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Saw is an American mystery psychological thriller franchise, which consists of seven, distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment, two video games, published by Konami, as well as a short film and a digital comic.

Plot Synopsis

The roots of the series are explored in Saw IV. John Kramer, a successful and highly intelligent civil engineer, is married to Jill Tuck, who runs a recovery clinic for drug addicts and with whom he expects a child, which is going to be named Gideon. However, when the clinic is robbed by one of Jill's patients, Cecil Adams, Jill is accidentally injured and suffers a miscarriage, leading to Gideon's death and the divorce of Jill and John, as the latter begins to suffer from severe depression.

Shortly after this traumatic event, John is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Embittered due to the loss of his child and his own impending death, John attempts to commit suicide by driving his car off a cliff. However, he survives and finds a new purpose in his life as he decides to spend his last remaining days with testing other peoples' will to live in order to make them appreciate their lives. In order to do so, he abducts other people and puts them in potentially deadly situations, which they can only escape from by causing physical or psychological harm to themselves or others. The first one of these tests, commonly referred to as "games" by John, focuses on Cecil. After Cecil fails his test and subsequently dies, John cuts a jigsaw piece from his skin, which symbolizes his lacking survival instinct. Due to this signature, John becomes known to the public as the Jigsaw Killer, or simply Jigsaw.

In Saw V, the audience finds out about the past of Detective Mark Hoffman, who works on the Jigsaw Case from the beginning. Shortly after the beginning of the murders, Seth Baxter, the murderer and ex-boyfriend of Hoffman's sister, Angelina Acomb, is released from prison after only five years due to a technicality, as he had originally received a life sentence. Hoffman kills him by putting him in an inescapable trap and then cuts a jigsaw piece from his skin in order to imitate Jigsaw's modus operandi and make the murder appear to be another one of Jigsaw's crimes. John, however, finds out about this and abducts Hoffman. By telling him that the public would learn the truth about Seth's death if Hoffman doesn't obey, John blackmails him into becoming his apprentice in order to teach him his moral philosophy. From then on, Hoffman assists him in abducting their victims and setting up their respective games.

Five months prior the the first film, Amanda Young, a heroin addict, passes her test and thereby becomes the first known survivor of one of Jigsaw's games. Convinced that he helped her, Amanda overcomes her addiction, but remains mentally unstable. Due to her state of mind and her isolation from others, John successfully convinces her to become his second apprentice.

In the first movie, John and Amanda set up a game in a dilapidated industrial bathroom. Two men are shackled by their ankles to pipes in the opposite corners of the room. The first one is Dr. Lawrence Gordon, the oncologist who diagnosed John with cancer. Due to a clue left at one of his crime scenes, Lawrence was briefly suspected to be involved in the murders, but was exonerated due to his alibi. The second man is Adam Stanheight, a freelance photographer, who had been hired by Detective David Tapp to observe Gordon, as he still wasn't convinced of the doctor's innocence. Lawrence is instructed to kill Adam by 6:00 o'clock as otherwise, his wife and daughter, Alison and Diana Gordon, will be killed.

Flashbacks show how Detective Tapp and his partner, Detective Steven Sing, manage to find the Jigsaw Killer's hideout. However, their subsequent raid on the abandoned building leads to Sing's death in one of Jigsaw's traps and Tapp's discharge from the police force, which fuels his obsession with catching Jigsaw. Convinced that Gordon is the killer, Tapp rents an apartment right across from Gordon's house. During the events of the first film, he witnesses Zep Hindle, who holds Gordon's family hostage. Tapp saves them and pursues Zep to an underground tunnel network, where he is shot. Zep then goes on to the bathroom, where Gordon has cut off his own foot with a hacksaw in order to escape from his shackle and shot Adam in a final attempt to save his family. Adam, however, survives and kills Zep as the latter is about to kill Lawrence, because he hadn't fulfilled his task in time. Gordon crawls out of the room and promises Adam to find help. While it is seen in Saw 3D that Gordon had survived the game and was nursed back to health by Jigsaw, flashbacks in Saw III reveal that Adam was killed by Amanda, who returned to the bathroom and suffocated him to put him out of his misery.

