Saw is a 2004 mystery psychological thriller and the first installment of the Saw franchise. Written and directed by James Wan and co-written by Leigh Whannell, the film's story revolves around two men, who are locked up in a dilapidated industrial bathroom, where they are forced to play a gruesome game designed by an infamous serial killer known as Jigsaw.
Adam Stanheight and Dr. Lawrence Gordon wake up on opposite sides of a dilapidated industrial bathroom with their feet chained to pipes. Between them is a corpse lying in a pool of blood, with a gun in one hand and a tape player in the other. Each man finds a tape in his pocket, instructing them on what to do; Lawrence must kill Adam before six o' clock, while Adam must find a way to escape the bathroom. If they fail to complete their respective tasks then they will be left in the room to die, and Lawrence's wife, Alison, and daughter Diana will be killed.
Using a clue from the tape, Adam and Lawrence find two hacksaws in the toilet. When they try to use them to cut through their chains Adam's saw breaks and Lawrence realizes that the saws are meant to be used on their feet. He tells Adam that they have been abducted by the infamous Jigsaw Killer and tells him about how he himself was once a suspect.
Flashbacks show detectives David Tapp, Steven Sing and Allison Kerry, visiting the crime scenes of Paul Leahy and Mark Wilson, two of Jigsaw's earliest victims. At the location of Mark's game, Detective Kerry finds a penlight belonging to Lawrence Gordon. Tapp and Sing take him to the police station for questioning, and his alibi turns out to be true. They ask Gordon to witness the testimony of Amanda Young, a heroin addict and the only known survivor of Jigsaw's games. Lawrence is shocked to hear about her traumatic experience and even more so when she states that Jigsaw's game helped her.
Back in the present, Alison and Diana Gordon are being held captive in their own apartment by a man who is watching Adam and Lawrence through a surveillance camera, which is hidden behind a two-way mirror in the bathroom. At the same time, the man is being watched by Tapp, who has been discharged and rented a run-down apartment across the street from Gordon's house.
A flashback reveals tthat Tapp and Sing managed to locate Jigsaw's warehouse in an abandoned mannequin factory using a video tape from Amanda's game. They raided Jigsaw's warehouse without a warrant and found another victim, Jeff Ridenhour, in a trap. They managed to apprehend Jigsaw, however, Jigsaw activates Jeff's trap and Sing rushes to save him. He then slashes Tapp's throat with a hidden blade and flees. While pursuing him, Sing is killed by a shotgun trap. Following his partner's death, Tapp became obsessed with catching Jigsaw, and still believes that Gordon is responsible.
Meanwhile in the bathroom, Lawrence gives his wallet to Adam to show him a photo of his family and Adam finds another picture of Alison and Diana tied up. On the back, he finds a message that says: "X marks the spot. Sometimes you see things better with your eyes shut." Adam initially refuses to tell Lawrence about the photo and tells him to turn off the lights. When he does they discover an "X" painted on the wall with fluorescent paint. When Lawrence breaks the wall, he discovers a small box containing a single bullet, two cigarettes, a one-way cellphone, and a cryptic message, which hints that the blood of the dead man in the middle of the room is poisoned and advises him to use it to kill Adam. They plan to stage Adam's death using the cigarettes, but their plan fails when Adam suddenly receives an electric shock from his shackle. Suddenly Adam remembers how he was abducted from his apartment at night by a pig-masked figure. Moments later, Alison calls Lawrence on the cell phone, while being held at gunpoint by her captor, and tells Lawrence not to trust Adam before hanging up. When Lawrence confronts Adam, Adam finally admits that he was paid to follow Lawrence and shows him several photos he took of him, which were in the toilet with the hacksaws. Some of which show him leaving hotels where he meet with his mistress Carla Song. Due to Adam's description, Lawrence is able to identify Adam's employer as Tapp.
Some time later, Adam realizes that one of the photos wasn't taken by him, which shows the abductor of Gordon's family standing at the window of their house. Upon seeing the photo, Lawrence identifies him as Zep Hindle, an orderly from the hospital he works at. Just as he recognizes him, the clock strikes 6:00. As Gordon has failed his task to kill Adam, Zep prepares himself to kill Allison and Diana. However, before doing so, he forces Alison to call her husband to tell him he failed. Alison uses the opportunity to attack Zep after having removed her restraints, and the two engage in a fight. Zep accidentally triggers several shots from his gun and alerts Tapp, who rushes to the apartment, allowing Alison and Diana to escape.
