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Online Edition of The Cardinal Times

The Cardinal Times

I watched all 10 “Saw” movies so you don’t have to

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Hazel Thomas
“Saw X” premiered September 29, making it the franchise’s tenth installment. Managing Print Editor, Addison Locke ready and set to finish the final movie of the excruciatingly long “Saw” series at Pioneer Square!

*Trigger Warning for violence and gore, oh! and spoilers for all the movies

In 2004, James Wan and Leigh Whannell created the cult classic, “Saw.” The film was a success grossing 55 million dollars in the United States all while having a 1.2 million dollar budget. The movie follows two men, Lawrence and Adam who are seemingly trapped in a dingy bathroom, chained to pipes by their feet. The only tool they are given is a hack saw that can unfortunately not cut through chains (UH OH). The characters are physically and morally challenged to figure out various clues and tasks in order to prove to villain ventriloquist puppet Jigsaw they deserve to live. 

Throughout the series, there is a very wishy washy justification for why antagonist “Jigsaw” is seen as a savior to some people. Jigsaw is a puppet created by director James Wan. The best part is every few traps, the puppet will ride a tricycle into the room someone is being tested in. It is actually the best part of every movie and I have no idea how it works. Essentially, the villain will find a flaw in the victim like smoking or cheating on their spouse. He will then set them in a trap where they have to prove to Jigsaw and themselves that they have the drive and will to live. They call this being “tested.” What is extremely strange to me is that the guy who is Jigsaw, says that it’s ethical because he technically isn’t murdering people, they are killing themselves. My jaw dropped through the whole justification. 

The first movie really centers around psychological horror. The directing is very snappy and shaky in order to create a tense atmosphere. The audience meets many short lived characters as they are only on screen for about four minutes before they are tortured to death. Even though you don’t really get attached to the characters, you still feel horrendous watching these poor people get tortured by insane machinery and a short time limit. These methods are extremely grotesque and made me want to crawl out of my skin. In order to complete these tasks you have to do something extremely sinister to prove your will to live, one of the most nauseating being the reverse bear trap. A woman named Amanda had a reverse bear trap locked onto her face and attached to her mouth. If it is set off, it basically rips her face in half. This giant contraption could not be removed without the key, however the key is in her boyfriend’s stomach and she only has an hour until it rips her face off. Bonkers. 

The ending of “Saw” made me cry. I was not expecting the extreme plot twist of John AKA Jigsaw just standing up on that bathroom floor. Holy guacamole, I was bamboozled. The closing shot of Adam screaming in the bathroom as the door locked for eternity was so disturbing and I was like OH! That was part of the reason I gave this movie four out of five stars. Fantastic. I sat in silence for around 10 minutes hugging my dog before starting the surprisingly good sequel, “Saw II.” 

After the first movie’s success, the sequel “Saw II” followed a year after. “Saw II” follows a new set of characters as they are trapped in a house. The major difference is that bestie Jigsaw AKA John Kramer is chilling in his evil lair being questioned by the police. The police do not know where the house is and the people in the house don’t understand what is going on. We also learn that there is poisonous gas being filtered through the house! It is then revealed that the detective’s son is one of the people trapped in the house. Lots of twists and turns!

I actually really enjoyed the sequel. It picked up very quickly and had many references to the old characters (Adam, I miss you). It felt like a cohesive story and added more depth to the first film. The jump scares and traps in this movie made me itchy. I was cringing when one of the characters got pushed into a pit of needles and had to dig through in order to find a key. According to the Saw Wiki Fandom, “Over 120,000 syringes were used to film the scene with the needle pit. It took four days for four people to replace the needle tips with fiber tips one by one.” How feral is that? As someone who would rather not get a shot, this really got me. 

What made me super uncomfortable was the fact that there was a character named Addison. I rarely ever have characters with the same name as me, but I was not pleased that fictional Addison got stuck in a razor blade trap and died. 