Saw II begins several months later, when the police find John's new hideout due to a clue left by the killer at his latest crime scene. However, John already planned the police to find him and presents them another one of his games, which they can observe via several surveillance monitors. Eight people, including Amanda, who acts as a victim to observe the other prisoners' progress, are trapped in a house and are given two hours to pass the various tests set up all around the house in order to obtain syringes with an antidote for a deadly nerve agent they are breathing in. Among them is also a boy named Daniel Matthews, son of Detective Eric Matthews. John promises that Eric will see his son again in a safe and secure estate if he talks to John for the next two hours, which Eric reluctantly accepts.

Eric, however, loses his patience and brutally assaults Jigsaw, forcing him to take him to the house, only to discover that the video feed from inside the house had been pre-recorded, while the game had actually taken place much earlier. Matthews' son was locked in a safe in Jigsaw's warehouse the entire time, being kept alive with an oxygen tank. As he enters the bathroom from the first film, which is located underneath the house, Eric is subdued by pig-masked figure and chained by his ankle to a pipe. As he wakes up, Amanda reveals herself to him as John's apprentice before leaving him to die in the room. However, Eric manages to escape the bathroom by breaking his foot and engages in a brutal fight with Amanda. Eventually, Amanda fights him off and leaves him for dead. A flashback in Saw IV reveals that Hoffman found Eric and took him to a cell, where he kept him alive.

The events of Saw III and Saw IV take place six months later and occur at the same time. By the time of Saw III, John is bedridden and severely weakened due to his cancer disease. Therefore, Amanda has taken over most of his work and started to set up her own traps. However, she has begun to doubt John's philosophy and manipulates her traps to be inescapable, leading to the inevitable death of her victims even if they pass their tests. Due to his impending death, John designs a last game, which focuses on Jeff Denlon, a man obsessed with revenge after his son, Dylan, died in a car accident three years earlier. Meanwhile, his wife, Dr. Lynn Denlon, is forced to keep John alive until Jeff manages to pass all of his tests. Unknown to Amanda, she is tested as well as John is not willing to let a murderer continue his work. Hoffman, however, knows about the test and writes a letter to Amanda, in which he blackmails her into killing Lynn as otherwise, he would tell John that she had been responsible for the robbery of Jill's recovery clinic along with Cecil Adams, during which John's unborn child was killed. As she follows Hoffman's instructions and shoots Lynn, she is killed by Jeff, who also kills John afterwards.

Meanwhile, in Saw IV, Hoffman oversees a game, which focuses on one of his colleagues, Officer Daniel Rigg, who was also present during the raid on John Kramer's hideout in Saw II, which led to Eric Matthews' abduction, and is now obsesses with saving his former partner. However, as he misunderstands the rules of his game, Rigg's action cause the death of Eric as well as his own demise. After the police finds the bodies of all the victims involved in the last two games, an audio tape is found in John's stomach during his subsequent autopsy. The tape tells Hoffman that the games are not over and that he will be tested as well.

In Saw V, Hoffman sets up a new game, which focuses on five people, which were directly or indirectly involved in a severe case of arson, which had caused the death of eight people. As they face the tests prepared for them, every trap claims the life of one of them until only two people, Brit and Mallick, remain. During their final test, they realize that all of them could have survived by working together. With this knowledge, the two of them work together and pass their final test, albeit severely injured. They are eventually found alive by Special Agent Dan Erickson. Meanwhile, Special Agent Peter Strahm is set up by Hoffman to make him appear to be Jigsaw's accomplice. As Strahm suspects Hoffman, he starts to observe him. Upon following him to the tunnels underneath the Nerve Gas House from the second film, Strahm dies in one of Hoffman's traps.

In Saw VI, Hoffman sets up the next big game at an abandoned zoo by using the instructions left to Jill Tuck by her ex-husband in the case of his death. The game focuses on William Easton, a health insurance executive, who is responsible for for rejecting two-thirds of all insurance claims, thereby often causing the death of the rejected as they can't bear their treatment costs on their own. Throughout four tests, William is confronted with the gruesome aspects of his business policy. After passing these tests, William meets Tara and Brent Abbott, widow and son of Harold Abbott, one of William's clients who died of a heart disease after William rejected his insurance claim. Given the opportunity to either forgive William or to let him die, Brent chooses the latter and causes William to be killed by a trap.

