With the release of Jigsaw in cinemas this week and with Halloween on the horizon, there is no better time to revisit the previous instalments of the Saw Franchise. This franchise started with a small independent horror film back in 2004 that became a massive success, which in turn helped it become a modern major horror franchise, in a similar vain to A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th, horror franchises that all have a large number of sequels. Myself and my friends started watching these films around age eleven. We got excited every year when a new instalment was releasing, and we’d enjoy witnessing the new traps each film had to offer. Over the past two weeks I’ve gone back and watched all of the films again, it’s been a interesting experience because I haven’t seen many of these films for a long time. This list is my ranking of the films from worst to best, so let’s begin.
SAW VI (2009)
At the bottom of my list is the what’s widely considered by most to be one of the better instalments. In my opinion, the sixth instalment is completely forgettable. I watched this one last night and before it started I couldn’t remember a single thing about it and less than 24 hours after watching it, I have already forgotten the majority of the traps from the film. The signature trap in this film is the Shotgun Roulette, which as a concept is quite fresh and different but the main issue is, I felt a real disconnect between all the characters who were in the trap. In fact I felt a large disconnect with the entire plot of this film. It was a clear sign to me that this franchise was running out of steam and should likely come to an end.
SAW IV (2007)
The fourth instalment whilst trying to remain story driven and featuring returning characters from the previous films, is the first time when the franchise took a noticeable dip in quality. I like the overall twist to game Detective Riggs was forced into and the lesson the Jigsaw tried to teach him, but overall getting to that climactic twist was a drag and the traps along the way are some of the weakest in the franchise. Almost all of the films feature nausea inducing frantic edits during trap sequences, but this film features one of the worst edits I’ve seen in quite some time. A particular trap involving a man strapped to a bed is edited so poorly, that the sense of time that he has left is all over the place and when his limbs finally get dismembered, the median shot length is about half a second and results in nothing but a flurry of very quick flashes of violence, where you can’t even identify what you are truly looking at. Another key twist is the identity of the person who is continuing the Jigsaw’s work, this twist sort of falls flat due to it being so obvious.
SAW 3D: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2010)
I remember hating this film upon my first viewing, I found it to be a very disappointing conclusion to the franchise. I was pleasantly surprised when watching it again to find that it wasn’t as bad as I remember, and in actual fact I would no longer rank it as the worst. The main reason for that is because I liked the idea of the Jigsaw punishing somebody, who has made a living off of lying about being a survivor of one of his traps. I found that to be a more inspired reason to have someone, and the people associated with them put through a series of traps. But the key reason why this film is no longer what I consider to be the worst, is because the traps are actually pretty entertaining. I had forgot about a lot of them but the opening sequence featuring the trap in the public area, presented something very different to what we have seen before. It wasn’t until seeing this sequence in broad daylight that I noticed how much of these films are shrouded in darkness and ugly muted colours. There’s also a trap featuring Chester Bennington which was a surprise because I don’t remember him being in the film at all, but I do recall liking the trap that he is featured in and it’s one of my favourites in the franchise. The twist at the end of the film came out of nowhere but when you think about it, none of the twists outside the first three films were that great The films always tend to end with a series of flashbacks showing the audience what had previously occurred offscreen, and that’s exactly what this film does here, the only thing that works about it, is that it nicely links back to the first film in terms of where the final scene takes place.
SAW V (2008)
Many consider the fifth instalment to be the worst and I always remembered it being one of my favourites. Upon rewatching it, it’s not as good as I remember mainly because I wasn’t interested in the main narrative thread whatsoever. The film serves as the connective tissue to our understanding of how Detective Hoffman got involved with continuing the Jigsaw’s work, but like with many other films in this franchise it gets so convoluted and flashback heavy, that I just started to lose interest in the plot. The saving grace of this film and why I still like it more than most people, is because of the traps. The Pendulum trap that opens this film is one of my favourite traps and is probably one of the more competently shot traps as well. It’s graphic but it doesn’t dwell on the violence too much. This film also felt a little bit like the second instalment due to having five strangers wake up in the middle of a game, in which they must overcome the traps to survive. I liked that aspect of having a series of traps that multiple people are a part of, as they all fight to live.
SAW III (2006)
The third instalment is the first film that started to get a little dull. It’s also the last film to feature John alive. Thus making it the last film before the franchise got completely bogged down in flashbacks. I like the main aspect of the narrative with Amanda capturing a doctor to try and help keep John alive, also the narrative of a man being tested to see, if he is able to forgive those responsible for the death of his son was an engaging one. There’s some great traps here too, ones I vividly remember such as The Angel Trap, The Pig Vat and The Rack. All of these amount to an experience that isn’t as great as the two films that preceded it, but still remained not as bad as the films that came after it.
SAW II (2005)
The second instalment is a good follow up to the first film and takes on an entirely different approach than the first film. This time round we have a group of people waking up in a house, to then realise that they are a part of the Jigsaw’s latest game. This film also explores John a little more as we begin to uncover more about his ideals, and what makes him do what he does. This film features some of the more memorable traps in the franchise such as the Venus Fly trap, The Needle Pit and more. Also watching this group of misfits start to turn on each other as the time until their impending death approaches, makes for some good entertainment. The twist at the end of this film is effective as well and seems more plausible than some of the other twists this franchise has to offer.
You probably guessed I would have the first film at the number one spot, it’s without a doubt the best and there’s a many reasons why it remains my favourite. The film is very interesting and uncovering the mystery as to why these two men have woken up in a bathroom chained to pipes is enthralling. Many consider this to be a horror classic and it’s clear to see why. At the time of it’s release the horror genre had already been run down and uninspired for quite some time.
James Wan’s directorial debut reignited the spark in the genre for a new generation of horror fans, introducing a new iconic character to represent the genre. In case you haven’t seen the first film I won’t spoil it but the twist at the end of this film is one of the best twists seen in the genre.
There we have it, that’s the order from worst to best of how I rank the Saw Franchise. It’ll be interesting to see where Jigsaw fits onto that list, once I have seen it. Expect my review for Jigsaw within the next couple days.