The ending of the film was actually not real. There is a whole scene of Detective Eric beating up John. What is really odd about this scene is that John is dying of a brain tumor and cannot really walk or function. Eric loses his last marble and starts aggressively beating up John because he won’t tell him where his son is. Without context it just seems so morally wrong watching Eric throw a dude out of a wheelchair. This detective is literally beating up a cancer patient… the directors just let the actor be rabid and I can appreciate that. 

It is then revealed that Amanda is John’s accomplice. I mean you go girl, but be so for real this man put a reverse bear trap on you. You do you I guess. The film definitely was good. I would rank it #2 out of 10. ⅘ stars. I had fun. 

“Saw III” is where things start to get a bit wonky. I was intrigued as to how they would continue the story as it really wrapped up in Saw II. A summary of the movie would literally be: John has brain tumor. Amanda kidnaps and tortures a doctor to perform at home brain surgery. John gets sawed. Everyone dies. 

I hated this. Not going to lie. The only thing keeping me going was the fact that Amanda and Lynn were attractive. Amanda literally built a death trap and I wrote in my notes, “This movie is so women in STEM.” Representation matters. Just kidding torture is not ethical, but I was trying to entertain myself through the film. This movie really grossed me out. There were lots of gutty sound effects that made me pause the movie. I don’t know how someone could watch these movies with headphones; I would probably have a panic attack. Honestly, I will take this as a win considering it is a horror film and I almost cried (I do not need to hear the sound of someone getting cut open). 

The end was so cheap. Everyone died including our favorite girl Amanda. That woman went through it, but was also a little bit terrible. I didn’t want her to die. 

“Saw IV” was not written by Leigh Whannel who originally wrote the first three movies and you could tell there was a shift. The fourth installment was written by Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton and Thomas Fenton. “Saw IV” really confused me. All of the likable original characters are dead as far as I know. Jigsaw is no longer John and has been taken over by some other random person. The biggest difference in this movie is that Jigsaw goes after unconvicted felons. Before, it was just drug addicts and the occasional cheater, but now Jigsaw goes after rapists. It is so insane. It felt like they were trying to give Jigsaw (who is just absolutely bonkers) a moral compass. 

I was so lost in the plot. Half way through, I gave up and started filling out my extracurriculars section on Common App. I also finished my counselor recommendation form. It was a productive hour and a half. However, the movie just wasn’t good. I found myself confused and the traps just got so large and I couldn’t wrap my head around them. If you have ever seen the show “MythBusters”, sometimes they test if things in movies could actually work. All the traps in “Saw IV” would fail. They are just so bizarre and large scale to the point where I didn’t think it was scary. It was more gross than horrific. An example of this is when a girl got her scalp ripped off because of her hair being pulled in a machine. I was so confused as to how that would work. There is also a part where people are hooked onto an ice block and when it melts they would be electrocuted. I don’t understand how this would work. How would you control the rate of the ice melting? Maybe I just don’t understand physics or machinery, but I feel like your hair would break and not rip out your scalp. I don’t care though because ew. Don’t test this out, I am just confused. There is just too much mechanical work being done by everyday Joes. Find a new hobby and frankly a less expensive one. I don’t even think I can summarize because I was so out of the loop.

It is obvious to me that the writers changed. The tone and story are completely different, the only similarity is  the same gnarly looking puppet. I don’t think Saw was meant to be a franchise and this movie made it apparent to the point that it is a two and a half out of five for me. 

“Saw V” was so ridiculous to me. The plot follows a new group of people who all participated in getting a building development approved which resulted in death. They are all put together and given clues, following the same routine as before. As the characters would go through each room, they would fight to the death in order to boot one person out. In the last room they have the realization that all five people could have survived if they worked together instead of sacrificing one another. That was so wack. 

There is also a weird subplot of a dirty cop who is secretly working as Jigsaw. I love a good mystery, but the character is so boring and has no personality besides having a dead sister. He doesn’t even tell a joke. However, that is more on the writers as I do not think the actor was that bad. 

