Follow TV Tropes


Film / Saw

Go To

"Let the game begin."

Saw is the first film in the Saw horror film series, directed by James Wan and starring Leigh Whannell (who also wrote the film and co-wrote the story with Wan) and Cary Elwes, with Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, and Tobin Bell in supporting roles. The film marked Wan's solo feature directorial debutnote . Originally premiering in January 2004 at the Sundance Film Festival, it was theatrically released by Lionsgate on October 29 of the same year.

The film opens with two men, Adam Stanheightnote  (Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Elwes), awakening in a dilapidated bathroom chained by their legs to pipes on 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 traps (or, as he calls them, "games") that symbolically reflect a sin or flaw in them and require a great amount of pain to be inflicted on themselves or others to escape alive.

Lawrence is ordered to kill Adam before a set time, or else his family — who have been abducted — will be killed. As the two try to find a way to escape, backtracking through their pasts makes them realize that they're far from randomly selected strangers. At the same time, police are trying to investigate Jigsaw and bring him to justice. As both parties continue their searches, the truth is revealed of how tricky and deadly of a foe Jigsaw is.

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 feature 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, with its return of over $100 million dwarfing its $1.2 million budget. To the shock of some more familiar with the torture porn gorefests the Saw name would later grow synonymous with, this film is more of a cross between a psychological thriller and police procedural with elements of Mystery Fiction, and is considerably sparing with its gore.

A short film titled Full Disclosure Report was featured as a Bonus Material in the film's DVD releases. It follows the titular in-universe documentary TV show addressing the aftermath of the film's events and what has been publicly known from its investigations.

Followed by Saw II.

