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Top 5 moments in Saw film franchise history 
Posted on October 24, 2017 at 05:58 PM.
With the upcoming release of the film Jigsaw (October 27th), let’s look back at some of the greatest/most iconic moments in the past seven films of the Saw franchise. This is only a personal list and everybody’s will be different, but I will substantiate my reasons for why they are as they are.

Note that this list is being made assuming all things are equal—which means not only am I not letting nostalgia kick in, but if something occurred more than once I am not just going to automatically go with the first time it happened, rather I am going to what I believe was the better moment. I also want to note that this film franchise is full of memorable moments, and I am leaving very many of them out. Picking these five out was like finding five needles in a haystack, heh heh.

There will be plenty of spoilers below.

Before I go to the top five itself, here are some honorable mentions written in no particular order:

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Lawrence cutting his foot (Saw). This was the moment we realized this film would not just be all talk, and it followed through. The stakes were real, the tension and urgency was felt, and it presented us a tidbit that Jigsaw really does present options and gives vicious, sinister escape plans.

Deadly chain of events (Saw: The Final Chapter). Despite the lows in this film, this scene was a nice adrenaline high. It was elaborately set up but also conceivable, and nobody really has a soft spot for racists so we like to say justice was nicely served. Great acting by Chester Bennington (and R.I.P.).

Jigsaw-Hoffman confrontation (Saw V). Though the screenplay could have used another draft in the dialogue, this was the first time we actually felt a touch of human morality within Hoffman, obviously an important part in the latter films.

Bathroom setup flashback (Saw III). I’ll touch on it later, but it was a cool way of saying: “This is where it all began.” Also showed us some things that we assumed to be true that were not, including Amanda’s assistance in it all. Including a redux of Hello Zepp (my favorite version), this spawned a line of flashbacks to come.

Sick cycle carousel (Saw VI). The original promo for this scene made it seem comical, but within the context of the film and the great slow pacing of it, this game ultimately became one of the more emotional scenes in the entire franchise, making us really feel for how ill William was toward the decisions he had to make.

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Now without further ado, here are my top five most memorable iconic moments in this film franchise:

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5) John’s autopsy / Hoffman’s tape (Saw IV)

Once Saw IV was announced, I was rather standoffish with the idea of the franchise continuing. I couldn’t fathom the fact that they would work past John’s trilogy, specifically in a way that would go beyond the chronological timeline that ended with John flatlining on the hospital bed in Saw III. I am a firm believer that later sequels can indeed break my sentiments toward earlier installments, and that a fourth Saw film could make that possible. Though of course, I tend to underestimate Jigsaw quite often.

I had severed ties with the film franchise and avoided previews, saying I would go into the film with an open mind and not be dismissive early on. Although the first viewing left somewhat disappointed and the editing in the film to this day keeps me fidgeting at what could have been, I cannot say that the beginning and end of this film fall under such underwhelming impressions. To start, the opening did not have a single time jump. Much like the brain surgery scene in Saw III, nothing is left on the table. You pretty much literally just saw what a medical examiner does every day, and whoever designed a fully functioning surgical corpse of Tobin Bell deserves to be in the movie business for as long as they want. For an R-rated feature, this was unexpected and kept my leg doing that shaking thing, wondering: “Is this guy still awake somehow?”

Of course, he was dead… but then the tape was revealed. I had my own speculations regarding the tape (including that it was the one played for Jeff at the end), but never did I think he would have swallowed it to the pit of his stomach, ready for many games and contingencies to come (3-5 more films in fact, whether you decide to include the upcoming Jigsaw, not to mention Saw IV itself since the events technically occurred before his death).

Which brings me to my favorite part about it: the double-meaning initially leads us to believe not only that John was already dead during the events of Saw IV, but also that Hoffman was just a potentially untested victim in his plans without any rhyme or reason. It takes on a whole new meaning of course when we find out that it is also chronologically the end of the film, and that we all realize there are many future plans in place for the franchise—so much so that they readily took on three more films the next three Halloweens. While Saw IV appeared to be a mess of a post-production, it certainly was a neat segue into what was to come thereafter. Like most things on this list are going to be, it was the most shocking moment of Saw IV, both times that it was shown!


