He is different from most serial killers as he did not kill his victims directly, but instead relied on various lethal traps in which he places his victims. In most cases, they must subject themselves to excrutiating pain or trauma to escape, and prove their will to live.
John Kramer was originally a successful civil engineer, who ventured into property development, explaining his mechanical skills, and how he was aware of the various buildings that he would subsequently use as his lairs, and game locations. He was also a devoted husband to Jill Tuck, who ran a recovery clinic for drug users, and they were expecting a child to be named Gideon. One night while closing down the clinic, Jill was robbed and assaulted by an addict named Cecil Adams, causing her to miscarry. This incident changed John's outlook on life, as he began to realize that people can only change themselves. Afterwards, John became detached and angry, which ultimately led to his divorce. (Saw IV)
After going to the doctor's office for a checkup, John was told by Dr. Lawrence Gordon that he had colon cancer and an inoperable brain tumor, and that he did not have much time left (Saw, II). Shortly after being diagnosed, he visited Umbrella Health hoping to be treated through an experimental drug program, but the executive of the company, William Easton, denied him health coverage. (Saw VI)
John's Rebirth Edit
Utterly depressed, John attempted to commit suicide by driving off a cliff, but survived the crash. Clinging to his life, John discovered that only when he knew his death was impending did he really begin to value his life (Saw II). As John observed other people wasting their lives, people undeserving and unappreciative of the life being denied to him, John began his mission to make people appreciate their lives and realize how precious life truly is, one person at a time. (Saw: Rebirth). His first test subject was Cecil, the man responsible for the loss of his unborn child. (Saw IV)
John spent the next months of his life observing and planning meticulously for his "subjects", painstakingly creating devices to test their desire to live, often through ironic means (Saw: Rebirth). For example, Paul Leahy, a man who had slashed his wrists for attention, was sentenced to crawl through a maze of razor wires in order to survive. (Saw)Placing his subjects in lethal traps, each victim was left a single chilling message explaining the "crime" they had committed to deserve their fate and how they could escape. Each was conveyed either by a distorted voice on a tape or by Jigsaw's puppet, Billy. They often involved quick thinking, ethically difficult decisions, self-mutilation, or in some cases putting the victim through psychological trauma that John would often be present to view, unknown to the victim.
As his victims increased, authorities coined the nickname "The Jigsaw Killer"—or simply, "Jigsaw" for John—because of the Jigsaw Piece of Flesh that he would cut from an unsuccessful victim. The piece was not intended to be used as a signature but simply to represent the 'piece' of the 'human puzzle' that the victims were missing: The survival instinct. Though police intensity continued to increase as more and more bodies were found in incredible and brutal devices, Jigsaw carried out his mission undaunted.
You see, it's a different method I'm talking about. If the subject survives my method, he or she is instantly rehabilitated. Now, you want a chance? [Hoffman nods] You want a chance? I'll give you a chance. I am the man you call "Jigsaw". It's your duty to bring me in. I know who you are, and I know what you've done.
John introduces himself to Hoffman
Early into the Jigsaw murders, John managed to gain Detective Lieutenant Mark Hoffman as an apprentice. Hoffman, seeking vengeance for his sister's murder at the hands of Seth Baxter, placed Baxter into a self-made Pendulum Trap that proved inescapable. Hoffman ended up pinning the murder on Jigsaw, given the methods used, which earned the ire of John.
Capturing and sedating the detective and restraining him to a chair, which was connected to a double-barrel shotgun, John told Hoffman that he was not amused by being given credit for work that was not his. Using his knowledge against Hoffman, John blackmailed Hoffman into becoming his accomplice, showing him a better means to "rehabilitate" the subjects. The first Jigsaw trap set up by both John and Hoffman was the Razor Wire trap for Paul Leahy. Over time, Hoffman became a more willing apprentice, assisting John in kidnapping some of his test subjects as well as providing John with the crucial files of information containing many of the details of the lives, jobs and convictions of the various criminals and cops ultimately targeted in the Jigsaw murders. (Saw V)The first victim to survive a trap was Amanda Young, a drug addict who had previously been deemed a lost soul by Johns wife Jill at the clinic. One night she returned home following a police interrogation about her ordeal. John confronted her, seeing potential within her. Amanda agreed to become his second apprentice, seeing him as a saviour and planning to continue John's work once he eventually succumbed to his cancer. John set about training Amanda to possess the beliefs and skills necessary to carry on his legacy, struggling to help her cope with her emotional responses to the brutal nature of their work. The pair grew closer with Amanda being of great importance to John and Amanda reciprocating these feelings.
