By Abbey Kinzel, ’23
The Saw movie franchise has been a classic for family movie nights during the Halloween season. The first Saw movie in itself was touchy, even when it was first released to theaters. James Wan’s Saw came out in 2004, and it showed a new perspective on the genre of horror. Most of the horror movies at the time were slashers and began with the words killer, bloody or evil. Torture and traps were not a mainstay of horror since it can be hard to balance a plot and such torments. Saw movies normally center around one person or a group of people in a series of “trial traps” that will test others or themselves. However, the most recent entry strayed from this formula.
Many people consider the Saw franchise to be more in the genre of thriller than horror, and some say it’s too outrageously funny even to be considered scary. “The Saw movies don’t feel like they’re horror movies,” said senior Erin Shea. “It’s more like The Hunger Games, so it’s more thriller than horror.”
Saw (2004): It’s hard to say what category this movie falls into because it is a lot of different things. It’s gruesome and serious, but the editing makes the movie less scary and more ridiculous and laughable. Recognizable actors are Danny Glover, famous for movies like Lethal Weapon and Predator 2, and Cary Elwes, who starred in The Princess Bride and Stranger Things. The editing is on the same level as Taken 3, however Saw is just a little bit better. “2004 editing was pretty bad so it was kind of funny,” said Makenzie Conward, a senior who was encouraged to watch the original recently. During the film, I kept switching between laughing and being serious, I just couldn’t take this movie seriously for more than two minutes at a time. And for a split second, Cary Elwes’ character, Dr. Lawrence Gordon, breaks his American accent and becomes British for one word. Maybe it was the fear?! Rotten Tomatoes rates Saw as 49% on the famous tomato-meter. This is justified as this is a cool movie for its time and budget, but tries too hard to be serious.
Saw II (2005): This movie tries to be more brutal than the first one but the circumstances for the group trial are dumb and not fleshed out. The only recognizable character is actor/singer Donnie Wahlberg as Eric Matthews. There’s gore, but we learn that some of the traps are inescapable and are just glorified executions. Some of the characters are stupid and unbearable, while others that are “smart” can’t see the obvious word play of Jigsaw in the beginning of the film. Despite this criticism, the creators make a really good connection to the first movie, and present a surprise twist at the end. I felt like death when I watched this movie; it hurts to watch how uncalculated every move is. Rotten Tomatoes gives a 37% rating and I think this deserves a lower rating, like 27%. After watching this movie again recently, I feel like I needed financial compensation.
Saw III (2006): Saw III is a near direct sequel to Saw II. We pick up where we left off for 5 minutes, and then go into the actual plot of the movie. It is safe to say that most fans of the franchise consider this movie to have the dumbest main character to go through the Saw traps. In summary, and to avoid spoilers, all he does is yell at people; when he finally decides to help it’s too late, and they are already dead. He is an unbearable man to follow around for the duration of the movie and you are just hoping he dies early. And, of course, there is a “BIG” twist with the characters and some of Jigsaw’s past. But in all seriousness, it’s the kind of material a fifth grader could have pieced together halfway through the movie. In addition, we learn why some of the traps in this movie and the previous movie were inescapable. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 30% rating and I feel like this score is deserved. It is very boring and hard to follow, the protagonist is impossible to cheer for, and the traps are just “fine.”
Saw IV (2007): If you somehow skipped the first three movies, you may be wondering why they are opening up some old guy for the first 6 minutes. It’s because the Jigsaw Killer is dead and his body has been recovered. And that is only the second twist of the movie early on. There are some returning characters from past movies and the Jigsaw killings are still going on despite the original killer’s death. For the entire film, we follow Lieutenant Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) with trial traps against some random people. Daniel’s mission is to save Donnie Wahlberg, who is back as Detective Matthews. And it is revealed that one of Jigsaws’ disciples is continuing the killings for him. Rotten Tomatoes has an 18% as a rating. This rating should be a few points higher but, all in all, this movie wasn’t that great.