It just felt like filler between Saw IV and VI. The puzzles are interesting to watch, but half of the movie is just flashbacks of the villains talking. It was just boring because I don’t really care about any of the characters because they are bad people. I don’t really sympathize with them if they are constantly trapping people in elaborate torture chambers. Nothing that happened had an impact on the long term plot and if it did, I just didn’t really care that much. Epitome of a two star movie. 

“Saw VI” was kind of awesome. It was released in 2009 which was a year after the Financial Meltdown. It threw me back to sophomore year Political Economy. I started laughing when our beloved puppet Jigsaw told the people they were being tested because they “recklessly gave out loans.” That’s just so funny. I want to know how production companies reacted to this script. I was just not expecting a political commentary. This theme continued with the Chief Insurance CEO guy being put through life dependent challenges. At different parts, he would have to pick employees of his insurance company to kill based off of their “life value,” which is something he was shown preaching in different flashbacks. It was just so messy. All because he didn’t give our guy John the proper insurance to fund his trial tumor procedure. The CEO guy sounds delightful right? 

I thought there was more of a moral lesson at the end, even though it’s a twisted movie. This just didn’t play out the way I expected. In the CEO’s first task, he is put against the janitor of the company and only one of them can survive. According to Jigsaw, the janitor smokes even though he has high blood pressure; therefore he does not deserve to live? I was flabbergasted. This was just a major juxtaposition to John’s later monologue on how the American insurance system controls peoples’ lives and makes them miserable. Lots to take in during an hour and a half. 

Overall, the sixth installment was not bad, but not as good as the original film. A lot of the plot outside of torturing people is based on flashbacks in order for the actual plot to make sense. However, these flashbacks are clearly written in because they created a new story line that doesn’t fit with the original plot, but the movie itself was pretty entertaining. I gave it three stars. 

“Saw 3D”, or “Saw: The Final Chapter” was allegedly the final “Saw” movie. It was released in 2010 and got a solid score of 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. My hopes were obviously really high. The film follows an author by the name of Bobby who has written a memoir about surviving Jigsaw and has become a massive success. He goes on book tours and tells his story on how Jigsaw put hooks in his chest and tested him. Then he goes on to talk about how the experience changed him for the better on TV, interviews, etc. He’s an inspiration to all. 

Plot twist! It is revealed in the second act that he didn’t actually get tested by Jigsaw. He is a phony. Jigsaw does not like this! He gets trapped along with his publicist, lawyer, best friend and wife and has to sacrifice his wellbeing in order to save them. Like the sixth movie, the main guy going through the traps just kind of sucks. The wife didn’t even know he made the whole story up! Throughout the whole film, it shows survivors of Jigsaw talking about their actual experience and he steals parts of their stories and uses them to be famous. Insane.

My favorite part of the movie was when this random guy was in a car and he pressed the tape recorder button. In the gnarly Jigsaw voice it literally says, “You, your girlfriend, and your friends are all racists!” 

I was shocked. Jigsaw is against racism? Great! In the later films, especially the last, they try to make the torturing of people ethical. I hate racists as much as the next guy, but torture is not ethical. If you are going to make a whole franchise off the fact that your villain tortures people, go fully into it. Don’t try and get me to sympathize with a psycho. It was such a two and a half star movie at its core. 

The “Saw” franchise got its revival in 2017 with the movie titled “Jigsaw.” The film was only slightly okay because of the directing. The storyline was hard to follow as there are so many random time jumps. It’s like a whodunit film, however, the reveal on who Jigsaw is felt really cheap because it’s, surprise, another accomplice of John Kramer. All the people who were in the traps were really two dimensional characters and I just didn’t care. I found myself checking the timestamp of the movie hoping it would be over. The writers are just adding unnecessary lore that does not make sense. 

