unlike the slasher films of the 1980s or the exploitation horror films of the 1970s, the modern wave of torture films (or, as new york’s david edelstein termed them, “torture porn “) has been characterized by highly stylized violence with landscapes. designed and dedicated to pure punishment. The subgenre thrived in the 2004s, with a slew of like-minded efforts like 2004’s Sierra, which kicked off the US mainstream. uu. wave of torture; the collector; hostel (and most of eli roth’s filmography); anything from rob zombie; and the human centipede. Things have gotten quieter of late on the graphic suffering front, but the eighth entry in the Saw franchise arrives this weekend after a seven-year hiatus for the franchise, hoping to rekindle your interest. in torture tourism.
The question is: were the saw movies good enough to deserve this beast coming out of retirement? the answer: … more or less! Like the sin-hunters of the ’80s, the franchise’s fiendish puzzler (aka John Kramer, played by Tobin Bell) wanted to weed out the deviant and the ungrateful, but usually gave the victims a chance to redeem themselves. and reclaim their souls with a new perspective on how to truly appreciate the gift of life. Saw’s effectiveness as a fable is in the eye of the beholder, but he gets points for trying. As Jigsaw hits theaters, we’ve put together a ranking of all the Saw movies so far. Neither of these movies is good compared to, say, the gloss, but compared to each other, there are real winners and losers here. So, let’s play a game.
8. saw 3d (2010)
signature device: the brazen bull furnacedespite the fact that the franchise had amassed more than $700 million over the course of six films, and the fact that 3d cost a whopping $20 million to make, the seventh movie feels the cheapest by far. It’s the kitchen sink chapter. A new character named Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery) is introduced as the protagonist: a charlatan who has amassed fame and fortune thanks to a self-help book he wrote after surviving a puzzle game, when he was never actually targeted by the killer in everyone, and a group of past survivors seem to complete a self-help group and create new curves in the puzzle narrative. Flashbacks are constant, filling in the ever-reconfigured backstory of John Kramer and his henchmen. The death traps arrive at such a rapid pace that one wonders who has time to put together all these elaborate games, one of which features the late Chester Bennington not saying a line, but screaming for an entire scene. John’s ex-wife Jill is still kicking around, fulfilling John’s last wishes and running scared as a crooked cop named Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) continues to try to usurp Jigsaw’s legacy. Meanwhile, Bobby the Faker has to go through a maze of murders to save his wife, but that game is mostly a distraction from the fact that Dr. lawrence gordon (cary elwes) from the first saw has resurfaced and is revealed to be jigsaw’s accomplice from the start.
The rate of return of the cast members in saw is one of the strengths of the franchise, but dr. Gordon, one foot down because he had to saw one off to survive his game of death, resurfacing as a great puzzle disciple makes everyone in this universe seem all too willing to join forces with a man who mutilated them in the name of tough love. If you’re a fan of Saws, the seventh movie will push the right buttons, but after ending in 3D, it’s clear why the franchise took a seven-year hiatus.
7. saw iv (2007)
signature device: ice block crushersaw movies put viewers through a lot, and while they admirably pack enough plot to make sure the movies aren’t On the violence alone, the crux of a saw experience is the elaborately crafted gore. But there are limits to entertaining brutality, and IV crosses them. The puzzle victims in this chapter are punished for crimes like child abuse and sex crimes, and if violence is going to be your calling card, you have to choose: great gore or horrific exploitation. you can’t do both. a slowly scalped woman shouldn’t exist in the same movie as a rape dungeon if you want to maintain a modicum of dignity, especially when the story is about morality and justice.
