Hello. I want to play a game.
franchise — comprised chiefly of a series of horror films — centers around a Poetic Serial Killer
, dubbed "The Jigsaw Killer" (or just "Jigsaw") by the press, who places people in Death Traps
and gives them a chance to escape before death claims them. Jigsaw designs each trap to serve as a violent form of poetic justice by reflecting what Jigsaw sees as the vital flaw of its victim (or victims). To escape these traps — or "games"
— the victims must usually harm themselves (or others) in some horrific way to escape their impending (and likely horrific) death. The films' storylines center around the victims' efforts to escape their traps, Jigsaw's life, and his connection to the films' other characters.
Lions Gate Entertainment released all seven films in the franchise on the week prior to Halloween for seven years in a row, from 2004 to 2010. The seventh (and, according to Word of God
, final) installment, titled Saw 3D
, ended up renamed as Saw: The Final Chapter
on home video.
These films (especially the first) inspired many imitations
, though some argue that Saw itself
serves as an imitation of Se7en
. Both films focus on elaborate, grisly murders carried out by a man trying to send a message to society, but Se7en
portrays John Doe as vain and interested in showing the world a lesson through murder, while Jigsaw focuses on a more 'individualized' message with his "game". Indeed, the concept of a moralistic serial killer playing God to a society he deems morally corrupt didn't even originate with Se7en
. (According to Word Of God, though, a short film of the same name inspired the first ''Saw' film'.)
The series managed to spawn two video game adaptations. The first — Saw: The Video Game
— takes place after the events of the first film: Detective Tapp (thought dead after Zepp shot him) ends up forced into one of Jigsaw's games and has to play to survive. The sequel, Saw II: Flesh and Blood
, takes place between the events of the second and third films as Detective Tapp's son, Michael, becomes Jigsaw's newest target. Konami has also expressed an interest in turning the games into a franchise series.
This franchise now has a character sheet
(that needs more love), as well as its own wikia
WARNING: This page contains no small number of spoilers, but many of the trope examples below will assume you know the spoilers revealed by the endings of the first four films — and as such, those spoilers frequently go untagged. You Have Been Warned.
Oh yes... there will be tropes.
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In General / Multiple films
- Almighty Janitor: A last-minute subversion in Zep in the original Saw. He is still surprisingly resourceful all the same.
- Bad Bad Acting: Adam's pathetic attempt to fool Jigsaw into thinking he was poisoned.
- Bloodless Carnage: This installment to a degree, oddly enough, considering the massive gore-fest that the sequels become.
- Cameo: Subverted. Tobin Bell shows up for a few seconds as one of Lawrence's patients, and the audience (assuming they recognize him at all) is probably thinking Hey, It's That Guy!. Turns out he's behind the whole thing.
- Dead Foot Shot: The poster for the first film.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: The "dead man" in the middle of the room was the mastermind. Oh yeah, he also happened to be an unconscious 1-scene patient of Dr. Gordon's
- Foreshadowing: As Dr. Gordon is loading the cartridge into the corpse's revolver to shoot Adam, the camera briefly shows all six chambers of the cylinder to be empty. Revolvers don't eject spent cartridges and yet the guy on the floor was supposed to have shot himself. What looked to be a simple prop error is actually a subtle foreshadowing to the twist ending.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Ironically, the most violent acts in the first film - Gordon sawing off his own foot and Adam caving in Zepp's skull - aren't even shown, even in the extended cut. Gordon's detached foot and Zepp's body aren't actually seen until the end of Saw II.
- Headbutt of Love: Gordon and Adam get one at the end of the film, Gordon using it to help calm down the justifiably hysterical Adam.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Detective Tapp and Zepp fire multiple magazines at each other without managing to hit anything. For Zepp, this is somewhat understandable, since he's just a hospital orderly. However, Tapp is a detective, who should have multiple hours of marksmanship training in the police force. Though it is somewhat justified that he's been discharged from the force for quite a while and also driven mad.
- Sadly Truth in Television as national accuracy rates for police are truly abysmal and average mid-30 percent.
- Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Dr. Gordon replays the part in his Hannibal Lecture-via tape that he has received from Jigsaw where Jigsaw says that "Allison and Diana will die, and I'll leave you in this room to rot." Turning the volume all the way up allows him to hear the nearly inaudible "follow your heart" clue in the static at the end of the tape.
- Tapp is shown doing this with a video Jigsaw made, which is about the only piece of evidence he has on the guy.
- Sole Survivor: Amanda Young is the only victim who survived a Jigsaw trap.
- Swallow the Key: Apparently forced on one of Jigsaw's captives, so that another prisoner would be required to cut it out of his body to stop her own rapidly-approaching demise. No, contrary to what she'd been told, the key-swallower was not dead when she started cutting.
- White Mask of Doom: Jigsaw's.
- Clutching Hand Trap: The movies typically go the Hand in the Hole route, but Saw II has a more seriously played version. In one room, a glass box hanging from the ceiling contains a syringe of antidote for the nerve gas that was slowly killing the characters. One character finds the box, reaches in through holes in the bottom, and finds out too late that the holes are fitted with folding razors that slice into her arms when she tries to pull them out. She is left to die of either blood loss or gas exposure.
- Cut Apart: Near the end of the film, three separate groups (a SWAT team, a police detective, and one house victim chasing two others) look like they're about to meet. It's soon revealed that none of them are in position to meet each other.
- Final Girl: Subverted. Amanda Young appears to fulfill this role best, but then it's revealed at the end that she was working with Jigsaw all along.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: Averted with Shawnee Smith. She didn't have the figure of a woman who was pregnant yet, so Word of God stated that they didn't need to hide her pregnancy.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After Xavier leaves Addison in the Glass Box Trap, we never see or hear from her again. But considering that she was stuck and the police officers didn't find her on time (on-screen), she presumably died from the poison, or alternatively of blood loss.
- Hypocrite: The judge tells Jeff he will be an accomplice to murder if he doesn't take a bullet to save one of Jigsaws victims. He could easily grab the key and take the bullet himself but instead just screams at Jeff to do it.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: The judge's way of reasoning with Jeff to not let him die.
- Locked in a Freezer: One of the traps in Saw III saw this happen to Jeff and Danica (the bystander who saw Jeff's son die in a car accident); Jeff is tasked with saving her while trying to get a key that will open the door to the freezer, all while a naked Danica is sprayed with freezing cold water.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Kerry
- Tongue on the Flagpole: Jeff freezes his cheek onto a set of pipes while reaching for a key to free a woman being sprayed with freezing water.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The MPAA gave this film an "R" rating for "sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language."
- Big Damn Hero: Subverted by Rigg in the beginning and done right by him in the end, much to Eric Matthew's and Art Blank's disappointment.
- Domestic Abuser: One of the Asshole Victims in this installment. He and his wife are strapped back to back, with spikes going through both of their bodies in such a way that they pierce his major arteries but not hers. Jigsaw means for the wife, who has suffered physical abuse at his hands, to yank the spikes out herself, killing her abuser and enabling her own escape. She does.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: After being the main protagonist of Saw III, killing both Amanda and Jigsaw, watching his wife's head explode, and learning that he has to play a new game in order to save his daughter, Jeff shows up for only a few seconds before being unceremoniously shot and killed by Strahm.
- And the kicker? This happened literally seconds (chronologically, anyways) after Jeff had done those things.
- Mouth Stitched Shut: Art Blank, the survivor of the mausoleum trap. Once it's over, he screams and the stitches rip out.
- Genre Savvy: The victims of the sewer trap in Saw V show a surprising amount of genre savvyness for the series. Examples:
- Spotting the wire that starts the countdown of the first trap.
- Knowing that closing the door between the last room and their current one starts the tape and the timer for the next room. At a few points they avoid closing a door so that they have more time to plan.
- Mallick is the only character in the entire series to offer an alternate solution to a trap. He suggests dumping the water from the tub into the handsplitter. He is quickly shot down, but it's nice to see someone actually make the effort.
- Also, Brit collects the keys from the first room in case they are needed later. Again, it turns out that they aren't, but if William in VI had made the same effort with the circular saw he may have saved himself a lot of trouble.
- Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: In Saw V, Strahm gets his head locked up in a presumably inescapable trap that fills up with water in order to drown him. What does he do? He digs out a pen from his pocket and (while most likely not having any skill in advanced medical practice,) performs a tracheotomy with it. A fucking pen.
- Justified. A tracheotomy's not a complicated procedure. Sure, it'd be difficult and painful to do to yourself, especially in that circumstance, but the method can be taught reliably in less than a minute. It's simply something that's supposed to be a last-ditch effort over more advanced techniques (the Heimlich maneuver most famously), because it causes permanent damage, has a high risk of infection, and is useless if the airway's blocked lower than the cutting point.
- Lighter and Softer: After the excruciating violence displayed in Saw III and Saw IV, Saw V noticeably dials back the gore a few notches. Many of the deaths are dished out in mere seconds rather than dragged out to a cringe-inducing snail's pace, reducing the graphic violence to the level of Saw and Saw II. Even the bloodiest sequences don't keep the camera panned on the grim details for too long. This decision may have been inspired by the Moral Guardians decrying the series as Torture Porn a few installments earlier, but after Saw V, the violence unapologetically spikes back up again.
- Shown Their Work: Before filming the third room (the conductor room) in the sewer trap, the crew did check out the physics involved to make sure the electrical engineering involved in the trap would actually work.
- The Walls Are Closing In: The final trap. Not only does Strahm fail to escape it, but it rather graphically shows the perils of trying to "brace yourself" to stop the walls as the bones splinter out of his limbs.
- Berserk Button: Hoffman asking Simone whether she "learned" when he sees the aftermath of her Life or Limb Decision.
Simone: He wanted us to learn.
Hoffman: And did you?
...Look. at. me.
Look at my goddamn arm! What the fuck am I supposed to learn from this, huh? Look at my arm!! What? What am I supposed to learn from this? Look at me!!!
- Bulletproof Human Shield: Hoffman uses the sound engineer as one while Perez is emptying her magazine on him. As usual, it works.
- Conspicuous CG: In the 6th movie when Simone is questioned by Hoffman, you can tell that her nub of an arm was made on a computer.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Josh
Josh: Aww, well that's it isn't it? It's over! You MOTHERFUCKER! You spinless, pussy-whipped motherfucker. That's all it takes eh? A bitch says one thing and it's all over! You know what William? Your policy is bullshit! Fucking bullshit! Well you listen to me you son of a bitch! I did everything for you! LOOK AT ME! WHEN YOU'RE KILLING ME YOU LOOK AT ME!!
- Fake Pregnancy: One of the six victims on the carousel falsely claims to be pregnant, hoping that William will spare her life.
- Glasgow Grin: Hoffman receives half a grin after escaping the reverse beartrap at the end of Saw VI.
- Mood Dissonance: "Piranha!"
- Possibly foreshadowing for Saw 3D, too.
- Smoking Is Cool: Averted. Try lighting up a cigarette after watching William and the janitor's first test.
- Space Whale Aesop: If you want someone to quit smoking, don't buy them a nicotine patch. Just force them to watch the scene where a poor janitor has his chest crushed in a Jigsaw trap just because he was a smoker with bad lungs. They'll never pick up a cigarette again.
- The whole movie can be seen as one for public healthcare.
- Start of Darkness: One of the three intertwined plots of Saw VI is John's Start of Darkness, shown through Jill's and William's flashbacks.
- You Killed My Father: Brent at the end, when he flips the switch for William's trap to the "die" side after his mother is unable to bring herself to do so. He even says it as he does it: "You killed my father, you motherfucker! Now you burn in hell."
- Decoy Protagonist: In the sequel Saw II: Flesh and Blood, the first level has you play as a character named Campbell. After the first level, however, your perspective switches to Michael Tapp, the son of David Tapp (the protagonist from the first Saw video game, and the cop from the first movie) for the rest of the game.
- Dummied Out: In the final two chapters of the first game, you see some sewing kits. It looks like they would be tools to help make traps, but none of the ones you can make require them. It's likely there were more traps that didn't make it to the full game. Notably, you can't actually pick up the sewing kits except for one near the end which does nothing.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: You are in Jigsaw's little game, after all. And everyone wants to kill you because you have the key to the front door sewn into your chest.