4) Hoffman v. RBT 2.0 (Saw VI)

Yes, Amanda escaping the original reverse bear trap was once again very iconic and became a staple of events to come (puppet on the television explaining an elaborate torture device in a desolate greenly-lit room), but I am looking past it to explain in greater detail what the end of Saw VI did to a character for the audience. In a series that was losing traction with heaps of flashbacks to support its backbone, we now had a reason to vest interest in the ongoing present storyline. This scene highlights that cinematic vigor that essentially left me cheering in the theater.

By the time Saw IV ended, although I was once again rekindled with “Where do we go next?” I was somewhat stuck without this preponderance of evidence that Mark Hoffman was worthy of carrying on the Jigsaw name, even in secret. He seemed a bit one-note and monotonous, not showing much depth in character at all, and for the most part jumping on board after the trilogy (yes, he had a minor appearance in Saw III that any casual moviegoer forgot about after that scene), and it was almost a seemingly random choice. The majority of Saw V really helped us understand his initial motive whilst the Jigsaw-Hoffman confrontation demonstrated his newfound allegiance, but after the events of Saw VI we have been provided a rooting interest in this character.

Hoffman immediately became a bit of a bad-***. I couldn’t yet fall for his cleverness or his engineering abilities, but after brutally murdering FBI agents (I’ll front, this was also a fantastic scene and build-up) we got this spark of feistiness that served as an introduction for the scene that followed where Jill shocked him to unconsciousness and equipping John’s new device onto him. When Hoffman awakes he shows instinct, street smarts, willingness, and a slight hint of insanity. We nearly got to see the RBT fully function, and it ends in a surefire cliffhanger that he will be ready to exact his vengeance on Jill and the entire police force. Unfortunately, we all know how Saw: The Final Chapter unfolded and it was not very pleasant (and even though the RBT went to work on Jill, all we got were 3D teeth, pink blood, and no means of escaping), but going into the credits of a surprisingly entertaining sixth chapter of this franchise, the grit that was lost in this franchise for a couple of films had self-restored with all its luster in the matter of maybe sixty seconds.


3) Revisiting the bathroom (Saw II)

It was a late Wednesday evening in December of 2004. I was a couple of weeks removed from getting my driver’s license, and the last showing of Saw in my county was at a theater 20 miles away from my home at 10:00 PM. I could go if my friend Pat was able to go, but he had to study for an exam that night. I missed my shot at catching Saw during its theater run. It wasn’t until a few months later in February that I was able to rent the DVD from Blockbuster and eventually watch it with my friend Adam, to much of my surprise how fantastic this film was and how I wish I could have seen it in theaters. In other words, I was a late-bloomer. I had not known the Saw craze for the several months prior to it. I was not one of the originals. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t still a concerned party for the film’s future.

That being said, a few months later, I got a glimpse at a commercial for Saw II, and the first thing I said of course was, “What the hell, man?” Saw seemed like such an original standalone film that was perfect right where it needed to be, and had enough closure to tie it off. That first commercial I saw looked like a straight-to-home-video kind of film, almost like a lower budget spin-off that was in name only. After seeing a trailer for the film, I was proven wrong… plus, it gave us a tie-in with Amanda. That right there made me believe that they perhaps were going the right path with it. As I was watching the movie, it actually played out pretty nicely. It put John Kramer front and center, dictating terms from a somewhat crippled state. It also showed that it could continue to be clever with why individuals were placed where, allowed us to explore the Jigsaw origins more, and like I said it gave us a character (two if you include Kerry) that bridged the gap between the first and second film. Yet still, my proverbial checklist wasn’t yet finished, and I still needed more connection(s) to make it legit.

During a concurrent set of chases, Daniel and Amanda approach a familiar door, and upon opening it we are greeted with an identical panning shot of the lights turning on, as well as a great (and legally crippling) audio reliving of the events that occurred in there. Then we also got images of Zepp and Adam’s corpses, Lawrence’s foot, the toilet and tub, broken glass, blood stains, and of course the still functional hacksaw. Anybody who went into that film looking for a Halloween flick to see and missing out on the first film may have connected that was where the first film took place, but that is nothing compared to the treat that viewers of the first film in attendance were provided. This was the connection that was needed. This very scene validated Saw II, showing that the universe of characters may be larger although the narrative scope was going to remain very short-range.