iv also stacks on turns. did you think donnie wahlberg died in ii? turn! he is back! did you think amanda (shawnee smith) and john were the only ones on the puzzle team? turn! he has a policeman in his pocket! remember when you saw john’s wife once in a flashback? surprise! she is now an integral part of the plot! none of this has anything to do with plot a, which is that swat boy reggie, who was introduced in ii, now has to survive a puzzle game to save a couple of fellow officers. Furthermore, even though the film opens with John Kramer’s body being autopsied, the film hits you at the climax, revealing that IV actually took place in a concurrent timeline with III, with the characters and narratives colliding in the triage room that appears in that third movie so, iv begins and ends with john’s autopsy, which means the autopsy doesn’t set the stage for iv, but turns into a stunt at the end of the movie. As aggressive as they are, movies that are actually watched are best enjoyed as a TV show (think of it like an American Horror Black Mirror story), because there are so many threads to hold on to that you should watch as much as possible. fast as possible to keep up to date. not that iv is too intellectually dense to understand. It’s starting to look like a cheap trick.
6. puzzle (2017)
exclusive device: the laser cutter necklaceafter a seven-year absence, the gang is here: the creepy doll on her tricycle, a torture gauntlet filled with guilt-trading sinners, the theme song, Tobin Bell’s ominous recorded voice, excised skin cut into puzzle pieces, and even a kind of museum full of greatest hits from puzzle death devices. saw cleans up pretty well in these modern times: this is the first movie to actually look a bit pricey, and it trades the sickening green color palette of the first seven efforts for actual daylight. (Based on a visible license plate, it looks like Saw takes place in New Jersey, and Jigsaw ultimately makes the state look like more than just a grim companion universe to Silent Hill.)
While eight isn’t a frowned upon movie, it’s not very exciting either. The main game in the torture barn creeps, with long gaps between rounds of punishment. there’s one of those trademark timeline twists that makes you go, “oh come on, did you just make this up in the cutting room?” and the ending lacks the fast-growing action that gave each previous film its race-to-the-big-end feel. however, the deaths and mutilations look fantastic, and it’s good to know that after all these years and all these deaths, seeing someone melt from the inside out after being injected with hydrofluoric acid can still be shocking. he also has a pretty good sense of humor at times, which is a nice new feature. saw still has the power to shock, but it’s also a little less serious. the seventh sequel isn’t a nasty entry, but it falls in the lower middle of the pack.
5. saw v (2008)
signature device: the table saw to collect bloodthis one is fun because its core conflict is purely entertaining. An FBI agent named Strahm (Scott Patterson) is rightfully suspicious of police “hero” Hoffman, who revealed himself to audiences in IV as a former associate of the puzzle. his game of cat and mouse is a good drama, but learning more about hoffman’s dark side means we spend a lot of time in flashbacks learning his origin story and seeing him ex post facto stitched into almost every puzzle murder that took place during the game. First Few Movies The beginning of V also takes place chronologically before John Kramer’s autopsy, which means that III, IV, and part of V exist before Kramer is fully caught and opened up. that’s a lot of narrative stacking and further emphasizes the TV series nature of the franchise, which is both a plus and a minus.
However, the main game in v is one of the best: it’s another group contest where a bunch of obnoxious strangers (two of which are meagan good and julie benz) have to work together, i.e. against each other. your natural instincts. Survive your prison of torture devices. there’s heartwarming cooperation and redemption, but also vicious backstabbing, and it becomes the best murder house dynamic in the franchise.
4. sierra iii (2006)
signature device: the framethe game changes to iii, because we know that jigsaw doesn’t work alone. Amanda is now a full part of the story as his lieutenant, working to become his successor after his terminal cancer finally claims him. (John’s diagnosis, and the fallout from it, is what puts him on this whole moral-vigilante journey in the first place.) play; There’s the fact that he’s dying, and a kidnapped surgeon has to keep him alive in a dirty triage unit while he wears a collar equipped with shotgun shells ready to drop if John’s pulse fails. And then there’s the main game, with a man named Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) who has to fight his way through a puzzle trap palace to reach existential redemption. (The man Jeff finds drowning in a vat of rotting, freshly ground pig intestines is the franchise at its grossest.)
as in all saw movies, all the elements are connected, but in iii, the plot starts to require some thread to keep track of. How many tasks can a few serial killers take on? the answer is, more than you can imagine. The third movie doesn’t go overboard, but it seems that John is setting up his subjects to fail, and the game shouldn’t be so rigged if he really wants people to follow the path of redemption. there are bonus points for emotional nuance, and that keeps iii from drowning in an ocean of monotony. On the downside, Dina Meyer dies in the rib spreader and is missed.