Meanwhile, Special Agent Erickson and Special Agent Lindsey Perez search for Peter Strahm and thereby work together with Hoffman. During their investigation, they find out about Hoffman's secret, but are killed by him before they can arrest him. Hoffman then returns to the zoo to oversee the end of William's game, but is attacked by Jill, who, unknown to him, was tasked by John to test Hoffman. Hoffman manages to escape from his trap, but is severely injured in the process.

Following Hoffman's survival, Jill reveals his identity to Matt Gibson, an internal affairs officer, and is taken into protective custody in Saw 3D. In order to distract the police and to be able to get to Jill, Hoffman prepares another game, focusing on Bobby Dagen, a man who gained wealth and fame by publishing his story of how he once survived one of Jigsaw's traps, which in fact never happened. Bobby is unable to pass any of his tests, resulting in the death of his entire crew as well as his wife, Joyce.

Meanwhile, Hoffman infiltrates the police station and murders several of his former colleagues, before he finally gets to Jill. After killing her with a Reverse Trap, the same trap used to test Amanda Young, Hoffman destroys his hideout and attempts to flee, but is attacked by three pig-masked figures. One of them reveals himself to be Dr. Lawrence Gordon, who has become John Kramer's third apprentice after the events of the first film and was told to act on his mentor's behalf if anything happened to Jill. Therefore, he chains Hoffman to pipe in the bathroom where his own test had taken place and leaves him there to die without any means to escape.

History

The Short Film

After finishing film school in Australia, James Wan and Leigh Whannell started to work on their script for the first Saw film, 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.

Production

Saw

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 Whannel 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.

Following the successful opening weekend of Saw in 2004, Saw II was immediately green-lit. Music video director Darren Lynn Bousman had written a script for a movie called The Desperate and tried to find an interested studio. Thereby, he came into contact with camera operator David Armstrong, who had already worked on the first Saw film, and suggested to show it to producer Gregg Hoffman. After showing it to his partners, Mark Burg and Oren Koules, they decided to change the script of the The Desperate and turned it into Saw II. Two months later, Bousman was flown to Toronto to direct the movie.

Saw II

Following the successful opening weekend of Saw in 2004, Saw II was immediately green-lit. Music video director Darren Lynn Bousman had written a script for a movie called The Desperate and tried to find an interested studio. Thereby, he came into contact with camera operator David Armstrong, who had already worked on the first Saw film, and suggested to show it to producer Gregg Hoffman. After showing it to his partners, Mark Burg and Oren Koules, they decided to change the script of the The Desperate and turned it into Saw II. Two months later, Bousman was flown to Toronto to direct the movie.

Leigh Whannell polished the script to make it fit into the Saw universe and also served as the executive producer along with James Wan. Besides them, all of the other crew members returned as well, including David Armstrong, editor Kevin Greutert and composer Charlie Clouser.

Saw II was also granted a higher budget of $4 million, compared to Saw's budget of about $1 million. The first shot, which involved shooting police cars and a SWAT van driving around the industrial docklands outside the soundstage, was filmed on April 29, 2005 in Toronto. After two months of pre-production, principal photography took place over 25 days at Toronto's Cinespace Film Studios from May 2, 2005 to June 6, 2005. The ending was filmed on May 25 and 26. To keep it a secret, only the crew members and actors involved in the ending were given the full script. Additionally, everyone involved in the film had to sign confidentiality agreement, which required them not to reveal any details about the plot. The music and sound was recorded in July. By September 9, Saw II was eventually finished entirely. Visual effects were performed by C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures and post-production services were provided by Deluxe.

Saw III

Despite the financial success of Saw II, Darren Lynn Bousman, James Wan and Leigh Whannell initially turned down the offer to work on Saw III. However, they changed their minds when producer Gregg Hoffman unexpectedly died a few weeks after the release of Saw II, and decided to make Saw III in dedication to him.

Unlike the first two installments, Saw III was planned to become a more emotional film, primarily focusing on the relationship and character development of Jigsaw and Amanda Young. As with the previous movies, the full script was only given to the actors and crew members involved in the ending of the film. However, Darren Lynn Bousman stated that it wasn't their primary goal to deliver yet another twist ending as in the first movies as they wanted to fully concentrate on the emotional aspects of the climax rather than any surprising reveals.