Meanwhile, Lawrence, who is only aware of the gunshots and the screams of his family, makes a last desperate attempt to save them and uses his hacksaw to cut off his foot. Afterwards, he shoots Adam with the dead man's gun and the bullet from the hidden box, seemingly killing him. At the same time, Tapp pursues Zep through an underground tunnel network. During a brief struggle, Zep kills Tapp by shooting him in his chest, and then enters the bathroom. As he prepares to shoot Lawrence, Adam, who has survived the gunshot, knocks him to the ground and beats him to the death with the toilet tank lid.
Lawrence tells Adam he must find help and crawls out of the bathroom. Afterwards, Adam searches Zep's body to find a key to his shackle, but finds another tape player. The tape reveals that Zep himself was merely another victim of Jigsaw's game. He was instructed to kill the Gordon family in exchange for the antidote for a slow-acting poison in his body. Just as Adam realizes this, the man in the middle of the room stands up and reveals himself to be John Kramer, the real Jigsaw Killer, and one of Lawrence's cancer patients. He tells Adam that the key to his shackle is in the bathtub. However, it was sucked down the drain when Adam first woke up. Adam attempts to shoot him using Zep's gun, but is given another electric shock. John then turns off the lights and leaves the room. Just as Adam comes to, John yells "Game Over", and closes the door leaving Adam to die.
- Leigh Whannell as Adam
- Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon
- Danny Glover as Detective David Tapp
- Ken Leung as Detective Steven Sing
- Dina Meyer as Kerry
- Mike Butters as Paul
- Paul Gutrecht as Mark
- Michael Emerson as Zep Hindle
- Benito Martinez as Brett
- Shawnee Smith as Amanda
- Makenzie Vega as Diana Gordon
- Monica Potter as Alison Gordon
- Ned Bellamy as Jeff
- Alexandra Chun as Carla
- Avner Garbi as Father
- Tobin Bell as Jigsaw
After finishing film school in Australia, James Wan and Leigh Whannell started to work on their script for Saw, planning to finance the film themselves. This decision resulted in the rather minimalistic idea of having only a small, rather contained set with as few actors as possible. However, during the development of the script, it became obvious that they didn't have sufficient funds to shoot the film on their own.
The script was optioned by a producer in Sydney for a year but the deal eventually fell through. After other failed attempts to get the script produced in Australia from 2001 to 2002, literary agent Ken Greenblat read the script and suggested they travel to Los Angeles, where they had better chances of finding an interested studio. Wan and Whannell initially refused due to lack of traveling funds but the pair's agent, Stacey Testro, convinced them to go. In order to help studios take interest in the script, Whannell provided A$5,000 to make a short film based on the scene of Amanda's interrogation, which they thought would prove most effective. Whannell played David, a hospital orderly tested in one of Jigsaw's games. Working at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Whannell and Wan had connections to camera operators who were willing to provide technical assistance for the short film. Wan shot the short with a 16mm camera in over two days and transferred the footage to DVDs to ship along with the script. Whannell wanted to play the lead character in the feature film, while Wan intended to be the director.
Eventually, the short film along with the script attracted the attention of Oren Koules, Gregg Hoffman and Mark Burg, who worked as producers for Twisted Pictures. As they were fascinated with the concept of the film, they decided to produce it, with Whannell playing the leading role of Adam, while Wan directed the film. The film was granted a production budget between $1 million and $1.2 million. The principal photography started on September 22, 2003 at the Lacy Street Production Facility in Los Angeles and went on for 18 days. The bathroom was the only set that had to be built. Danny Glover completed his scenes within two days. Due to the tight shooting schedule, Wan could not afford to shoot more than a couple of takes per actor. In post-production, Wan found he did not have enough shots or takes to work with as he was basically shooting rehearsals. Having a lot of missing gaps in the final product, he and editor Kevin Greutert created shots to mend together during editing, such as making a shot look like a surveillance camera feed and using still photographs.
