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Film / Saw

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Saw (2004) is the first film in the Saw horror film series, directed by James Wan and starring Cary Elwes.

The film sees two men, Adam and Lawrence, awakening in a dilapidated bathroom chained by their legs to pipes on the opposite sides of the room, unsure of how they got there.

Between them rests the body of a man lying in a pool of his own blood with a gun in his hand. They soon find a series of tapes which tells them that they're in the middle of a game concocted by the infamous Jigsaw Killer, a man who kidnaps victims he deems not appreciating of life and puts them in life-or-death games.

Lawrence is ordered to kill Adam before a set time, or else his family will be killed. As the two try to find a way to escape, police are trying to investigate Jigsaw and bring him to justice. However, he turns out be a very tricky and deadly foe.


The film's script was written in 2001, but failed attempts at producing it in Wan's home country of Australia pushed the project to Los Angeles. To attract producers, a 10-minute short (also called Saw) was shot, essentially being a prototype of what would be the film's Reverse Bear Trap scene, and gained enough interest for the whole feature film to be greenlit.

The film opened to mixed reception but at the time was one of the most profitable horror films since Scream, its over $100 million return dwarfing its $1.2 million budget.


This film provides examples of:

  • Almighty Janitor: A last-minute subversion in Zep in the original Saw. He is still pretty resourceful all the same.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Despite Jigsaw's claims, the man in Amanda's trap is not dead, but rather very much alive, and he's forced to watch her cut him open to retrieve the key from inside his stomach.
    • Adam's fate at the end is him being trapped and chained in the dark, abandoned bathroom, with no means of escape.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Adam's attempt to fool Jigsaw into thinking he was poisoned.
  • Booby Trap: A ceiling-mounted shotgun left behind for the police. One of the few things Jigsaw has ever constructed that fits a rational definition of the word 'trap,' and also may be the only time he has outright murdered somebody despite his claims that he has never killed anyone and despises murderers.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The downward-pointing quadruple shotgun that Jigsaw mounts as a tripwire-activated booby trap. Detective Sing is on the receiving end, and the results are not pretty.
  • Broken Tears:
    • Amanda after just narrowly escaping the Reverse Bear Trap.
    • Lawrence after being forced to shoot Adam.
  • Bleed 'em and Weep:
    • Lawrence breaks down sobbing after shooting Adam.
    • Adam after bashing Zep's head in.
    • Amanda after gutting Donnie Greco to get the key to escape the reverse bear trap.
  • Cameo: Subverted. Tobin Bell shows up for a few seconds as one of Lawrence's patients. Turns out he's behind the whole thing.
  • Darkness = Death: For Adam, it happens twice.
    • On the night that he gets abducted, all of the light in his apartment is cut out.
    • Adam is ultimately left to die in the pitch-black bathroom.
  • Dead-Hand Shot/Dead Foot Shot: The film had posters with one of each, with corresponding taglines ("every piece has a puzzle" and "every puzzle has its pieces").
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Zep, who we are lead to believe was Jigsaw, was merely a another victim forced to play Jigsaw's games.
  • 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 one-scene patient of Lawrence's.
  • Door Closes Ending: Jigsaw shutting the bathroom door on Adam.
  • Downer Ending: Although Lawrence survives and goes to get help, Adam's only chance to escape was unintentionally lost from the very start, when he drained the key to his chain as he awoke, and he is left to die in the bathroom by Jigsaw.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Most wouldn't expect the first film in a series so synonymous with Torture Porn to be a suspense-filled mystery thriller with Gory Discretion Shots.
  • Electric Torture: Used for various purposes; the chains around Adam's and Lawrence's legs are wired up to conduct current.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: After being captured, told he must dismember himself to escape, being subjected to intense psychological torture, and watching Lawrence cut his own foot off, Adam screams his head off while bashing in Zep's head with a toilet lid.
  • Fake American: Cary Elwes plays his role as an American, but is actually British.
  • Foreshadowing: As Lawrence 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.
  • Gorn: Subverted to a degree, considering the massive gorefest that the sequels become.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Ironically, the most violent acts in the film - Lawrence sawing off his own foot and Adam bashing in Zep's skull - aren't even shown, even in the extended cut. Lawrence's detached foot and Zep's body aren't actually seen until the end of Saw II.
  • Giallo: The film plays out like an American take on the genre and invokes some of its tropes pretty directly. The repeated focus on Zepp's black gloves is a classic Giallo shot, and Billy, the puppet Jigsaw uses to tell his victims of their predicament, seems to be a direct Shout-Out to Deep Red.
  • Headbutt of Love: Adam and Lawrence get one at the end of the film, Lawrence using it to help calm down the justifiably hysterical Adam.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: As soon as Adam starts smashing Zep's skull in with the toilet lid, Lawrence immediately puts his head down and averts his eyes.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Detective Tapp and Zep fire multiple magazines at each other without managing to hit anything. For Zep, 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 has also driven mad with his quest to discover who Jigsaw is. It's further justified by the fact that police officers aren't known for extreme accuracy in the hits-to-misses ratio.
  • Jitter Cam: Downplayed a small bit. Shots of Adam are usually handheld, which mirrors his more jittery character. This allows him to foil Lawrence quite well, since his shots are stable and on a tripod, reflecting his more calm and collected character.
  • Jump Scare: A pig-masked Jigsaw attacking Adam in his apartment; and the electric shocks Lawrence and Adam go through.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Jigsaw provides Adam and Lawrence with two hacksaws to escape with, which they soon realize are not meant to be used on their chains, but on their feet. Lawrence manages to cut off his foot and drag himself out of the room, bleeding profusely.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Mark Wilson is stuck in a room covered in flammable oil and slowly being being poisoned. The antidote in a safe with a combination lock, and the combination is on the wall. The problem is, the combination is hidden among thousands of numbers with no way to distinguish the real one. He dies.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: As the film prioritizes suspense over gore, this trope is utilized multiple times in the film.
    • Jigsaw silently crawling out of the back of Lawrence's car.
    • Adam using the split-second flash on his camera to find the intruder in his pitch-black apartment. Just knowing that Adam's not alone and he's bound to get attacked makes for a particularly nail-biting scene topped off with an effective Jump Scare.
    • Detective Sing's death via quadruple-shotgun headshot is framed from the shoulders down. Initially, we're not able to see how damaged his head is, but the amount of blood that splatters everywhere insinuates nothing good.
    • Lawrence sawing off his foot. We see the very start of it, but we mainly infer how bad the situation is from saw-cutting-through-bone sounds and Adam's horrified screams.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Cary Elwes' British accent occasionally slips through.
  • Perverse Puppet: Billy, the doll Jigsaw uses to communicate with his victims.
  • Playing Possum: Adam does this when Zep comes in to the bathroom to shoot Lawrence before leaping up and delivering some Extreme Mêlée Revenge onto Zep's skull.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: Adam to Lawrence when he says he's going to go get them help, as they lay there bleeding and clinging onto each other.
    "Don't leave me! No! No!"
  • The Reveal: Zep isn't Jigsaw; the man lying on the ground in the room isn't dead, and HE is Jigsaw.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat:
    • Lawrence replays the part in his 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.
  • The Scream: Adam at the end of the film once Jigsaw leaves him to die in the bathroom.
  • 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. Contrary to what she'd been told, the key-swallower was not dead when she started cutting.
  • Toilet Horror: Most of the film, with all its terror, takes place in a bathroom of sorts.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Sing tells Tapp that "maybe [he] should find [him]self a girlfriend."


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