While Saw II is not necessarily a better film than the original, I still hold it as my personal favourite out of this glorious franchise. It ups the level of traps and gore to a slightly higher level, but it still manages to remain grounded with the same ideas that the original Saw had. It never loses itself in the traps and instead further explores the themes and ideas that Jigsaw has.
I also generally prefer Saw II because it gives us Tobin Bell. His performance is top-notch. Chilling and menacing. He's mostly just sitting in a chair and talking throughout the entire film, but the way he delivers his dialogue and works with his voice is brilliant.
"Most people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you. Not anymore."
Collaborating with his pal, Leigh Whannell, Wan sat the basics for Saw in a short film the year before with the same name. The year later he expanded upon that idea and created this film. His feature film debut.
Most people would disregard Saw for spawning six sequels and being partly responsible for creating the genre known as torture porn. A genre that seems to displease a lot of people. Me on the other hand, I do enjoy a some good (or even decent or slightly bad) torture porn. James Wan's Saw, while not my personal favourite of them (that's Saw II), is a prime example of to create a masterpiece in the genre. And that without being particularly gory. The goriest scene is someone sawing of his leg.
While Saw is never truly a film that will have you stay awake at night with you lights turned on (a feat Wan achieved with other films, in slightly different genres, which I will return to eventually) Saw is still a terrifying experience. Wan obviously drew inspiration from the master of thrillers David Fincher and his Se7en, but instead of turning Saw into a bland copycat, he presented us to a film that shocks, scares, slightly disgusts and fascinates us in many ways.
Saw manages to fascinate me because it's about more than showing gut-wrenching scenes. It involves the viewer straightly into the situation and as him. What would yo do? Would you kill someone to save yourself? Saw of your leg? Cut yourself several times? Or would you just take the easy way out and pick a quick death? The moral dilemmas are absolutely present here. Live or die. Make your choice.
James Wan also created a villain that has turned out to be a true horror horror icon. While the later Saw films certainly played a huge part in establishing Jigsaw up there on the horror shelf alongside Michael Myers, Jason and Freddy Krueger. Wan perfectly managed to create an ice cold murderer (who's technically not a murderer), and he did it by barely showing the villain at all during the film. By having the film in some way play out as a "cops trying to hunt down a serial killer" type of film, we slowly learn more about the mysterious killer. A killer who in some ways come across as an anti-hero. He takes the people many would call the scum of the earth and places them in traps that's either supposed to cure them or kill them. The choice does naturally fall on the deserved victims. This is an unique way terminate people and is why Jigsaw his now a legend in the horror culture.
Saw is in my eyes a perfect film. A brilliantly crafted horror film, both plot wise and viscerally. James Wan couldn't have made a better debut and with this film he unquestionably established himself as a talent to be followed.
"You think it's the living who will have ultimate judgment over you, because the dead will have no claim over your soul. But you may be mistaken."
Saw VI does indeed make everything come full circle. It's brilliant. The satirical, political stab at American health care is fascinating. This causes the film to have much more of the same amount of morality questions that the original Saw had. Which is great.
The traps are wonderful. The carousel trap is among the franchise finest. The story is intriguing. Hoffman is at his absolutely most bad-ass. The twist is shocking. Everything is great.
I used to dislike the Amanda/Jigsaw part of this film previously, but now I think that's the real strength of Saw III. And it combines well with Jeff's game, and gives the viewer an emotional connection that's really rare to find in a horror film. Particularly in one that has gory traps as its primary draw for many viewers.
The traps are plenty, and there's a lot of brutality at display, and they're all certainly enjoyable in one way or another. They're also nicely viewed into a well-crafted story with a nice final twist.
"If you're good at anticipating the human mind, it leaves nothing to chance."
There are some things in Saw V that are really dumb, but it's mostly easily forgiven the many positives of Saw V. One thing that's rather fascinating is that it manages to combine three different stories in such a short time and then weave them perfectly into each other.
The traps varies from spectacularly great to forgettable, but that's remedied by the fact that Saw V has one of the best endings in the franchise.
"You think it is over, but the games have just begun."
Saw IV ups the gore and amount of traps even further, and does to a certain degree stray a bit away from the path that the first three films lead us on. But because of its occasionally intense focus on backstory and exposition, Saw IV turns out to be a very interesting watch for those of us who are invested in this universe.
It might be the most confusing film in the franchise, as it is absolutely all over the timeline. And while thing makes more sense once the final twist is revealed, I can imagine Saw IV bit of a mess for some.
"Bravo! To be able to sustain such a traumatic experience and yet find a positive in that grizzly act. It's a remarkable feat, indeed. Remarkable... if not a little perverse."
It's nice to see that it ties up everything nicely, but Saw 3D (or Saw: The Final Chapter, Saw VII or whatever...) doesn't quite focus as much on the main plot as I would have liked it to. There's another game going on with a "fake" Jigsaw survivor that's not really relevant to the main plot that steals a bit too much time.
However. At the time this was made, this was supposed to be the final Saw. So they wanted to go out with a bang. And how do you do that? You increase the number of traps by a lot, and give in to basically every fan demand. This is strictly for the fans of the franchise, and specially for those who enjoys the gore and creativity of the traps the most.
The legendary Saw-movies in a order from best to worst.