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Review Saw (2004), Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007), Saw V (2008), Saw VI (2009), Saw 3D a.k.a Saw: The Final Chapter (2010) and Jigsaw (2017)

genre: horror, thriller, mystery

I will briefly give my thoughts on each film in the franchise and then my opinion on the franchise as a whole. (I will try to do this without giving away spoilers. If I feel it is unavoidable to do so I will warn you in advance.)

SAW (2004)

Saw, the one that started this franchise, was less torture porn and more focused on mystery and suspense. While far from perfect it is a film if you watch it for the first time will have you on the edge of your seat (if you love thrillers that is). 

We get introduced to our villain who feels like many people don't seem to appreciate their lives and he wants to make sure they appreciate their life a whole lot more. How does he come to realize this? His failed suicide attempt had opened up his eyes and he wants to do the same for others. Now this sounds noble. Only Jigsaw as he calls himself has some real sadistic and lethal ways to make his point. The film tries real hard to misdirect you by giving you several red herrings. But if you pay attention to the villain's voice and you are familiar with actor Tobin Bell it is pretty obvious who he is. However the mystery is not really about his identity. It's more about his motivation and how far he is willing to go. And that is demonstrated a couple of times especially in the end with one hell of a twist. It's one you won't see coming I promise you. 

Although this does make the original Saw only suitable for one viewing alone. But it's an exciting and suspense full thrill ride for sure.

Saw II (2005)

Saw II is a decent sequel and one of the best in the franchise. However it is plagued with elements that make this and the following sequels a little problematic. Like the original this has a very good twist. Actually a very logical one of you think about it in hindsight. But how they get to that reveal is immensely flawed. The mystery is still compelling and is what will give you the motivation to keep watching. 

It's the suspense itself however that is incredibly unbalanced. There are too many misdirections and distractions that take away the focus. As violent and gory the deaths are they aren't creative nor entertaining. They lack the impact of the ones in the original since most of the cast in this film hardly are shaken up by events. It detracts from the horror and only function to fill up time. It also doesn't help that the pacing is a little slow. None of the characters have real dialogues. They merely react and never follow through on questions raised. Especially the low life criminals trapped in the house never truly listen to the instructions given. I wouldn't take it so lightly. Character Xavier takes the cake. Even after having been confronted with the traps and not following instructions he keeps on acting like a buffoon throughout the film. He is a supposed to be a drug dealer. Contrary to belief most of them are intelligent. Yet this one never uses his head. Very annoying. I think director  Darren Lynn Bousman was too invested in the violence than the thriller elements. If he had made the characters work together and then had them get into trouble of making mistakes because of differences of opinion or something of that nature you would have had some real interesting dynamics that would increase the suspense instead of diminishing it. Xavier wasn't creepy or scary. He just acted like an idiot and that only aggravates. 

Another element that makes this a flawed film is the fact that you are required to suspend disbelief. I for one was very willing this time around but I can imagine that some couldn't. Jigsaw apparently has been able to set up traps and has total control of events and situations with ultimate perfection. It simply isn't realistic. The original already was pretty far fetched in concept but it was believable.

Saw III (2006)

15 years ago I had the displeasure to watch the third part in the franchise. After the first two good entries there was little reason to doubt the Saw films would be declining. And yes logically speaking sequels usually do have a track record of being worse than their predecessors. But this bad?

Saw III is one big mess where several plot lines are thrown at you and it's real hard to make sense of it all. Every sense of tension and suspense is gone and what is left is gory torture porn that is no fun at all. Jigsaw is not dead yet and still wants to test people and play games. You would think by now he would have better things to focus on. I mean time is ticking. Why go through all the trouble and wasting precious time? All of this would have been bearable had the film at least managed to be thrilling and compelling. But how can it when the film suffers from severe pacing issues and an editor who got very overzealous with their craft. Not too mention that the big twist at the end doesn't have any impact at all. I am sure you are supposed to but you won't. 

It's safe to say that this was the part that had made me lose faith in this franchise. 

Saw IV (2007)

Saw IV is a big improvement on it's predecessor but still is a very exhausting affair. At this point I did start to wonder why I have tasked myself to even bother reviewing these films.

The opening scene is a good example of how stupid the franchise has become. It's a very elaborate autopsy on Jigsaw who has died in Saw III. Very bloody, gory and completely pointless. Or wait? Even in death Jigsaw is capable of performing tricks. In this case he left a tape for his successor. If this were the only thing then perhaps I could have overlooked the absurdity of it. Unfortunately it doesn't stop here. Jigsaw still is playing games in order to keep his successors in check and guess to keep his legacy and work alive. Ever tried to organize a party where you wanted it to go into a certain direction but ended up going into another one since people didn't act the way you predicted? How in the hell is Jigsaw capable of predicting the moves of all the players who are involved? Apparently there are quite a few. This would only be possible if he were omnipotent or godlike. That is just concerning the planning part. What about setting up the traps, maintaining them and making sure nobody finds out about them by accident. And what about financing all these things? Sure some people have stated is that he didn't pay his stooges and he mostly used junk. Even if this were true some of the systems he used must have been new and top notch since none of his traps malfunctioned which is unrealistic since parts do break, bend or stop working. You would have to build in contingencies to prevent that from happening. But what about these stooges? Are they all as clever and intelligent as Jigsaw? Don't they make mistakes or are at least seen acting suspicious? Come on, if you really think this all is credible you are ripe for the looney bin yourself.