Saw provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

  • Action Girl: Downplayed realistically with Lawrence's wife Alison, who is unable to subdue Zep but at the very least holds him off until Tapp can intervene.
  • Agony of the Feet: Mark Wilson's test was hindered by glass shards spread all around the room to trip his bare feet.
  • Almighty Janitor: A last-minute subversion in Zep. He is still pretty resourceful all the same.
  • An Arm and a Leg: After both try to cut the chains that attach their shackles, Lawrence tells Adam that the hacksaws weren't meant to cut through the chains, but rather to cut off their respective chained feet. Lawrence eventually cuts off his own in order to escape at the climax.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Despite Jigsaw's claims, the man in Amanda's trap is not dead, but rather very much alive and heavily sedated, and he's forced to watch her cut him open to retrieve the key 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.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Lawrence tells Adam he's sorry as he shoots him to save his wife and daughter, and breaks down screaming and crying afterwards.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Adam's attempt to fool Jigsaw into thinking he was poisoned, consisting of him dramatically convulsing and choking.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Very much so.
  • Beneath Suspicion: Nobody, not even the audience, ever thinks at any point that the "dead" body in the bathroom where Adam and Lawrence are trapped in is just Playing Possum and is, in fact, the mastermind. At best, they'll think that the mastermind is Zep (one of the victims in the main game) before The Reveal at the end, due to him having been provided plenty of "mastermind equipment" like cameras.
  • Bleed 'Em and Weep:
    • Lawrence was already desperate and near-tears when he picks up the gun to shoot Adam, but the second he pulls the trigger and Adam falls to the floor, he breaks down sobbing and screaming.
    • Adam after bashing Zep's head in, not just because he's just killed a man, but also from all the physical pain and mental trauma he's endured alongside Lawrence.
    • Amanda after gutting Donnie Greco to get the key to escape the Reverse Bear Trap.
  • Booby Trap: A set of four ceiling-mounted shotguns left behind for the police. It's one of the few things Jigsaw has ever constructed that fits a rational definition of the word "trap," and the moment Sing falls to it may be the only time Jigsaw has outright murdered somebody in the film, 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.
  • Bottle Episode: About half of the film solely takes place in the bathroom Adam and Lawrence are trapped in, partly due to the fact that James Wan and Leigh Whannell were just two guys fresh out of film school with not much in the way of a budget, and only had 18 days to film the movie.
  • Break the Cutie: Amanda was just a hapless druggie put into a Death Trap by an insane Serial Killer, where she's forced to kill a man to survive. After the ordeal, she is visibly broken on an emotional and physical level when interviewed by the police.
  • Broken Tears:
    • Amanda after just narrowly escaping the Reverse Bear Trap.
    • Lawrence after hearing what he thinks is his family being gunned down, and after being forced to shoot Adam.
    • For Diana, an 8-year-old, it doesn't get worse than being held hostage by a sadistic monster and not knowing where your father is.
  • The Cameo: Subverted. Tobin Bell shows up for a few seconds as one of Lawrence's patients. Turns out said patient was the one behind the whole thing.
  • The Can Kicked Him: The main game is set in a bathroom, though neither Adam nor Gordon actually die in it. Instead, Zep ends up dying in it when Adam kills him, but Adam himself ends up being left to die too at the end of the movie.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Jigsaw leaves a cell phone in order to inform Lawrence that his wife and daughter are being held hostage. Naturally, the first thing Lawrence does when he finds the phone is to attempt to call the police, but it turns out that the phone is somehow modified to only receive calls, and not even dialing 911 works.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the film, we can see a key get sucked down the drain of the tub that Adam awakens in. At the end of the movie, we learn that this was the key to the shackle he was in.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The notorious twist ending reveals where Jigsaw was over the events of the movie. He gets bonus points for being seen as a cancer patient in a scene in the middle of the film and for Playing Possum in the bathroom throughout the entire movie.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Adam and Lawrence manage to find a box hidden in one of the Bathroom's walls, which has a cigarette and a note from Jigsaw inside. Lawrence proposes a plan — Adam will smoke the cigarette and pretend to die, since the note implies that it's laced with poison. Although the plan doesn't work, Adam is clearly elated to see the cigarette, and savors it while he smokes it, fluttering his eyelashes, dropping his shoulders and even smiling after he takes a drag.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lawrence delivers a litany of them towards the climax, after having kept himself completely devoid of swearing up until that point.
