With the release of the (supposed) final entry in the Saw franchise coming up quick, now seems the appropriate time to take a look at some of the decade-defining series’ greatest hits. From the surprise hit first film to last year’s Kevin Greutert-directed Saw VI, take a trip back in time now with B-D contributor Chris Eggertsen to revisit his top ten most memorable Saw moments. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that the films which kick-started the “torture porn” sub-genre have offered up some of the most brain-burning cinematic horror imagery of the last ten years. See inside for the full list!
Full disclosure: I am not a fan of the Saw franchise. While the first film had its undeniable “charms” – not to mention a relatively novel concept – I find the series overall to be insufferably self-serious, histrionic to the point of farce, and too often needlessly complex and flashback-heavy. But the fact remains that it’s by far the most influential franchise of the last decade, not to mention the highest-grossing (in unadjusted dollars) horror franchise of all time. Looked at that way – and now that the series is (supposedly) coming to an end – it’s only right that we take a look back at the franchise that has, for better or worse, defined the decade in horror. Following, then, are ten of my most memorable moments from the franchise.
P.S.: The above comments are solely the opinions of author Chris Eggertsen and do not necessarily reflect those of B-D as a whole.
P.P.S.: You can blame Lionsgate for the poor quality of the clips – they’ve disallowed embedding for the higher-quality ones on YouTube.
There are those films where twists of this nature and magnitude can make you feel cheated after having invested the last hour-and-a-half of your time and energy into the film’s group of beloved characters, and then there’s Saw II. To be frank I could’ve really cared less for any of these people, so to find out that the film’s “race against time” was all a big lie came as more of a fun and unexpected surprise than a feeling of being stabbed in the back. Totally saw it coming, you say? Sure, sure you did.
“You killed my father, you motherfucker!” WHAM! Let’s just forget about the fact that had William merely been standing in a different spot he would’ve avoided his grisly fate – not a very well-thought-out trap, in my opinion – and just focus on the kill itself, one of the most memorably off-the-chain demises in franchise history. Liable to make any hater of the bottom-line-oriented American healthcare system whoop with joy.
What’s so hilarious about John Kramer’s death in Saw III is that he’d just been through fucking impromptu brain surgery mere hours before, only to have his throat slashed by that whiny bitch Jeff (who inadvertently sealed the “explosive” fate of his poor wife Lynn in the process). Not that I minded; what a fucking a-hole! Don’t give me that moral relativism bullshit – Jigsaw’s deeply flawed moral paradigm is totally inexcusable, and it was a pleasure to see his overwrought ass finally bite the dust. Not that we weren’t forced to endure his insufferable voice-over in the next three movies – couldn’t go without leaving hours upon hours of grandiose recordings behind now could he?
I often find it incredibly unlikely the painful lengths to which many of Jigsaw’s victims will go to save themselves from certain death – I mean, who the Christ would wanna live after going through this shit – which makes this scene from Saw II, in which a man can’t bring himself to dig out his own eye in order to remove the key hidden behind it before he’s enclosed in an iron maiden-esque helmet, feel relatively realistic. Really, who the fuck could actually take a knife to their own eye with only sixty seconds to decide? Oh, you. Right.
Ok…ew, ew, ew. Just thinking about this one makes my skin crawl. Female pimp Brenda has been a bad girl, and as a result she ends up strapped to a chair with a pig mask over her face and her long hair wound through some fucked-up device that with every turn of the gears brings her one step closer to having her MF’ing scalp peeled off. The gag, probably the most memorable bit in the fourth movie, boasts superbly convincing makeup work and some of the nastiest flesh-ripping sound effects you’re ever likely to hear.
I can’t decide whether this scene is so memorable due to the sight of Lawrence sawing off his own foot or because it contains some of the most god-awful acting Cary Elwes has ever done. I’m leaning towards both. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that this scene is one of the series’ landmark moments and a fitting shock ending to the first movie.
Poor Amanda. That bitch really went through some shit, didn’t she? It’s saying a lot that being tossed into a pit filled with thousands of syringes and forced to paw through them for a single key may not actually be the worst thing that’s ever happened to her, but it’s gotta come close, right?
With a series as ridiculous as Saw, there’s a time to play it straight and a time to revel in the sheer absurdity of it all. In other words – have a little fun with the damn thing! Sadly, through the run of the franchise the creators have for the most part chosen to keep their poker faces on, even while serving up some of the most ludicrous setups imaginable. That’s why I found the “shotgun carousel” scene in the sixth movie so memorable – because it dares to try for a little pitch-black humor, with its unlucky victims squabbling amongst themselves as they try to convince their boss they are more worthy of survival than their counterparts. The series certainly could’ve used a great deal more of this type thing.
I get that Timothy probably should’ve gotten more than six months in jail for accidentally running over an innocent young boy with his car, but I’d be hard-pressed to justify this fuckin’ shit. The “twisting rack” – designed to slowly rotate each of the victim’s limbs and neck to the breaking point – ranks near the top of the list of most painful Saw traps ever, and also boasts some of the most bone-snappingly convincing gore effects in a series chock-full of great ones.
There’s something very iconic about this first trap from the Saw films, featuring Jigsaw victim/future protégé Amanda as she struggles to free herself from a truly-heinous jaw-ripping device. The scene is notable for being the first to feature several elements that would go on to become staples of the Saw series – a “ticking clock”, a creative trap, one truly sick moral dilemma, and “Billy” the puppet, Jigsaw’s uber-creepy stand-in. The part at the end where he enters the room on that fucked-up tricycle seals this as my personal most memorable moment from the franchise.