The final twist is a culmination of several subplots coming together in an incredibly unsatisfactory manner. Besides completely unnecessary since the whole thing was blatantly foretold by Jigsaw in his recording left in his corpse. Very likely the director forgot about that.

Saw V (2008)

Saw V continuous the story set up in Saw III and IV. Basically it's about how the second goon got recruited and why and how he follows through with Jigsaw's plans.

While this may sound compelling it's a total bore. Sure the new recruit has a good reason to seek justice but his involvement with Jigsaw and his methods is just preposterous especially since the FBI (Peter Strahm) is getting close to him. Meanwhile the second recruit carries on with another set of traps for people who also are the scum of the earth. It's almost admirable how much Saw points out the nastiness of human beings. Jigsaw actually is saying that they are the true monsters and deserve it if they don't make it out of his traps.

This part felt like a filler episode where nothing of real significance is being revealed. So much so that I completely forgot about everything occurring in this part. Actually I got a lot of the events from this part confused with the other ones since they do seem very similar. If you can't distinguish parts that usually isn't a good thing.

Saw VI (2009)

Saw VI finally depicts the test that was referred to in Saw III. It's also the first time you see all of the people (we know of) together with Jigsaw. 

If there ever was doubt about the people involved this one makes it very clear what their roles. Honestly speaking it's not that surprising. But what I do want to know why people would get involved. Clearly Jigsaw was a madman. To even be associated with him is problematic for your personal and work life. And why would someone allow themselves to be pressures by someone who is already dead. It's not like the dead Jigsaw can do anything beyond the grave. It's completely stupid.  

And I think the directors must have had a contest between them on who can produce the goriest and nastiest events on screen. Since you can tell that there is an increase in nastiness and goriness. This easily is one of the goriest to the extent it becomes laughable. But absolutely fun and entertaining. Yes you read that right. They are so much fun that the whole setup and meaning behind the traps becomes pointless. You won't care even if it did start out with something a lot of people can relate to. I mean insurance companies doing everything not to pay when they should is why these companies are so hated. Unfortunately that is how they practice. So to seem them being tackled could and should have been more impactful.

This part ends with the test and the conclusion of the test of the second recruit. Do I care? Not really. The fact that they know yet another sequel is coming is kind of ridiculous. 

Saw 3D a.k.a Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)

Where to begin with this one. It's like, let's combine certain elements from previous parts but then add a twist that surely will have people talking about it for years to come.

You will talk about it for sure but not because it's good. Actually, it's so ridiculous that it kind of makes this supposedly final chapter one big joke. Where the traps used to have a function, at this stage they are just added and actually have very little to do with what Jigsaw had intended. If I am not this mistaken this has the highest body count of all the Saw films. But only a few of them were creative. Compared to Saw VI it's pretty disappointing. Why? Because Jisaw's apprentice has gone full serial killer. Also quite the character change where this person first killed out of revenge to then suddenly become a heartless and cold blooded killer. It takes away the mysticism and the need for traps really. 

The ridiculous twist is one that is pulled out of someone's rectum undoubtedly to shock the viewers. And truth been told if this had been the intention all along and clues were left in previous parts that could have been seen as brilliant. However apart from the reveal not being logical it also undermines every reveal after the original. It's beyond stupid. This is the result of writers not knowing the films in their own franchise and not seeing that one can only go so far with the premise. 

This really should have been the final chapter. Except we know that 10 years later two more films have been made.  For me this was incredibly boring overall. I only had fun, once or twice. Most of my motivation to keep watching was the supposed brilliant twist that was coming. Imagine my agony!

Jigsaw (2017)

It's been 10 years and suddenly bodies are turning up. All evidence leads to John Kramer a.k.a. Jigsaw who has been dead all this time. Is he back again? Or is there someone who has taken over the mantle?

I must say that after the disaster that was The Final Chapter I am happy that Jigsaw tones down the chaos considerably. And actually manages to tell a coherent story where you aren't going to get nauseated by all the camera shakes. Jigsaw is surprisingly focused and effectively mysterious. Although it doesn't have enough red herrings for you to ponder on so it's quite easy to figure out what is happening. Then again, it doesn't really matter of who the current Jigsaw is. It's more important to find out why. Why hasn't this person returned in Spiral?  What is the point of introducing a new character who you aren't going to hear from again. And what about the other person who was called upon by Jigsaw in The Final Chapter and also seems to have disappeared? Why was this sequel made if it doesn't really tie in previous films that well. The explanation given by the film is super thin and unsatisfatory. Actually it very conventiently skips very essential story lines to avoid tapping into the mess that is caused by retconning essential plot lines. If the goal was to revive the franchise with a new Jigsaw killer then I could have appreciated that had there truly been some innovation concerning the motives and modus operandi of this killer. But in the end it's all the same and therefore pointless.

Jigsaw is far better than all the parts that came after the first two. Still it does very little to truly reinvogorate the dread and the terror. In fact the whole mysticism behind Jigsaw is gone. He is even idolized. Jigsaw light is not scary and therefore pointless.

My thoughts on the Saw franchise overall.

As a franchise Saw is immensely flawed but one where I do think some of the mystery elements (especially in the first two films) were exceptional. However the transformation into pure torture porn with very little else to offer is something I don't like. It's boring. Had they focused more on actually building up dread and tension the Saw franchise could have been more than a gore extravaganza. Sure some of the death scenes were fun to watch but ultimately weren't enough to satisfy my horror needs. 

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