    Lawrence, trying to attack Zep: You bastard! I'll fucking kill you! I'll fucking kill you! YOU FUCKING BASTARD! I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!
  • Cowboy Cop: Tapp doesn't seem to care too much about following standard police procedure. This comes back to bite him when he gets Sing killed and himself discharged.
  • Creator Cameo: Producer Oren Koules plays Donnie Greco in an uncredited role.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Zep, the presumed Jigsaw Killer, has been killed, and Gordon has escaped to seek help for himself and Adam... only for the dead body that's been in the room the entire time to get up, reveal he was Jigsaw all along, and leave Adam to rot.
  • Cutting the Knot: In a flashback, Tapp and Sing manage to catch Jigsaw in his hideout. Jigsaw activates one of his traps to distract them so he can escape. The trap involves two drills closing in on Jeff's head, and the key needed to free him is on a janitor-sized key ring with dozens of others. After some time of trial and error with the keys, Sing gives up and shoots both of the drills to deactivate them.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: A variant. Gordon isn't attacked in his car immediately, but when he steps out of it momentarily to use a phone, you see the back door slowly opening...
  • Darkness Equals Death: Happens to Adam 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: The film has promotional posters featuring both a severed hand (a less grisly variant of which is the page image) and a severed foot, with corresponding taglines ("Every piece has a puzzle" and "Every puzzle has its pieces").
  • Demonic Dummy/Perverse Puppet: Billy the Puppet, the doll Jigsaw uses to communicate with his victims.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Lawrence hearing Tapp and Zep exchanging gunfire over the phone as Alison and Diana scream, making him believe they're being murdered, gets him pretty close. It's when they call him afterwards and he's unable to reach the phone that he's finally pushed over the edge and saws off his foot.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Zep, who we are led to believe is Jigsaw, was merely another victim forced to play his games.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: From what is seen in the flashbacks, Mark Wilson was a successful man enjoying life. Jigsaw's reason for kidnapping him? He liked to lie about being sick to get days off work.
  • 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 by Jigsaw to shock Adam and Lawrence a few times. The chains around their shackles are wired up to conduct current.
  • Extreme Mle 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.
  • Face Death with Despair: At the end of the film, Adam is shell-shocked when the actual Jigsaw Killer reveals himself before him. After being electrocuted by Jigsaw and watching him shut the bathroom lights and walk out the door, Adam breaks down screaming in despair as the killer seals the door and leaves him to die.
    Jigsaw: Most people are so ungrateful to be alive... but not you. Not anymore. [walks out the door as Adam screams incoherently] Game over! [shuts the door]
    Adam: DON'T! DON'T! NOOO! [more incoherent screaming]
  • The Faceless: Before the reveal of his identity at the end, Jigsaw's face is obscured via Unreveal Angle whenever he appears onscreen.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: A flashback occurs when Lawrence recalls being taken in for questioning by the police. While in the station, he watches Amanda, the only known survivor of one of Jigsaw's traps, tell the police about her kidnapping and torture. This in turn leads to a flashback from her perspective, after which we return to Lawrence in the present.
  • Freak Out: Lawrence goes completely nuts when he thinks his family has been killed, leading to him cutting off his foot and shooting Adam.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • During the flashback that introduces us to Jigsaw lying in a hospital bed as Lawrence's patient, there's a notebook on the table over his bed. Eagle-eyed viewers might spot that the notebook features a drawing of the reverse bear trap, thus revealing the patient's true identity.
    • Take a look at the wall behind Amanda in the shot where she's standing over the paralyzed man, and you'll notice faint writing by Jigsaw. It's possible this was intended for the poor cellmate.
      If you try to keep your life to yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life to me, you will find true life
  • Giallo: The film plays out like an American take on the genre and invokes some of its tropes pretty directly. The repeated focus on Zep's black gloves is a classic Giallo shot, and Billy, the puppet Jigsaw uses to tell his victims of their predicament, is a direct Shout-Out to Deep Red.
  • 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 shown at all, even in the extended cut. Lawrence's severed foot and Zep's body aren't actually seen until the end of Saw II.
  • 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 after he kills Zep.
  • He Was Right There All Along: At the end of the film, Jigsaw is revealed to be the seemingly-dead body in the middle of the room that Adam and Lawrence are trapped in. He'd been there during the entire movie, and neither of them noticed.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Averted with the darkroom where Adam gets abducted, which is in his already dark apartment.