Lions Gate Entertainment picked up worldwide distribution rights for Saw when the films was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, only days before the film premiered on January 19, 2004. It was the closing film at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 18, 2004. Lionsgate initially planned to release the film direct-to-video, but due to the positive reaction at Sundance, they chose to release it theatrically on Halloween.
It was released on October 1, 2004 in the United Kingdom, on October 29, 2004 in the United States and on December 2, 2004 in Australia. The film was originally rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong graphic violence, but after being re-edited, it was released with an R-rating. Lionsgate held the first annual "Give Til It Hurts" blood drive for the Red Cross and collected 4,249 pints of blood.
On October 31, 2014, Saw was re-released in honor of its 10th anniversary. However, it earned only $650,051 in its opening weekend and therefore is the third lowest-grossing wide opening. At the end of its run, the release had grossed $815,324, bringing the film's overall domestic gross to $56,000,369.
The theatrical version of the film was released on VHS and DVD on February 15, 2005 in the United States. After its first week, it earned $9.4 million in DVD rentals and $1.7 million in VHS rentals, making it the top rental of the week. A two-disc "Uncut Edition" was released on October 18, 2005 to tie in with the release Saw II. The short film, also titled Saw, was included on the DVD.
The film was subsequently included in a boxed set with all six sequels entitled Saw: The Complete Movie Collection, which was released in September, 2014 in celebration of the film's 10th anniversary. The set contained the unrated editions of all seven films, though it lacked any of the special features from previous releases.
Saw was a financial success. Shot on a meager budget of about $1.2 million, it earned over $55 million at the box office in the U.S. alone and $102,917,772 worldwide.  Generally, the critical reactions to the film were mixed. It received a rating of 48% from Rotten Tomatoes, based on 181 reviews, while Metacritic gave it a score of 46 out of 100, based on 32 critics. Most of the criticism regarded the general plot as well as the ending, which were considered "convoluted."
The soundtrack was mainly composed by Charlie Clouser, which took six weeks to complete. Other songs were performed by Front Line Assembly, Fear Factory, Enemy, Pitbull Daycare and Psycho Pumps. Megadeth's song "Die Dead Enough" was originally set to be featured in the film, but was not used for undisclosed reasons. The soundtrack was released on October 5, 2004 by Koch Records.
1. Tape Deck
3. Hello, Mark
4. Reverse Beartrap
5. Are You Daddy?
6. Drill & Trap
7. X Marks
9. Out of Time
10. Tapp & Zepp
11. Fuck This Shit (Version A)
12. Fuck This Shit (Version B)
13. Zepp Overture
14. The Rules
15. Be Alright
16. Hello Zepp
1. Stürm – Front Line Assembly
2. Bite the Hand That Bleeds – Fear Factory
3. Action – Enemy
4. You Make Me Feel So Dead – Pitbull Daycare
5. Wonderful World – Psychopomps
- Originally, Adam and Lawrence were to be trapped on a lift or in a basement.
- Director James Wan created Billy the Puppet for the film.
- Saw was meant to be a straight-to-video release, but due to positive screenings it became a movie release.
- The film was shot within 18 days, with pre-production lasting only 5 days.
- Shawnee Smith, who played Amanda, filmed all of her scenes within a single day and was sick during the time of shooting.
- Producer Oren Koules has an uncredited cameo as Donnie Greco.
- All scenes set in the bathroom were filmed in six days in chronological order.
- While shooting the scene of Lawrence cutting off his foot, actor Cary Elwes actually scratched his foot despite the saw being blunt.
- Leigh Whannell not only plays Adam in the film, but also played Sing during reshoots when the actor was unavailable. He plays Sing when he enters Jigsaw's hideout and when he gets shot later on. In addition, his hands were used as stand-in for Shawnee Smith's hands during close-ups of Amanda sifting through Donnie Greco's intestines.
- Sing's chase after Jigsaw was the last scene to be filmed.
- Director James Wan did not get paid and instead got a percentage of the profits.
- The map used by Tapp and Sing when reviewing locations of fire alarm reports was that of Washington D.C.
- After Lawrence cut off his foot, in the scene where he tries to shoot at Zep with and empty revolver, Cary Elwes wore a black shaggy sock to cover his foot.
- While filming the scenes of Paul's death and the investigation of the crime scene, camera operator David Armstrong accidentally bumped against the ceiling of the set and had to be taken to a hospital due to a mild concussion.