Jigsaw's health continued to rapidly decline, gradually reducing his mobility as his body degenerated and withered, confining him to a makeshift hospital bed. He was forced to ensure that Amanda was ready for the task before he died, but he knew that she was already experiencing problems and not following the rules of Jigsaw's games. Amanda had become a full-out murderer, creating inescapable traps that offered no salvation to their victims. John could not let Amanda continue on this path when he died, so he prepared an elaborate test to once again test her to decide if she could truly carry on his work. However Amanda's inclusion as an accomplice in the games had frustrated Hoffman and caused a strain in his relationship with John, so he set out to ensure Amanda failed her test by blackmailing her behind Johns back with knowledge of her involvement in Jills miscarriage.
The Final TestsEdit
Are you there, detective? If so, you are probably the last man standing. Now, perhaps you will succeed where the others have failed. You feel you now have control, don't you? You think you will walk away untested. I promise that my work will continue. That I have ensured. By hearing this tape, some will assume that this is over, but I am still among you. You think it's over just because I am dead. It's not over. The games have just begun.
Jigsaw's wax coated tape
As John lay on his deathbed, Amanda, at his order, kidnapped Dr. Lynn Denlon, testing her with the ability to keep John alive until another victim, Jeff Denlon, could pass his tests. To ensure Lynn's help, John had Amanda place the Shotgun Collar on her neck that was linked to his heart rate. It would fire if John died or if Lynn moved out of range. John struggled to cling to life and see his final test complete but his condition deteriorated rapidly, causing Amanda great distress.
Amanda's anxiety grew into hostility towards Lynn, jealous of the attention that Jigsaw was giving to her, intended or otherwise. Her conditon worsened when John hallucinated about another woman and said "I love you", which was intended for that woman, but Amanda took it as it was intended for Lynn. As the tests continued, Amanda started to become increasingly unstable, eventually refusing to release Lynn from her trap when ordered to do so by John. John revealed his knowledge of Amanda's murders but begged her not to kill Lynn, saying that she was important to Amanda's own survival. Amanda admitted that she thought no-one really changed from the near-death experiences in Jigsaw's traps, which she used as her motive for the inescapable traps. John continued to plead with his remaining strength for Amanda to release Lynn because he did not want anything to happen to Amanda, but she refused due to Hoffmans secret blackmail of her, shooting Lynn in the back just as Jeff appeared, having escaped his trap. Jeff retaliated by shooting Amanda in the neck.
As Amanda lay dying, a saddened John explained to her how Jeff was Lynn's husband, and that everything that had occurred was an elaborate ploy to test Amanda's ability to release victims who passed their tests. In the end, however, Amanda had failed. Though she meant everything to John, she proved herself unworthy to continue his legacy.
As Lynn lay injured and Amanda died of her gunshot wound, John spoke to Jeff and offered him one last test: Jeff could kill John with tools present in a table in the room, or he could forgive John for all the pain he has caused. Jeff claimed to forgive John, but picked up a circular saw blade, slitting John's throat with it. With the last of his strength, John took out and activated a tape recording he made, which explained to Jeff that if he had failed, which he had, he was doomed to lose everything. In the tape, John revealed that he have kidnapped Jeff's daughter, Corbett, that he was the only one who knew where she is, and that she had a limited supply of air. After the tape ended, John died of blood loss. (Saw III)Just moments after his death, Peter Strahm discovered John's corpse in the room with Jeff and Lynn and Amanda's bodies, and John's body was taken back to the coroner's office. During John's autopsy, Dr. Heffner found a wax-coated tape in John's stomach, which he swallowed after Lynn performed the brain surgery for him. The tape had a message for Hoffman that John made, warning him that he would not walk away untested, and that his games weren't over, and that the games have just begun. (Saw IV)
Jigsaw is known best by his talking puppet named Billy, which he used when to record his instructions for his "subjects." The backstory revealed in Saw: Rebirth explained that John Kramer worked in a factory that dealt with toys, and the puppet was one of his creations. A scene from Saw III also showed Jigsaw constructing the puppet.