  • "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.
  • I Have Your Wife: The film plays this pretty straight with Zep keeping Lawrence's family hostage.
  • 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 had 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.
  • Ironic Echo: "Most people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you. Not anymore." Jigsaw says this first (through Billy) to someone who's going to live (Amanda), then at the very end to someone who's going to die (Adam).
  • Jitter Cam: Downplayed. Shots of Adam are usually handheld and shaky, which mirrors his jittery character. This allows him to foil Lawrence, since his shots are steady and controlled, reflecting his calm and collected attitude.
  • Jump Scare:
    • In a flashback, a pig-masked figure attacks Adam in his apartment (itself preceded by a Cat Scare of a Billy doll suddenly laughing).
    • The electric shocks Jigsaw gives to Lawrence and Adam.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • The Flammable Jelly Trap is already sadistic enough with its objective, but there's a floor covered with glass shards thrown in off the books. It doesn't really connect symbolically to its victim; it's just there to make his job a hell of a lot harder.
    • Some of Zep's actions while holding Alison and Diana hostage are needlessly cruel, like forcing Alison herself to tell her husband that he's failed.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: Played with in that it was to save someone else's life; Adam smashes Zep's skull in with a toilet tank lid before he can pull the trigger to kill Lawrence.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of Jigsaw's victims, Mark, is put in a trap where he will burn to death if he fails — poisoned and covered in flammable jelly, only able to read the code numbers for the safe with the antidote inside using a candle. He ended up fumbling the candle.
  • 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.
  • Locked in a Room: The film is about two men waking up in a decrepit bathroom, chained to metal pipes on opposite ends of the room from each other, and they have to figure out why they're there, who put them there, and how to escape, while one of them is forced to kill the other to save his family from being shot.
  • Lying to Protect Your Feelings: When Lawrence throws Adam his wallet to show him a family photo of him with his wife and daughter, Adam opens it up onto to see that it's been replaced with a picture Jigsaw put in there of the two of them bound and gagged, assumedly for Lawrence to find and spur him into killing Adam to save them. Adam is visibly shaken, but tells Lawrence that the picture isn't there at all. Close to the climax of the film, when the two of them are having a heated argument, Adam finally throws Lawrence the picture Jigsaw took, and just as expected, he's completely horrified.
    Lawrence: (nearly crying) Why didn't you show me this before?
    Adam: ...I couldn't. I'm sorry.
  • Magic Countdown: The clock in the bathroom passes through significantly more than a half-hour throughout the sequence where Lawrence and Adam focus on the mirror, which only lasts a few minutes.
  • Mama Bear: When Lawrence fails his game, Alison isn't having Zep's sadistic shit and fights him with all her might to protect her child before Tapp bursts into the scene.
  • The Man Behind the Man: You'd think the creep watching Lawrence and Adam while holding a family hostage is the Jigsaw Killer. But no, he's a pawn himself, and the real villain has been right in front of you the entire time...
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Amanda, the only female test subject, is also the only one to pass her test. The only other female characters put in danger, Lawrence's wife and daughter, survive thanks to Tapp. This is the only film in the series to play this straight; the kill counts are much more equal-opportunity in later films.
  • Metaphorically True: Lawrence says that newspapers dubbing the Jigsaw Killer as such are inaccurate, because technically speaking, he never killed anyone directly; he just put them in situations where death is very likely. The point is really moot, as almost any jurisdiction would consider putting someone in such a situation to be murder, combined with other possible crimes like kidnapping. Plus, that ignores one of the flashbacks to Lawrence's explanation of Jigsaw, in which the latter lures Sing into a booby trap, resulting in his death; this was in turn preceded by a very straightforward attempt to murder Tapp by slashing his throat.
  • Mr. Exposition: Lawrence serves this purpose to explain the previous Jigsaw incidents and Tapp's story.
  • Muzzle Flashlight: A variant. In a flashback, Adam has to use his camera flash to try and see if there's an intruder in his apartment when the power gets cut. Said intruder captures him.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: One of Jigsaw's victims, Mark Wilson, is given a slow-acting poison, and locked in a room naked and covered in flammable oil. The antidote is in a safe with a combination lock, and he must read the combination on the wall using a candle. The problem is, the combination is hidden among thousands of numbers with no way to distinguish the real one. He eventually dies.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: As the film prioritizes suspense over gore, this trope is utilized multiple times.
    • The scene where Lawrence's daughter Diana wakes up and notices there's something beside her. The audience knows just by the shot where the camera zooms into the black void. Zep attacks her later, long after she tells mommy and has daddy help her fall asleep.
    • A pig-masked figure 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, considering we know that he's not alone and he's bound to get abducted...
    • Sing's death via quadruple-shotgun headshot is initially framed from the shoulders down, so we're not able to see how damaged his head is. However, 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 the sawing sounds and reaction shots on both an agonized Lawrence and a horrified Adam.