Saw III was also granted a higher budget of $10 million, as opposed to Saw II's budget of about $4 million. The principal photography went on for 27 days and took place at Toronto's Cinespace Film Studios from May 8, 2006 to late June. To keep the costs low, the crew borrowed the bathroom set used Scary Movie 4, which parodied the first two films, instead of rebuilding the set from scratch.

Almost all the transitions from one place to another were not made using digital effects. Instead, the transitions were shot on the spot, which was a technique that Darren Lynn Bousman already used for Saw II. This way, he wanted to maintain the fast pace and rhythm, which were important to the style of the first two films already.

Saw IV

The script of Saw IV was written by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Thomas Fenton, making it the first film in the series which wasn't written by Leigh Whannell. Nonetheless, he served as the film's executive producer along with James Wan. Saw IV was also the last film in the series directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, despite his original plans to already stop his work on the series after the second film.

Like its predecessor, Saw IV was granted a budget of $10 million. The principal photography took place in Toronto from April 16, 2007 to May 3, 2007, while the post production began on May 19. As in Saw II and Saw III, mandy of the transitions from one place to another were not made using digital effects. Instead, the transitions were shot on the spot.

Saw V

The script of Saw V was written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. It was directed by the production designer of the previous three films, David Hackl, and therefore the first film since Saw, which wasn't directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. Leigh Whannell and James Wan returned once again as the executive producers, while the producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules also returned. Additionally, Gregg Hoffman was still listed as one of the producers, despite his death on December 4, 2005.

With a budget of approximately $10.8 million, principal photography took place in Toronto from March 17, 2008 to April 28, 2008. By mid-July 2008, there had been three photos released of David Hackl at the set of Saw V. The first trailer, which showed Agent Strahm in the Water Cube Trap, was released at the San Diego Comic Con as a short clip. The official website opened on August 6, 2008. On September 17, 2008, a new clip was available on the site, showing the Pendulum Trap from the beginning of the film.

Saw VI

Saw VI was the first film in the franchise directed by Kevin Greutert, the editor of all previous installments, who made his directorial debut with the film. Therefore, he was replaces as an editor by Andrew Coutts. As with the previous films, Mark Burg and Oren Koules returned as producers, while Leigh Whannell and James Wan served as executive producers again. The soundtrack was again composed by Charlie Clouser, while the script was written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. A week before shooting began, Lionsgate Films informed Kevin Greutert that the film was planned to be post-converted to 3D. These plans, however, were later abandoned due to time restraints, but also because Greutert wasn't happy with the idea as the film was aesthetically envisioned as a 2D film.

The film was granted a budget of $11 million. The principal photography took place at the Toronto's Cinespace Film Studios from March 30, 2009 to May 13, 2009. Several of the actors from previous movies returned to reprise their roles, including both main characters as well as minor ones. Prior to shooting, a TV reality show called Scream Queens aired in 2008 on VH1. In the show, ten unknown actresses competed for a "breakout" role in Saw VI. Eventually, actress Tanedra Howard won the show and gained the role of Simone. Lionsgate made a public statement, ensuring her a leading role in the film. However, her character turned out to be a rather minor one.

Saw 3D

Saw 3D was greenlit in July 2009 and was planned to be directed by David Hackl. Producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules, as well as writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan also returned, while the cinematographer of all previous installments, David Armstrong, was replaced by Brian Gedge.

Pre-production began on September 14, 2009, with Saw 3D having been granted a budget of approximately $17 million. While originally, an eighth film was planned to be shot as well, this plan was changed due to the box-office failure of Saw VI. Therefore, Saw 3D was supposed to be the last film and concentrated on answering the remaining open questions of the series, while also incorporating parts of the story which were planned for the eighth film.

In January 2010, another unexpected change was made when David Hackl was dismissed as the director by Twisted Pictures. Due to a contract clause, Kevin Greutert, who was about to work on Paranormal Activity 2 at that time, was forced to direct Saw 3D instead, much to his dismay. When he arrived on the set two weeks before the principal photography began, he changed a big part of the script, which was described as quite problematic by writer Patrick Melton, as they had already built sets, casted actors and bought or created props for the film, which were all affected by the changes made by Greutert.

Saw 3D was the first film in the series, which was completely filmed in 3D by using the SI-3D digital camera system, rather than filming on set traditionally and later transferring the footage to 3D. The camera system was one of the reasons why the film was the most expensive installment in the series. Therefore, several scenes, mainly the trap scenes, where filmed to take advantage of the new techniques. Principal photography eventually began began on February 8, 2010 at Toronto's Cinespace Film Studios and went on until April 12, 2010.