- In Saw II: Flesh and Blood the occupants of Jigsaw's game were supposedly all criminals that Michael Tapp's father had put in jail, and therefore didn't like you very much.
- First-Person Ghost: In the video game sequel, there is a brief first person section near the beginning which utilizes this technique. Also when interacting with puzzles and traps, your view switches to a first person perspective. While in this perspective you don't see your body interacting with the pieces of the puzzle.
- Foregone Conclusion: Since it takes place after the first film, we all know Jigsaw will still be at large by the end of the game. And if you've seen SAW IV, you would know that Tapp had died.
- Ditto with the sequel which takes place soon after the first game.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: The Truth ending.
- In Love with Your Carnage: It's revealed that Obi from Saw II actually wanted Jigsaw to put him in a test. He was saved by Tapp, much to his disappointment, so he got himself recaptured.
- Late to the Tragedy: You come across a few rooms of others that were playing Jigsaw's games. The blood splatters on the wall should tell you how they fared.
- Nintendo Hard: Some of the puzzles are extremely frustrating.
- Multiple Endings
- In the first game, there's two - one canon and one alternative. In the last room of the game, you are tasked with choosing one of two doors; one is marked "Truth", and one is marked "Freedom". Jigsaw explains that "Freedom" will allow Tapp to leave the asylum alive, while "Truth" will satisfy his obsession with catching Jigaw (but will also cost him dearly).
- Freedom: Tapp leaves the asylum alive, and is hailed as a hero by those he saves, but his obsession with catching Jigsaw eventually overtakes him and he commits suicide; due to Tapp being shown as dead during Saw V, and the plot of the sequel, this is the canon ending.
- Truth: Tapp's pursuit of a cloaked figure he believes to be Jigsaw ends with the person dying from a Jigsaw trap; the person was actually Melissa Sing, the wife of Tapp's deceased partner and one of the victims he saves earlier in the game - she had been tasked by Jigsaw to keep Tapp playing the game in order to have a chance of seeing her son alive again. As a result of her death, Tapp suffers a complete mental breakdown and is placed in another asylum, still believing he is playing Jigsaw's game.
- Saw II: Flesh and Blood has multiple endings as well, depending on whether or not Decoy Protagonist Campbell survives his final test.
- If Campbell makes it through the Spikes of Doom and enters the elevator, he shows up at the end when Michael makes it to the end of his own Spikes of Doom room, preventing Michael's escape and ensuring his death (since the elevator is occupied and cannot be opened). Jigsaw then congratulates Campbell, tells him that his son is fine (he claimed to have kidnapped him earlier) and allows him to leave. Campbell, traumatized by everything he went through, tries to attack Jigsaw - and falls prey to a trap.
- If Campbell dies, he's obviously not in the elevator, thus allowing Michael to enter the elevator and escape. At the end of his ride, Jigsaw presents him with two doors, just like Tapp was shown. One door has the evidence Michael needs to put Jigsaw away for good, while the other has the pigman costume - implying that Jigsaw is offering Michael a chance to become his apprentice. The screen cuts out before we see Michael's choice.
- Spikes of Doom: Used several times in the sequel.
- Ungrateful Bastard: All the people Tapp has to save blame him for being kidnapped by Jigsaw and will quickly let you know it once you free them from their traps.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: C'mon, you know full well you wanna see how many ways you can eviscerate Tapp and how the people he's supposed to save eat it.
- The Walls Are Closing In: Used a lot in the sequel, adding spikes into the mix.
- Why Am I Ticking?: Halfway into the game, Tapp gets a shotgun collar put on him. Which will start beeping when he comes within distance of a certain enemy. After a few second unless the enemy is felled or you pull back, boom. Likewise a few enemies have the same collar or the venus flytrap one (from part two). After you kill them and walk away, you can hear the traps going off. There is actually an achievement tied to avoiding one of these enemies until their trap activates; instantly killing him for you.
- Understatement: One of the loading screen blurbs warns against activating tripwires, as they generally cause "unpleasant surprises". Tripwires are always connected to a nearby shotgun trap, so the unpleasant surprise will be Tapp's head being blown apart.