We may have been lukewarm with some of the later installments in the series – and in the case of the third movie, downright hostile – but as the “Saw” series wraps up this week with, of course, a 3D movie, we have to admit that we’re going to miss John “Jigsaw” Kramer, even if he’s actually been dead for four years now. The movies may have plunged the depths of depravity in terms of the methods they dreamed up to dispatch their victims, but they were also wildly original, as the legion of copycat movies that followed in its wake will attest (cough “Captivity” cough).
As Jigsaw, Jill and Hoffman ride off into the sunset – though since we haven’t seen “Saw 3D” yet, we admit that claim is a tad premature since Hoffman and Jill could end up dead – we were tempted to update our much-debated “Best Death Scenes” piece from 2007 with some of Jigsaw’s nastier work, but ultimately decided that the series deserved its own installment, kind of like the Beatles getting their own version of “Rock Band.” We’ve compiled our favorite deaths (which doesn’t go hand in hand with the best traps nearly as much as you’d think), along with some other notable exercises in sadism and sociopathic morality. If some notable scenes didn’t make the first list, well, there’s a reason for that. Read on, fellow gorehounds.
The Spike Trap (“Saw IV“)
A married couple is bound by long metal rods. They will both die if they do nothing. Morgan, however, will live if she pulls out the rods, but doing so will kill her husband Rex, who’s pierced in vital places that will cause him to bleed out. Did we mention that Rex frequently beats Morgan?
What makes the scene for us is the blind rage on Morgan’s face as she’s pulling one of the final rods out of her body. Something about her gaining her freedom from Rex’s tyranny strikes us as, well, hilarious.
The Acid Needle Room (“Saw VI“)
We’re still debating whether we would have flicked the switch on insurance hatchet man William Easton, but there is no arguing that his death is one of the more memorable deaths in the series, as a gaggle of needles inject his mid-section with acid, melting him from the inside and ultimately splitting him in half. That had to hurt, and his sister watched the whole thing, helpless to stop it.
The Razor Wire Maze (“Saw“)
One of the refreshing things about the original “Saw” was its reluctance to actually show the bodily harm Jigsaw’s first victims suffered, instead going the “Se7en” route and forcing the viewer to use their own sick little imagination to picture what it might have been like. No trap benefits from this as much as the Razor Wire Trap, where an attention-starved suicide attemptee must penetrate a maze of razor wire or be locked away forever. The scene is a model of restraint that its successors would have been wise to employ.
The Bedroom Trap (“Saw IV”)
If there were a scale that measured suffering against how much the victim deserved to suffer, Ivan would be at the top of the list. A serial rapist who tortured his victims, Ivan is strapped into a device that will tear off his limbs if he does not push the triggers that will lead to his being blinded. Ivan obliges, but doesn’t press the second trigger in time, which leads to him suffering the blinding and still being drawn and quartered. Brutal, but we can’t say the dude didn’t have it coming.
The Bathroom Trap (“Saw”)
Gotta give a shout-out to the one that started it all. Dr. Gordon and Adam, chained to radiators in a dank bathroom, have the tools to secure their freedom – they just have to saw off one of their limbs to do it. It’s a good set-up, and one that the movie wisely waits to execute until the finale.
The Venus Fly Trap (“Saw II“)
The first truly gut-wrenching trap in the “Saw” series. Professional informant Michael must take out one of his eyes in order to retrieve the key that will remove the iron maiden-like death mask on his face. But just as he brings the scalpel to his eye, he just can’t do it, and ultimately throws the scalpel across the room in frustration. Three, two, one, snap!
Ice Ice Baby (“Saw IV”)
Nothing in the entire series has made us laugh harder than this. Detective Rigg finally finds Detective Matthews, but he violates police protocol doing so, and the new Jigsaw, police chief Hoffman, makes him pay for it by sending two gigantic ice blocks down to smash Matthews’ head like a grape. A truly laugh-out-loud moment in an otherwise sober franchise.