The casting began in mid-December 2009. As with Saw VI, the second season of Scream Queens aired. As in the first season, ten unknown actresses competed for a role in the film. Ultimately, actress Gabby West won the show and played the role of Kara in the film. Other actors were offered to reprise their roles. While some of them, such as Tanedra Howard and Cary Elwes, returned to the franchise, others turned down the offer, mainly due to scheduling conflicts.

Reception

Box office

Film Release date Revenue Budget
United States Foreign Worldwide
Saw October 29, 2004 $55,185,045 $47,911,300 $103,096,345 $1,200,000
Saw II October 28, 2005 $87,039,965 $60,700,000 $147,739,965 $4,000,000
Saw III October 27, 2006 $80,238,724 $84,635,551 $164,874,275 $10,000,000
Saw IV October 26, 2007 $63,300,095 $76,052,538 $139,352,633 $10,000,000
Saw V October 24, 2008 $56,746,769 $57,117,290 $113,864,059 $10,800,000
Saw VI October 23, 2009 $27,693,292 $40,213,126 $67,906,418 $11,000,000
Saw 3D October 29, 2010 $45,710,178 $85,200,000 $130,910,178 $20,000,000
Total $415,914,068 $451,829,805 $867,743,873 $67,000,000

Critical Reaction

Due to the low budget needed for the production, most of the films in the franchise were financially lucrative. However, despite this, the critics for all of them were mostly negative. The major points of criticism were the explicit depiction of violence and the story, which was deemed incoherent and illogical by many people, the general acting and directional style were also criticized on some occasions. However, one point that was praised by the majority of reviewers was the acting of Tobin Bell, who played the character of John Kramer and appeared in all of the films.

Saw: Rebirth

On October 25, 2005, IDW Publishing published a digital comic set in the Saw franchise under the name Saw: Rebirth. It was written by R. Eric Lieb and Kris Oprisko with art by Renato Guedes. The comic served as a prequel to the first three films in the series, focusing on the early life of John Kramer and the events that eventually made him become the infamous Jigsaw Killer. However, it was later declared to be non-canon, as the events depicted in the comic contradicted the events seen in the films in many ways.

Video Games

Saw: The Video Game

On October 6, 2009, a video game set in the Saw franchise was published by Zombie Studios and published by Konami. The story began directly after the events of the first film. In the game, Detective Tapp survived his encounter with Zep Hindle during the climax of the film. He is then taken to the abandoned Whitehurst Insane Asylum, where Jigsaw has prepared a series of tests for him. Throughout these tests, he has to save other people, who are trapped all around the asylum, including Amanda Young, a crime scene investigator named Jennings Foster, Detective Sing's widow, Melissa Sing, a sensational reporter named Oswald McGillicutty, Obi Tate from Saw II and Jeff Ridenhour from the first film. At the end of the game, Tapp has to choose whether he wants to let go of his obsession with Jigsaw and thereby save everyone still trapped at the asylum or if he continues his pursuit and thereby condemn the other prisoners. This decision is ultimately made by the players.

Saw II: Flesh & Blood

On October 19, 2010, a second video game was released under the name Saw II: Flesh & Blood. Following the events of the first game, Tapp commits suicide after having chosen to let go of Jigsaw in order to save the other victims. Therefore, his son, Michael, is abducted by Pighead II, another accomplice of Jigsaw, who forces Michael to face a series of tests in order to find out the truth about his father's death. Thereby, Michael finds out about a drug cartel, which Tapp had accidently stumbled upon during his investigation of the Jigsaw Case and has to save the members from Jigsaw's traps. At the same time, a drug addict named Campbell Iman faces a game on his own. As both of them reach the end of their respective games, they have to choose, which one of them is allowed to survive, while the other one inevitably dies. Again, the decisions of the players determine the ending.

Attractions

Saw: The Ride

On March 13, 2009, a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter roller coaster was opened at Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom under the name Saw: The Ride. The roller coaster, which was designed by Merlin Studios with the assistance of John Wardley, a British developer for theme parks, is themed around the Saw franchise and includes several references to the films.

See Also

Films

Video Games

Comics

Attractions

External Links

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