Saw V (2008): This film begins where the last movie left off. The audience continues to follow the newly revealed Jigsaw apprentice, who tries to kill the one person that might learn his identity. Along the way, we learn more of the original Jigsaw killer’s past and some of the apprentice’s past as well. The film presents traps placed along the way to try to stop any detectives or cops who are with the apprentice’s enemy. This movie has a slightly better story and traps than the last few, and you actually feel like you want the characters to survive. Also, a lot of the traps feel more like personal attacks than tortures meant to teach a lesson or change a moral value as we’ve seen in the previous movies. Despite all this, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a13%. I wished this film was rated higher, but it could be seen as reasonable. The movie was mediocre at best.
Saw VI (2009): This movie still follows the apprentice who had successfully killed his main threat. We also follow a man going through a trial trap who denied Jigsaw medical insurance months before he died, as well as following Jigsaw’s ex-wife who is carrying out Jigsaw’s physical will. There is not really an interesting plot line, it is like a filler episode of your favorite show, ensuring a new entry each year. It is a little boring and two of the storylines cross and start to become one toward the end of the movie. Even though this movie is rated higher than both Saw IV and Saw V, it feels boring and doesn’t add anything significant to the franchise until the very end of the film. Rotten Tomatoes rates it a 39% as a rating for this movie. This movie deserves a much lower rating, such as a 10%; it presents a sleep inducing atmosphere throughout. Again, I feel as if I need some financial compensation for this movie. I am expecting two checks in the mail in three weeks.
Saw 3D (2010): This movie does the exact same thing as the last movie and picks up right where we left off, literally like an episode of a TV show. The apprentice almost dies in a trap that was made for them. They track down and try to kill the person who put them in that trap. We also follow a man who falsely claimed to have survived a Jigsaw trap, and he visits a Jigsaw victim support group, with all the other victims of Jigsaw traps, some we recognize and others we don’t. One in particular is Dr. Lawrence Gordon, who survived the first movie and criticizes the man for bringing a camera crew with him to the meeting. This man gets put through a trial trap with his wife at stake. The audience learns that there is another apprentice in the mix. This movie felt like a good end to a franchise, since it’s also called “The Final Chapter,” but as you can tell, it was not the last one. This movie feels a little bit more exciting than the previous films, but has the lowest Rotten Tomato score of all the movies at 9%. The rating makes me feel a little depressed and balances out my excitement.
Jigsaw (2017): This movie was a little unexpected when the trailer dropped and it did a bit better with ratings. A group of people are shown being killed off in a barn somewhere in the countryside, and with each person dying in the group, a new body is discovered. The police, to ease the public’s fears, say that the original Jigsaw killer is still dead and not coming back to life. So they dig up his grave and open his casket and realize that his body is missing. So I guess it is viewed as a big deal. The film revealed a brand new character who is never seen again. Even though there was a seven-year gap between the previous movie and this one, it did better in the theaters than the previous film. It has some twists and subversions that might make you question “Who is really behind the killings now?” It is a good comeback from where the franchise left off, but I don’t think people will be waiting every seven years for another Saw movie to come out and be just as good. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 39%.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021): With the story by Chris Rock, this movie makes me feel more sad than scared. The plot of the movie is that cops are being kidnapped and put into deadly traps, and Rock is a detective leading a team trying to find the killer. They make it clear that the original killer is dead and can’t be the one behind the killings; you don’t say, next thing they are going to say is the sky is blue and that grass is green. Besides Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, his father who is a retired detective, there is famous Canadian magician Chris Ramsey. The story is fine, and the traps are cool, I guess? However, the part that makes me the most sad is that, at this point in the franchise’s history, most fans only watch the movies for the new take on the traps and less for the story itself. Any future movie has to find a way to subvert people’s expectations. Rotten Tomatoes has a 37% as a rating, but I think this movie deserves better.
Saw X (2023): This is an upcoming addition to the Saw Franchise, but there is almost no news so far other than the fact that Tobin Bell, the actor who plays one of the Jigsaw killers, is reprising his role. Everyone is getting excited since it is coming out in the month of October, part of the annual Halloween season. Yet the movie hasn’t even been released yet…