3. saw saw (2009)
signature device: the acid injectorsomething very entertaining happens in the sixth film: it saw society at large tune in and focus their punishment on predatory moneylenders and amoral insurance companies. Nearly everyone who goes through a puzzle test in this movie makes a living exploiting subprime mortgage recipients or revoking health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. saw was always a morality tale, but saw lines up the hammer and hits the nail on the head. at this point saw’s aesthetic changes to “high end syfy series” which feels good as the franchise feels more like a tv series than a bunch of movies, and the narrative of savage capitalism makes make it almost an independent chapter. in the history of the mountains.
This time, the man who must navigate the puzzle maze is an insurance company executive who once denied John Kramer’s application for coverage of an experimental cancer treatment. but instead of being a soulless bastard, he’s actually quite nice and makes selfless choices within the labyrinth of death to try and save others at physical cost to himself. Six movies deep, there’s a lot of other stuff going on too: John’s ex-wife is now in the picture and she’s a suspicious character. A police detective who has become the heir to Jigsaw is trying to outwit the FBI. a presumed dead character returns, and there are many flashbacks of the team setting up traps together that were showcased earlier in the franchise. but it’s the main game that makes it more enjoyable, and the thematic plot is a nice change for the narrative.
2. sierra ii (2005)
exclusive device: the used syringe holeas is typical in the saw series, the saw ii picks up right where the saw left off. This one stars Donnie Wahlberg as an unethical cop who has to play the puzzle game if he wants to rescue his son from a dirty house that is basically one big Rube Goldberg death trap. the first sequel trades the novelty of the premise for more gore, but that’s what sequels do, and it’s the first to feature the gauntlet format that will become commonplace in the franchise: a group of people in a huge labyrinth of torture they have to find their way by following all the sacred rules.
and wow, we hear a lot about the rules in saw ii. Jigsaw, by now, has been unmasked as John Kramer, and he spends most of the film sitting down with Detective Wahlberg, giving him plenty of time to proselytize the value of life and speak in riddles. It’s a bit much, but at least Dina Meyer is available as backup cop to make the boring stretches substantially fresher just by being Dina Meyer. Shawnee Smith reprises her role as Amanda, the rare puzzle trap survivor, and catalyzes the ultimate “oh shit!” of the franchise. moment, which also serves as an indication of how vast and interconnected the mythology of the Sierra will eventually become. If you’ve bought the Sierra Movies, II ramps up the violence without jumping the shark entirely, and it’s a worthy sequel to the original.
1. saw (2004)
Signature Device: Iconic Inverted Bear TrapUpon review, the original Saw is practically quaint compared to the rest of the series, leveling out the blood and transforms the simple opening plot into a Byzantine rat maze of interlocking and overlapping narratives. but it’s also the only “torture” franchise that aims to embed a moral story at its core. In Sierra, Cary Elwes plays Dr. Lawrence Gordon, a skilled doctor who gets locked in a dank basement bathroom with a photographer (played by co-writer Leigh Whannell, who also starred in the short Saw) who has been secretly stalking him for an unknown client. As in all puzzle games, the men must perform extreme acts of mental and physical violence to prove that they deserve their lives.
the original is the only film directed by james wan, and it’s still the best; “How far would you go to survive?” It’s still a perfect premise for a horror movie. the elaborate devices built to inflict pain were innovative at the time. the scenes in the parking lot and the dark apartment, lit only by camera flashes, remain chilling. the sound of jigsaw’s gravelly voice coming off the tape recorder is still as ominous a sound as one could imagine, and the big reveals are still a real shock. saw occupies a worthy place in the history of horror movies.