This, however, is contradicted by the backstory in Saw IV, which shows that Billy was a gift for John's unborn son, who was accidentally killed by Cecil. The gift was modified from a children's pivot toy to a more fearsome-looking puppet.
Jigsaw was often seen wearing a black and red theatrical robe with a large hood. At one point for defense, he had a large hidden blade stored in his sleeve, which was able to pop out when needed.
Another commonly used disguise by both Jigsaw and his apprentices was the pig mask, which resembled an actual pig's head coupled with long black hair.
In some cases, if a subject failed their test, John ended the game with his famous words: 'Game Over'.
Darren Lynn Bousman on JigsawEdit
Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV said, "He's not the typical serial killer. He's not some madman. He's not Jason or Freddy. He's not even Hannibal Lecter. He's a person with extreme beliefs and he really thinks he's making a difference. He's a vigilante if anything. He thinks he's making a difference". Jigsaw is the only character to be featured in every single Saw movie aside from Amanda Young (who was only seen in archive footage in Saw 3D).
- Saw: Rebirth
- Saw (first appearance) - Tobin Bell
- Saw: The Video Game - Tobin Bell
- Saw II - Tobin Bell
- Saw II: Flesh & Blood - Tobin Bell
- Saw III - Tobin Bell
- Saw IV (corpse, magazine, news paper and flashback) - Tobin Bell
- Saw V (video, corpse, magazine and flashback) - Tobin Bell
- Saw VI (video and flashback) - Tobin Bell
- Saw 3D (opening credits, flashback and video) - Tobin Bell
- In Saw, John attacked and nearly killed David Tapp by slashing his throat with a blade concealed in his wrist. However, it was established in Saw II and III that John considers directly killing someone or putting them in an inescapable trap murder. In the Saw: Video Game, Tapp comes across an audio tape when Jigsaw phoned an ambulance, and seemed certain that Tapp was going to survive his injury, revealing that he did not intend to kill Tapp. However, he did order Lawrence Gordon to kill Mark Hoffman if he killed Jill Tuck.
- Tobin Bell is the only actor in the Saw films to appear for new scenes in every single movie, not including Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young as she appears mostly in archive footage. He is also the only actor to do voice work for both the Saw game adaptions Saw: The Video Game and Saw II: Flesh & Blood, and also gave his likeness for Jigsaw in the second game.
- It is interesting that in Saw V John tells Hoffman that their work can never be personal, but William Easton probably would not have been tested if he would not have denied John health care, making that test personal, also with John showing himself on the tapes. It is possible though that John realized this and included the test in Jill's box, which was to be opened after his death, so William would be tested after he died so he could not be personally involved in his game. However, it is unlikely that he had any real personal motivations to test William, as his company was responsible for denying health insurance in many other cases, such as Harold Abbott.
- John Kramer swears a total of five times in all seven movies combined. Once in Saw II, twice in Saw IV, and twice in Saw VI, saying 'piss' once, 'fuck' three times, and 'ass' once.
- In the game, Heavy Rain, the main antagonist, the Origami Killer, has a very similar M.O to Jigsaw. He puts his test subjects through many horrific trials, that cause severe physical risk and in one instance self mutilate, to see if they have the will do do what's necessary to survive/save a loved one. Both also have many different locations where their "trials" are housed. The Origami killer even uses the name John as an alias (though this is coincidental given that the Origami killer is using the name of his deceased brother.) One difference however is that John never kills directly.
- In-game, the characters Gordi and Charles Kramer share a surname with John. The former of which was presented as a suspect in the Origami Killer case, as was revealed to want to be like him which resulted in the death of a child.