Any film after this was expected to maintain that same kind of mantra, letting us know that they wouldn’t forget what happened before and would pay homage any time that they could. Perhaps we’re spoiled to it at this point (especially in flashback form), but the bathroom is special to us. Any time that we return to it in this film franchise (let’s forget that Scary Movie 4 happened), we kind of feel the heart of James Wan and Leigh Whannell all over again, saying that their baby is here to stay and we will never stray too far off the beaten path. They validated it in Saw II, flashed back to it in Saw III, bookended it in Saw: The Final Chapter, and now we’ll see if it’s officially time for new breath with Jigsaw. But for the moment, I was won over with Saw II’s most shocking moment.


2) Eric breaking free of his chain (Saw III)

I realize this is pretty high up the list, even above Gordon cutting his own foot off. This may surprise many here, but this scene also surprised me to no end. When Saw ended and Saw II began, we understood that Adam was doomed and some time had passed for the next film. When Saw II ended, we naturally assumed the same thing of Eric; if anything, he probably kind of deserved it. Although we latched onto this character with his emotional ties trying to save his son and take down The Jigsaw Killer in Saw II, and we wanted that moment’s respite where he would reunite with Daniel once again. Unfortunately, as Saw IV showed us, this never happened and that truly saddened me—however, I digress.

Leading up to Saw III, we had pretty good misdirection that “Troy in chains” was going to open up the film; in fact, I think that is what Darren Lynn Bousman believed to be the case when he first mentioned it, but later editing brought about a different way to introduce the film—right where we left off from Saw II. This to me ended up being the greatest twist of Saw III actually, right at the beginning. It also showed a short change of pace for DLB, really highlighting darkness and eeriness, going away from quick cuts. Eric is desperate to break free, going for the gun and hacksaw before the toilet lid. As we also all know, the anticipation of a moment is at times equally as gruesome as a moment itself. When Eric goes for the hacksaw, sock in mouth and sobbing over the situation, you are holding your breath. You have seen it before and its dire consequences, and you simply aren’t braced to let it happen again. Eric resists, and you are relieved.

Then suddenly, you think that is all to be relieved about and he will find his “other way out,” but you didn’t realize what was coming next with the broken toilet lid. Everything made this scene to the second-best produced moment of the franchise, from the acting to the cinematography, to the sound stage to the actual gore effects. Normally I am not so impressed with the gore itself, but combined with everything else it was just so believable. My favorite shot of all, though, was Eric snapping his ankle. An unintended effect of the flashlight scurrying away from his foot as the snap happens brings out a bit of the “less is more” vibe, and that snap still rings in my ears alongside Eric’s shriek. This is by far the best opening of any Saw film, though the aforementioned Saw IV opening does linger right behind it—both for their originality.


1) Dead corpse rises (Saw)

There may have been some seriously iconic moments from the first film alone that not only gave Saw plenty of word-of-mouth, but above all was its twist ending. Just as the film offered Adam a chance of freedom, we are hit with several surprises at once (Zepp a pawn, key down tub drain, who controlled the shackle shocker, etc.), but the biggest of all came out of the background as Adam finished listening to Zepp’s tape. It still gets me to this day, enhanced greatly with Charlie Clouser’s killer underground score. There are plenty of great cinematic twists out there, but this one got everybody. Even if you were told the film had a twist and you suspected Zepp and Jigsaw were not one the same (which there is plenty of reason to suspect that watching the film), there is never a moment’s thought that the corpse in the middle of the room is your prime suspect.

Almost greater than watching this scene for myself is watching others watch this scene for the first time. Throughout the years, I have been able to relive that moment at least a half-dozen times, and I have recently gone to YouTube to watch others react to it for the first time. The most bizarrely hilarious thing is that it still takes people a little bit of a moment to process what they are seeing; they may let out a “WHAT?” to begin with, but it isn’t until John stretches out or rips off the prosthetics that people fully realize what is actually happening. I remember when I watched a Saw-a-thon in theater before Saw V that there was at least one individual who hadn’t seen the film before, and he got up out of his chair, mouth sunken into hands, and zipped back and forth in shock and horror at the twist. I’m getting chills typing about it right now, with a wide grin on my face.

As I said, this film is full of moments, but the ending is what makes it. It even allows us to respect their decision to leave Adam in the bathroom. It sets up for the rest of the series to attempt to follow through and catch us off-guard, and for the most part it does though to a lesser effect. I truly don’t think that anything can ever capture our moment of shock like this first film did. This wins. Hands down. Game over.

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So, that’s it! Now I am curious: what are your top five moments in this franchise, and why? Please leave your comments below, I would love to see what you think!
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