight Club, Matrix, Usual Suspects, 12 Monkeys, and even The Rich Man’s Wife are a few of mine. Those movies that open your mind with a shock when you suddenly realize things have never been what you were being told. We have all been M. Night Shyamalan-ed in movies like The Sixth Sense, having our minds blown when all the pieces fall into place. The Saw series is the among best of this breed because it has been able to surprise us and flip the entire story without being too simplistic for a full seven movies and a fist full of video games as well. The Cube series petered out and Hostel really only had so many places to go, or that people would go to. It would be great to see more of both of them though. Thankfully we all know that Saw: Legacy (Saw VIII really) is in the works, and we can be certain that it will not be the end.
This piece is full of spoilers so please if you have not seen the Saw movies or are worried I might spoil them somehow more than every commercial ever did. Then by all means go Netflix, or Amazon Video or if you are some rich person pay for cable, then pay the cable company again to watch their on demand stuff. However you do it you should plan to do it first or be warned.
I was going to list off all seven of the movies and break them down but after re-watching them all and remembering how intertwined they are I did not want to just copy all the Wiki’s. Instead I just want to break down Saw as a whole so far. Jigsaw the idea, the city cops, the federal police, and the media. Even the everyday towns folk of the never named town in which these movies all take place.
Do you have any scenes from the series that are stuck with you? I think it happens to all of us as we live, and experience new things. I have pieces of time stuck in my head that play out like a screensaver whenever my mind is left with no specific tasks. There are a couple of scenes from Saw movies that come back to me a lot. First and most often is the pit of needles from Saw II that Shawnee Smith’s character Amanda gets tossed into to get the key. The commentary from that DVD is really what I have stuck on a loop though. All the trickery that was used to make that pit look as realistic as it did. Well the second Saw piece I have bouncing around in there that will just pop up when ever is the glass coffin from Saw V that is full of broken glass, and the twist that that trap creates which resets the entire series once again so we think.
The movies themselves are as a whole a masterful piece of work. The first Saw movie is a stand alone based on a very short idea that could have just remained a very short and never watched indie movie if not for the cast and the subtle yet very decisive story. I am reminded most of the Gary Sinise movie Imposter. Saw two is no more than a sequel with little character development and some backstory. Three flips things over, and lets anything crawl out. Suddenly by the end of part three we have new characters to follow, and have been shown how fragile our idea of time in this story really is. From four on we are completely on story, and the escalation of death increases, but with each new game there are more and more survivors. Buy Seven we learn that even Dr. Lawrence Gordon the poor guy from the first movie who woke up in the bathroom, and had been framed we were told for the murders and a pen light of his had been found at the site of a game just below a peep hole. At the end of the Saw movies I have almost always felt that they had explained things and I was sure this had to be the end. I felt the same if not more so at the end of Saw Seven (the 3D one with the terrible name). The fact of that name change might have hastened my brain to feel this way also though.
Jigsaw of course is not just one man, or one man’s ideas. John Kramer is played by Tobin Bell through the entire series. He is the architect of design, and the reason the games function as well as they do and the face of Jigsaw. John seems to have always been a kindly sort of a man thought very much a by the rules type as well. John’s wife and truly his only focus other than this insatiable need to help people to save themselves. Jill Tuck played by Betsy Russell is many faces in many different times throughout the years in the many flashbacks that keep layering on the answers. Jill in the early days seems to have no clue of what John is doing, but we learn that like with all of the players there is a lot more to be seen. Getting back to John, we learn as the tale is told that the man himself was once changed in the same way that he is trying to help others to change. There are rules. You have to want to live, and be willing to change. John once tried to kill himself by crashing his car. He woke alive but had a long steel bar in his gut. John needed to decide right then to remove the bar and live, or to simply die. Spoiler Alert. He chose pain, and life. This principle became the core of how Jigsaw saves people.
At times it can feel like Jigsaw has access to Psycho-history the made up science of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation stories. Then you get the truth of a sort and the movie shows you flashes of what might actually be going on, and you get to see the timeline a bit clearer. It is in these pieces that Saw comes to life, and begins to tickle the viewer with bits of truth, or all out lies.