The directing by Michael and Peter Spierig was great. The camera quality was great and really strayed away from the dingy aesthetic of the original. It was refreshing after watching what seemed like four of the same movie. I enjoyed the movie to an extent, but I was just bored and confused. There are so many time jumps to the point where you rely on the rapid fire recap that happens at the end. The plot felt really repetitive and overall just a bit lazy. Three out of five stars for sure!

The 2021 film “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” stars Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, so you best believe I had high expectations. It centers around a police station and the officers there. Unfortunately for them, a Jigsaw copycat has it out for dirty cops, which coincidentally a lot of them are. They have used fake evidence, shot innocent people, and cover it all up because they are literally the police. 

The movie was quite strange. It didn’t follow the expected plot of the other “Saw” films because the killer is not the same. There were lots of people getting their limbs ripped out and that is just not visually appealing. This was the second to last movie I watched, so I was pretty over it. Chris Rock had some funny jokes, but nothing to save the movie. It felt like the movie was trying to be a buddy cop movie, but also talk about serious issues like corrupt political systems which it failed to do. Solid two and a half stars. I would skip this movie if you are crazy enough to fully binge all of them. 

Now, for the reason I started this binge… “Saw X.” The 10th installment released on September 29, 2023 and has grossed $33.3 million dollars. “Saw X” is a prequel taking place between the first and second Saw films. 

The pace of the film is very different from the previous movies as it opens with John Kramer, AKA the guy behind all the Jigsaw traps, getting a brain scan. This was very surprising because up until that point, torture would be the first scene of the movie. 

“Saw X” follows our protagonist John and his last minute trip to Mexico for a new experimental treatment that is supposed to completely heal his brain tumor. However, his plans are turned upside down when he finds out he is being scammed. This part was actually so unexpected. When the film description said scammed, I was expecting bad surgery, but no! He takes off his head bandage and it turns out there is literally nothing. No scar, no bald spot, no nothing! So like any other person would, he hits up his sidekick Amanda and they start setting some traps for every person who participated in the scam. 

The traps in this movie were pretty freaky. The first one that is shown has a guy breaking all of his fingers and then having his eyeballs getting sucked out with the goggles on the movie poster. One of the fake doctors who was running the scam had to do a self craniotomy. What really threw me for a loop was the movie theater sound system. Hearing the gutty and slimy noises of this movie in surround sound was probably one of the grossest things that has ever happened to me. 

Something I found extremely frustrating was the time limit. Each person would have 3 minutes to complete their test.” I kid you not, every single person spent 1 of those precious minutes just freaking out. It was so annoying. One time is okay, but having 3 people not understand the fact that they have a time limit was just annoying and it became predictable. 

The direction was really solid. I had no real complaints. I found this movie scarier, but I believe that was because I was sitting in a dark room filled with strangers and not in the comfort of my own bed. Though I was not mad, I spent money to see it in theaters. It was a fun experience and kept me on my toes. A very solid 3 out of 5 star film. 

In conclusion (finally), I had a lot of fun watching all these movies. It was great to get into the Halloween spirit and I was actually excited to come home from school and watch three “Saw” movies for a few nights. However, you really don’t need to watch all of them. Don’t waste 13 hours of your life like I did. The first one is honestly the best, especially if you go in blind and don’t know what’s going on. If you have seen it or read my whole review, watch the film with someone who hasn’t and see their reaction. I promise it will be good. Skip the weird reboots that are “Jigsaw” and “Spiral: the Book of Saw.” They were awful. I am now going to indulge in much happier media, but I do recommend the series to anyone who wants to have their skin crawl this fall season!

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About the Contributors
Addison Locke, Managing Print Editor
Addison is a senior this year. She is excited for line dancing, and loves going up to random people in the hallway and asking for their opinions! Contact by emailing [email protected] and put the reporter's name in the subject line.
Hazel Thomas, Arts and Culture Editor & Designer
Hazel is a senior this year. She is excited for the community we have this year and how it will build as the year progresses. She is also excited to be an editor because she loves editing. Contact by emailing [email protected] and put the reporter's name in the subject line.

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