  • One Degree of Separation: Initially, Adam and Lawrence are apparent strangers. It turns out, however, that Adam was hired by Tapp to spy on Lawrence, who was suspected of being Jigsaw, whose identity is in turn revealed to be that of John Kramer, a patient of Lawrence's with terminal cancer. This was all part of Jigsaw's plan, but Adam and Lawrence didn't know that when they found out.
  • One-Word Title: Saw
  • Only a Flesh Wound: When Lawrence shoots Adam, it's later revealed that he wasn't killed but rather shot in the shoulder. However, this doesn't stop him from having full use of that arm when he bludgeons Zep's head, although it can be argued that shock and adrenaline are playing a considerable role.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Lawrence is supposed to have an American accent, but the British one of his actor Cary Elwes occasionally slips through, especially in the more dramatic scenes.
    • This also happens a few times to Adam's actor Leigh Whannell, an Australian, though it's less noticeable than Elwes' case.
  • Orderlies are Creeps: Zep is a hospital orderly who kidnaps Lawrence's wife and daughter, then torments him with photos of them tied up and threats to murder them at a specified time. Granted, that was the test Jigsaw put him in, but considering Zep ends up dead anyway, he could have defied Jigsaw at the cost of his own life rather than terrorizing a helpless mom and little girl.
  • Organ Theft: Discussed when Adam looks over his body and tells Lawrence that they're in a typical organ theft situation where someone has kidnapped them, took their kidneys and put them on sale in eBay. Lawrence assures Adam that's impossible, because if he had lost his kidneys, he would be in extreme pain or already dead.
  • Perfect Poison: Invoked by Adam when he pretends to pass out from the poisoned cigarette after taking a couple of drags from it. It doesn't fool anyone.
  • Playing Possum:
    • Adam does this when Zep comes in to the bathroom to shoot Lawrence before leaping up and delivering some Extreme Mle Revenge onto Zep's skull.
    • The real Jigsaw spends the majority of the film mimicking a corpse in the middle of the bathroom.
  • 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.
    Adam: Don't leave me! No! No!
  • Rabid Cop: Tapp's recklessness results in his partner killed, his throat slashed and him being dismissed from the police department. Plus, his subsequent obsession with trailing Gordon blinded him so thoroughly to alternative suspects that he actually saw Allison's and Diana's captor inside Gordon's house and did nothing about it.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over:
    • When Tapp and Sing raid his lair, Jigsaw appears wearing a black cloak with a red interior drawn up.
    • Billy the Puppet has this for a color scheme, with a little white thrown in as well.
  • Red Herring: Zep.
  • 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 seen doing this with a video tape Jigsaw made, which is about the only piece of evidence he has on the guy.
  • Room Full of Crazy: One of the rooms in the apartment Tapp rented after getting discharged from the police is covered with thousands of newspaper clippings about the Jigsaw case.
  • Sadist: Zep mockingly waves at Adam and Lawrence through the camera feed while saying "I see you", and threatens Alison and Diana with a gun while listening for their heartbeats to see how much they increase. On the movie's commentary, it is stated that this was done to show that he enjoyed being given power over others.
  • Scary Black Man: Tapp has his moments, especially regarding the lengths he's willing to go to catch Jigsaw.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Tapp is determined to take down his target, and doesn't care about following police procedure to do it. But given who his target eventually turns out to be, you can't really blame him.
  • Self-Harm: Paul Leahy, one of Jigsaw's previous victims, had run a straight razor across his wrists twice. On his tape, Jigsaw asks whether he truly wanted to die or just wanted attention, and as a result, his trap places him deep in a maze of razor wire, forcing him to inflict far more harm on himself to survive.
    "The irony is that if you want to die, you just have to stay where you are. But if you want to'll have to cut yourself again."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Billy the Puppet was directly inspired by a similar creepy puppet in Dario Argento's Giallo film Deep Red.
    • The premise of the film was partly inspired by the ending of Mad Max, where Max handcuffs the last gang member to a car that he's rigged to explode and leaves him with a hacksaw, telling him that it'd take ten minutes to cut through the handcuffs and escape, but five minutes to cut through his ankle. Not coincidentally, James Wan and Leigh Whannell are both Australian.
  • Slashed Throat: Jigsaw slashes Tapp's throat with a concealed blade. Tapp survives, albeit with a large scar across his neck and partially damaged vocal cords.
  • Sole Survivor: Amanda Young is the only known person who survived a Jigsaw trap.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Zep is commonly mistakenly referred to as "Zepp" by viewers and fans due to his name being written as such in "Hello Zepp". Charlie Clouser deliberately spelled his name in the song's title like that as a Shout-Out Pun to the jazz band Zapp.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: The last we see of Amanda, after giving her testimony of escaping the Reverse Bear Trap, is her claiming to the police — seemingly out of nowhere — that Jigsaw "helped" her. This open end would be explored in the next few films, which fleshed out her character.
  • Swallow the Key: Apparently forced on one of Jigsaw's captives, so that another prisoner, Amanda, could 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, just unconscious.
  • Take a Third Option: Sing initially plays along with Jigsaw's orders to find the keys for Jeff's Drill Chair game in his lair. After realizing the nigh-impossibility of the task, he simply shoots at the drills and saves the man.