Jigsaw is not magical though, nor does Jigsaw see the future more than knowing human nature better than most. The truth of Jigsaw is that he is not one lone man as I said, but sometimes two or three who don’t even all know the whole story either.
In order of the movies we first meet Amanda the recovering junkie with a real jealous streak that we learn is really a need to atone. Then we meet Jill in some flashbacks, and during police interrogations. As I mentioned Jill has her own motives. Before John tried to kill himself Jill was pregnant with their child who had been planned for of course. Circumstances caused the death of their child before it could ever be born, and this is the excuse that John uses to begin the spiral of events. Then there is Homicide Detective, later Detective Lieutenant in the City police. Hoffman is on his own mission yet very happy to take up the mantle of Jigsaw and make it his own. Hoffman though tested once in which he passes never really seems to get the philosophy. I think he gets a pass from John because of the trauma he dealt with after losing his sister to violence. Hoffman like Amanda wants to punish people a little more than save them. Though in Amanda’s case it is projecting punishment she wishes on herself. Hoffman runs completely wild once John is no longer around to keep him in check. Luckily though Dr. Lawrence Gordon from the first Saw has been watching from the sidelines, or so it may have seemed. I can not help feel he dropped the pen light himself. By the end of the Seventh Saw we have only one member of this macabre cabal to carry forth the idea that is Jigsaw and save more people from themselves.
The town of City or the unnamed town that we are taken to in each new movie is really dirty at times. There is a sense through most of the story similar to Feardotcom like everything’s falling apart, and that feels right. Everything is rusted sharp and very edgy, and there is so much clutter that you can not tell what to look at, and are really easily led astray with the characters of the moment. They break this in mostly only in seven with outdoor shots that are not gloomy and buildings that look new. Seven especially loses the gloom a bit too much for me in that way that a lowered budget that expects the same return will do. The cops are great though if you feel they are more Canadian than American then you feel the same as I do. The feds do not take things very seriously it seems at times, and the city cops get to do things off the books quite a bit. But if not for the bumbling of certain things, or the massive amounts of misdirection they get from within their own ranks they may have stood a chance against Jigsaw. Instead that town needs a lot of new cops bad.
Every town of the United States is in this case either very Northeastern United States or pretty much anyplace in eastern Canada from the appearance. As a proud Canadian I really notice this sort of thing. As Saw starts out as most productions like this it is seeded with American stars like Danny Glover who will never be too old for this and Ken Leung. Then as the movies took on the form, and had more direction they became a new playground for great Canadian talent just like the Final Destination or the great classic Scanners series and so many other movies did. Like Julie Benz who you know from Dexter or as Darla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Lyriq Bent you might know from Rookie Blue or the great Canadian production of The Book of Negroes. But this is not about Canada even if it is for me.
So now we have all watched all of the Saw movies and look forward to the next one to come out. I for one am really interested in how they will blend in the new tech. So many possibilities since they did not have all these gadgets like Bluetooth lights or almost anything else that can be controlled from a phone like drones or remote objects, back in two thousand and ten. The cameras were not nearly as good, or powerful. Will the next entry be a prequel? It would make sense. The entire thing could be about Dr. Gordon or even a story where we see John a lot building games and flashing back to his childhood. There must have been a lot of disorder in his world to have made him into the man we know or knew. We could even see a time when Hoffman was actually a good cop who wanted to do good things before the murder of his Sister. There are a lot of possibilities and good reason to think that things will be twisted and full of surprises. One thing we can all surly count on is that Oh yes, There will be blood.
If I was to rate the movies themselves I would give most of them eights across the board but Saw and Saw three are my nines. Saw Seven loses a point for letting the Sun shine through a bit too much so a seven for seven.
There you have my take on the Saw series so far. If you have questions or want to tell me what you liked best about the Saw movies or just a character who you want to see back I would love to hear from you on Twitter, or in the comments below.