Hey all! So instead of just reviewing this weekend’s new release, “Jigsaw,” I thought it might be fun to take this time to rank the entire “Saw” franchise. Now while I won’t get into spoilers with the newest installment, there will be spoilers for the previous films so consider that a warning if you haven’t watched the series up to this point. So without further ado, let’s get started!
“Saw” (2004), dir. James Wan
Two strangers awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there or why, and soon discover they are pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.
I know I shouldn’t give it away so early, but it goes without saying. The one that started it all is still by far the best. James Wan worked wonders with such a small budget, generating a haunting atmosphere and deep psychological terror. Say what you will with how silly the rest of the franchise can get, but I still contend that “Saw” is more than just a great horror indie and that’s all thanks to the commitment of Wan, Leigh Whannell, and everyone on set to create something truly special. “Saw” is outstanding.
“Saw II” (2005), dir. Darren Lynn Bousman
A detective and his team must rescue 8 people trapped in a factory by the twisted serial killer known as Jigsaw.
“Saw II” probably has the best storyline outside of the traps that the series has to offer. Seeing John Kramer test the endurance of Donnie Wahlberg’s character has so much tension and is consistently engaging. The film also has some really fun traps as well, even if some of the actors give some of the more cringeworthy performances in the series.
“Saw III” (2006), dir. Darren Lynn Bousman
Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor named Lynn Denlon to keep him alive while he watches his new apprentice put an unlucky citizen named Jeff through a brutal test. Lynn has to keep Jigsaw alive until Jeff completes the test or else she will die.
Had there been about 15-20 minutes trimmed from the runtime, an argument could be made for “Saw III” to be the best film in the series. This is the film that has the most inventive traps while also complementing it with an engaging character arc for the person going through the traps as well as seemingly bringing John Kramer’s story to a satisfying conclusion . . . or so we thought. The problem is that the pacing drags once the filmmakers feel the need to bring in more flashbacks even though this film is at its strongest when it’s moving forward. Had it just focused entirely on that, I would have loved this even more. As it is, it’s still one of the stronger installments.
“Saw IV” (2007), dir. Darren Lynn Bousman
Despite Jigsaw’s death, and in order to save the lives of two of his colleagues, Lieutenant Rigg is forced to take part in a new game, which promises to test him to the limit.
This is where the filmmakers behind the series started to lose their footing. After a trilogy of films that offered a compelling arc for John Kramer, they struggled to find much of a route to continue the franchise, making “Saw IV” a meandering mess. While it’s not terrible because at least we were able to get more backstory with Kramer and his thought process into making the traps, it’s just not enough material for an entire film. It just ends up being boring as a whole.
“Saw V” (2008), dir. David Hackyl
Following Jigsaw’s grisly demise, Mark Hoffman is commended as a hero, but Agent Strahm is suspicious, and delves into Hoffman’s past. Meanwhile, another group of people are put through a series of gruesome tests.
By far the weakest entry in the franchise, “Saw V” doesn’t offer much intrigue into the main storyline of the series nor does it have much creativity at all with the traps. Throughout the entire runtime, I just found myself bored. The best thing this film has to offer is that there’s a great scene halfway through when John Kramer tests Detective Hoffman and that’s entirely because of the always committed work from Tobin Bell. Other than that, this movie’s a complete misfire.
“Saw VI” (2009), dir. Kevin Greutert
Agent Strahm is dead, and FBI agent Erickson draws nearer to Hoffman. Meanwhile, a pair of insurance executives find themselves in another game set by Jigsaw.
I didn’t think it would be possible to do a truly great “Saw” sequel without John Kramer alive, but “Saw VI” does a fantastic job at focusing on the downsides of the health care industry. Even better than that, director Kevin Greutert doesn’t forget that there should still be a layer of fun while watching this series and doesn’t get overly preachy with the message, offering a perfect balance of being gory entertainment and surprisingly thought-provoking. This is the film that gave me hope that the franchise could get back to being more than just focusing on the traps.
“Saw 3D” (2010), dir. Kevin Greutert
As a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s brutal legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru and fellow survivor Bobby Dagen, a man whose own dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror.
This one is often regarded as the worst film in the series and while I agree that it’s definitely the most absurd installment, I thought there was a charm to the stupidity of “Saw 3D.” This one relies so heavily on the 3D gimmick, running out of ideas with where to go with the main story, and filling the runtime with silly ways to kill people through these traps. Just for the sheer fact that I wasn’t bored watching this and I can at least laugh at how ridiculous this film can get, I can’t say it’s my least favorite even if it features the worst twist ending of the franchise and completely abandons the aspects that I found made this series special to begin with.
“Jigsaw” (2017), dir. Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for ten years.
For a while, I was having a blast with “Jigsaw.” I found that The Spierig Brothers embraced a self-aware tone early on and just having fun with the traps while having a new, fresh aesthetic. However once the twists really start to unravel and you see what’s really going on, it just turned into another mediocre sequel that gets soured even more by a hilariously awful ending. That being said, I still think it’s an entertaining watch even when it’s at its worst.
Now with the reviews out of the way, here’s how I would rank the “Saw” series currently:
2. “Saw VI”
3. “Saw II”
4. “Saw III”
6. “Saw 3D”
7. “Saw IV”
8. “Saw V”
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this newest blog. You should definitely expect a review of Netflix’s “Stranger Things 2” this coming week once I have completed watching the newest season. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get that post up for you guys before the release of Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Ragnarok,” which I will also have a special post ready for.
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Thanks for reading!