As one of the most successful horror movie franchises of all time, it's hard to believe that the Saw series started out on a fairly low budget and with plans to make only the one movie. Directed by James Wan and with screenplay by Leigh Whannell, the first movie begins with Adam (a photographer) and Dr Lawrence Gordon (an oncologist) chained by their feet to pipes in a disused, dilapidated and rather gross bathroom. In the middle of the floor is a man lying face down in a pool of blood with a gun by his hand, and a mini cassette player/recorder nearby. After managing to get hold of the tape player, Adam and Dr Gordon discover mini cassettes in their pockets, which when played, reveal that they must play 'a game' in order to survive, but there is a catch- they must saw off their feet to escape, and Dr Gordon must kill Adam if he ever wants to see his wife and daughter again. Throughout the film, it transpires that each is there for 'a reason'- Adam because he has made money off exposing others' misery and trangressions through his photography, and Dr Gordon because of the way he has taken his family for granted, and the cold clinical way in which he deals with his patients. Both men try (in vain) to fool their captor into believing that they are playing the 'game', but it is only after Dr Gordon finds a mobile/cell phone(incoming calls only), and recieves a desperate pleading call from his wife and daughter, that he decides to take drastic action, and escape by the only and afore mentioned way possible. As he drags himself from the room, the 'dead' man on the floor rises to his feet, and as he closes the door, says 'game over' that's how we discover that he was the captor(Jigsaw) all along.
The subsequent movies are less about the psychogical thriller aspect of the first, and more about the gore and shock factor. This said, for me personally, it does not make them any less watchable, and as the second film progresses, we disover more about the man who is 'Jigsaw'. He is John Kramer (played by Tobin Bell), a terminal cancer patient, who believes that people who don't appreciate life or take it for granted, need to find the will and the fight to live by playing one of his 'games'. The first 'game' in this movie involves one man who has to try and escape a grisly death mask contraption, but this movie differs to the first in that the main 'game' involves a group playing together rather than just two people. Again, there is a brilliant twist to this film, as we discover that a cop who is working on the Jigsaw case is linked to each and every one of the group, including his own son who is in grave danger. I found that I liked this film better than the first, because the story had expanded more and new characters were being introduced.
I think that the gore really starts to kick in with the third film, and I discovered by watching the extras on the DVD that some of the props had to be specially made just for the movie, and that live (sterilised-apparently) maggots were also used in one of the most disgusting scenes. The traps to be used in the 'games' seemed to be more elaborately designed, with Tobin Bell giving his input on the design of 'the rack' trap, one that I know made a lot of people cringe when they watched it, myself included! It is in this film that Tobin's character (John/Jigsaw) meets his demise, and not in the way you would expect, as he is part of a 'game' that involves a lady whose husband has had to pass a series of tests which are designed to test his forgiveness and mercy towards others, but which inevitably end in somebody's grim, or more often grusome death. We also know by now that Jigsaw has at least one accomplice-Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), whom he took under his wing after she passed one of his tests, but who gets shot dead towards the end of the film.
Saw IV begins with the autopsy on Jigsaw, with the clever use of an amazing prop, making the opening scene very believeable. A wax covered mini cassette is recovered from the body, and when played to Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandelor), reveals to him that he too will not walk away from the 'games' untested just because Jigsaw is dead. This movie has a lot of flashbacks to scenes from its predecessors, so can appear very confusing for someone who has never seen any of them, but I think that if you've followed the saga from the beginning, it explains things very well, and only serves to enhance the twists that now so often appear at the end of each film. We begin to understand throughout what started Jigsaw to begin his 'work', why he believes that life is so very precious and what caused the breakdown of his marriage- also an important (although not justifiable) factor in his bizarre and dangerous behaviour. As with the previous two films, several of the characters are linked, and the way in which they choose to act/behave during their 'games' can either cause the death of or save the other characters. By the end of this film, we discover that Detective Hoffman is another Jigsaw accomplice, who was playing the final 'game' as part of the twist.
Saw V opens with what I believe to be one of the most graphic and gory scenes yet, but with the cleverest use of props and special effects I have seen to date. I think that the scariest thing about this particular trap was that many of the parts built for it, were built to actually work for real, so the safety of the production team, and indeed the actors, was paramount.The film itself expands on how Detective Hoffman became an accomplice, after we see that he was behind the first trap and tried to frame Jigsaw for it. I should therefore, at this point mention that the events of this film took place before the second film (are you with me?!) and obviously before Jigsaw died! Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) strongly suspects Hoffman's involvement after he narrowly escapes a trap himself (landing him in hospital), and obsessively begings to try and piece together a case against Hoffman. The main part of this film again focuses on a group 'game' where the group in question have to go through a series of tests in order to discover their links to one another and why they are there in the first place, and though many may have thought that the twists of this hugely successful franchise had gotten silly at this point, I was suitably impressed with this as a whole, and again, the afore mentioned mechanics and special effects of the whole film, not to mention some terrific acting.
I won't go into Saw VI and Saw VII because one is a fairly recent DVD release and the other is a VERY recent cinema release, which was amazing in 3D, and I wouldn't want to get myself into trouble for giving away potential spoilers! In conclusion then, I will say that I find the plot of the Saw franchise a really gripping story to follow, and that despite all the gore, there are some things to think about regarding morality and how we deal with life. All in all, a worthwhile set of movies to watch if you're a die hard horror fan!!!