The Needle Pit (“Saw II”)
Not even the Venus Fly Trap scene that opened “Saw II” could prepare us for this, as one of the gas house prisoners, a drug dealer named Xavier, is tasked with jumping into a giant pit of dirty syringes in order to retrieve a key. Of course Xaiver, being a buff, macho douchebag, throws Amanda in the pit to do it for him. Amazingly, Amanda finds the key (though we’re guessing being a secret accomplice of Jigsaw may have helped), but Xavier drops the key, and the door they were to open locks them in. Never has crunching glass sounded so vile.
The Blade Table (“Saw V“)
Where Brit and Mallick realize that if they all had worked together, no one would have had to die. Jigsaw even told them that at the beginning, but of course, they didn’t listen. And now Brit and Mallick must pay the ultimate price by filling a container with half of the blood in their bodies, instead of a more manageable (but still significant) two pints. Either way, the idea of willingly sticking your hand in a blade saw is just ghastly, and it is easily the highlight of the movie. They do a shot of Mallick where you see that he’s cut himself almost to the elbow, which is just silly; he surely would have bled out in real life.
The Reverse Bear Trap (“Saw,” “Saw VI”)
One of the crueler traps in the series – stranger still, it’s only used on people who either will become or have already become Jigsaw’s accomplices – but it has yet to claim a life. Amanda has to cut a guy open to get the key to remove her mask, which will basically split her head open like a melon. Hoffman has one placed on him by Jill, but manages to stick it between two bars long enough to cut himself free. Of all the traps in the series, this is one of the worst ways to go.
The Shotgun Collar (“Saw III“)
Poor Lynn does exactly what’s asked of her. She works to keep Jigsaw alive, but Amanda doesn’t want her to get away, and shoots Lynn in the back. In comes Lynn’s estranged husband Jeff, who shoots Amanda in retaliation, then uses a blade saw to cut Jigsaw’s neck, unaware that doing so just signed his wife’s death certificate. And guaranteed that there will be no way to identify her using dental records.
The Carousel Room (“Saw VI”)
The Collars (“Saw V”)
Jigsaw implored them to work together, but it would have been pretty tricky for all five of them to retrieve their keys in 60 seconds, and goodness knows the fire inspector tried. A common theory is that one key could open all the collars, but what if you try that and you’re wrong? We would have gone gunning for a key, too.
The Magnum Eye Hole (“Saw II”)
The Jars (“Saw V”)
A bittersweet one for us as the victim was Carlo Rota, who played Chloe O’Brian’s wise-cracking husband Morris on “24.” Hey, at least they would have been able to identify Lynn using fingerprints. But poor Charles here was trapped in a room with four nail bombs. Forget the body bag – bring a hose.
As thrilling – or nauseating – as some of the traps were, there were times when it was just embarrassing and clumsy.
The Mausoleum Trap (“Saw IV”)
Bar none the worst scene in the franchise’s history. Two guys, one rendered blind and another rendered mute, must find a way to free themselves from a pulley that’s dragging them both to be crushed. As we said in our review, it’s like watching a fight between two drunk brothers at a family reunion.
The Pound of Flesh (“Saw VI”)
The Flammable Jelly (“Saw”)
It’s surprising that Jigsaw didn’t use fire more often, because it’s a hell of a way to die. Slow, painful, and messy. This poor bastard had to walk over broken glass to boot in order to escape his dilemma. Pity he got a bit sloppy with that candle.
If you’ve made it this far, then you are surely wondering why there has been only one mention of a device from “Saw III.” The answer is simple: the movie is appalling.
Those people had no chance of surviving – worse, they killed our beloved Dina Meyer this way – and while that was the point, that Jigsaw was trying to teach the warped Amanda a lesson, the movie ultimately claimed to be above torture in the end after spending the previous 90 minutes wallowing in it. If we’re going to watch a “Saw” movie, the filmmakers damn well better not be wagging a finger at us for doing so. So fuck you, Rack, Angel Trap, Freezer Room and Classroom Trap. Those bits officially crossed the line between unsettling and ghoulish, and will get no love from us here.
So let’s hear your picks for best deaths and traps from the series. We eagerly await your tasteful, carefully considered and courteous comments in the section below.