  • That Liar Lies: Lawrence, after being told by his wife that Adam is lying. "Stop the lies! You're a liar!"
  • Third Act Stupidity: Early in the film, Adam tries to get a tape recorder that's far out of reach, to which Lawrence suggests using his shirt to snag it, with successful results. When the climax begins, Lawrence is trying to reach a phone just inches away so he can contact his wife; he takes off his shirt and uses it as a torniquet while he saws off his shackled foot to free himself. Justified in that the trauma of the situation has taken its toll on them, with Lawrence in particular undergoing visible Sanity Slippage throughout the whole scene.
  • This Is a Drill: Jeff's trap involves two drills coming at his neck. Sing has twenty seconds to find the right key in a chain of them. Fortunately, he aborts the game by destroying the drill contraptions with his pistol.
  • Toilet Horror: Most of the film, with all its terror, takes place in a bathroom of sorts.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Tapp and Sing raid Jigsaw's lair without a permit or backup and, in the ensuing struggle, Sing tries to pursue him on his own. That doesn't end well.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Happens offscreen. Tapp was discharged from the police force after his actions in pursuing Jigsaw inadvertently got his partner killed and himself severely injured.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film is surprisingly bloodless for the immense Gorn that's usually associated with the Saw franchise, which popularized the Torture Porn genre in the 2000s. The most brutal Death Trap that the viewer is shown (and the one most in line with typical traps of the series), the Reverse Bear Trap, is one that its intended victim escapes unharmed, and for the others, the viewer is mostly told what the traps did to their victims as opposed to shown. Most of the serious gore only came in the sequels. What's more, Jigsaw wasn't much of a Torture Technician, instead forcing his victims into situations where they have to mutilate themselves in order to survive, and most of the traps weren't the complex clockwork machinery of later films, instead being comparatively simple things like crawling through razor wire, walking barefoot over broken glass, having to read messages on a wall by candlelight to solve a puzzle while coated in flammable jelly, or being chained to a pipe and given a hacksaw that can't cut through the chain but can cut through the foot it's attached to. Today, people watching the first film expecting non-stop carnage would probably be disappointed when they get a low-key detective thriller instead.
  • Unreveal Angle: During the flashback to Tapp and Sing raiding Jigsaw's lair, Jigsaw's face is always obscured by numerous scenery details, be it his robe, pieces of furniture or simply the camera angle.
  • Wham Line: After the whole situation is seemingly resolved, Adam tries to look for the key for his shackle on the body of the apparent Jigsaw, Zep, only to find a tape recorder on Zep's person, which he plays. "Hello, Mr. Hindle," says Jigsaw, revealing Zep was in fact another victim trapped in another one of his games. Then comes the Wham Shot after the tape ends...
  • Wham Shot: One of the most iconic ones in modern horror. As Adam plays Jigsaw's final tape, recorded for Zep, we see the supposedly dead man in the middle of the bathroom slowly rise in the background, rip the fake wound off his head, and reveal himself as Jigsaw.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Diana often wonders why Lawrence is almost never at home. Of course, his wife doesn't really know, either.
  • Where It All Began: Tapp and Sing attempt to arrest Jigsaw at his hideout, which is where the now-solo Tapp (after Sing died in the first attempt) pursues Jigsaw to again in the climax.
  • White Shirt of Death:
    • Adam wears a white T-shirt for the entire movie, which ends up drenched in his and Zep's blood. Played with in that he ends up dying in a bloodless way, as shown later in Saw III.
    • Averted with Lawrence, who wears a white T-shirt identical to Adam's in the Bathroom, but never gets covered in blood and survives the game.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Zep was perfectly willing to kill Lawrence's wife...
  • Would Hurt a Child: ...and daughter in order to retrieve the antidote for his poison.
  • "X" Marks the Spot: An "X" located on one of the wall tiles gives away that said tile can be extracted. When Lawrence takes out the tile, he finds a box with cigarettes, a lighter and a cellphone.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The film's premise is that Adam and Lawrence wake up chained to opposing walls in a dingy bathroom. Besides for a hidden key for Adam to escape his shackle, their only means of escape are a pair of hacksaws that aren't enough to cut through their chains, but are enough to cut through the ankles those chains are attached to.
  • You Need to Get Laid: In the depths of his determination to solve the Jigsaw case, Tapp is told by Sing that "maybe [he] should find [him]self a girlfriend."
  • Your Head Asplode: In his pursuit of Jigsaw, Sing trips a wire linked to the triggers of four shotguns above his head, which end up shooting him in the head.

     2003 Short Film 
  • Decomposite Character: In the final full-length film, David's character is split between several ones:
    • Adam is played by the same actor as him, Leigh Whannell, and displays a similar attitude.
    • Tapp takes David's name as his first name.
    • Amanda is put through the same test as David.
    • Like David, Zep is a hospital orderly.
  • No Full Name Given: David's surname is never stated.
  • Shout-Out: The short film's opening title uses a sound effect from Nine Inch Nails' "Screaming Slave" (a remix of their song "Happiness in Slavery").note 

    Full Disclosure Report 
  • As Himself: The documentary show's host, played by Rich Skidmore, directly states to have the same name as him.
  • Documentary Episode: Though it chronologically takes place after the film instead of during it.