It’s hard to believe it was 10 years ago today that the antihero/serial killer/mentor to psychopaths John “Jigsaw” Kramer first entered our lives in Saw (which is available right now on Netflix). That’s not to suggest that it “feels like only yesterday” or something hopelessly nostalgic like that, but because of the way Saw films once rolled off on a conveyor belt, it feels like Jigsaw has been torturing A-holes, villains, and soulless life-wasters to death for decades. After Saw’s release on October 29, 2004, a new installment was released each year around the same day, leading up to Saw 3D’s “final” chapter in 2010. Was that actually the end of the Saw name? No, because Lionsgate has been talking about rebooting it and taking it in a “new direction” for years.
What that means is known only to those evil masterminds, but it’s safe to assume that we haven’t heard the last of Jigsaw, and his terrific legacy of trapping his victims in clever, diabolical and downright disgusting death traps. I won’t bother guessing or predicting new angles, I’m more of a “dad switches bodies with the family dog to teach the son how to act cool at school” kind of thinker.
I’m not saying I’m easily spooked or can’t take a few drops of blood, but watching people mutilated has never been my cup o’ tea. I’m a psychological thriller kind of guy, who likes to watch as a dad breaks down and tries to chop his family to bits with an ax, because the ghosts are driving him insane. Also, I know that Leigh Whannell and James Wan, the creators of Saw, hate the phrase (mainly because it’s less on them and more on the people who picked up and ran with the sequels), but “torture porn” just seems pointless to me. It’s like each scene is trying to be sicker and more disgusting than the last one, but after a while – what’s the point? Eventually, a dude wakes up and finds his ding dong tied to a space shuttle by some razor wire, and we’re all just wishing we hadn’t wasted that eight bucks.
The Saw franchise holds a Guinness World Record for being the Most Successful Horror Franchise of all-time, with the seven films costing a combined $64 million and earning a ridiculous $873 million worldwide. To ignore its impact on the horror genre would be an insult worthy of having one’s arms ripped off by an elaborate machine, especially since we have the Saw movies to thank for Hollywood’s renewed zest for horror franchises (which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but CHA-CHING!). So I thought that I’d pay tribute to this beloved money-maker by forgetting about my team of researchers and scientists for once and ranking the worst, most disgusting and ridiculous traps from the Saw franchise based on nothing but my plain, old preference to not ever have this kind of stuff done to me.
I should probably take a moment to let you all know that things are going to get a little gross from here. Not all the way gross, but pretty darn gross. My advice is to avoid Fruit Roll-Ups or any pasta dishes for the next few hours.
20) The Hand Trap – Saw II
Obviously, as each Saw movie went on, the traps became more complicated, and in some cases they were even unbeatable (which Jigsaw hated, but what are you gonna do, right?). Poisoning the “victims” before their games was pretty mean, because it made them dumber, like this girl who was all, “Doo doo doo, just gonna go ahead and shove my arms in this glass box hanging from the ceiling, because it’s totally not a trap.” But if you remove the inevitability of death from poisoning, this trap was like a mosquito compared to the rest. A mosquito that rips all of the flesh off your arms, sure, but it’s still not as bad as, say…
19) The Horsepower Trap – Saw 3D
Poor, poor Chester Bennington. Not only is his back sewn or fused to the pleather car seat, but he only has a limited amount of time to rip his skin off so he can stop the girl’s head from being ground to pieces by the tire, while one of his boys is ripped to pieces and the other is crushed. This scene is less terrifying (in its entirety) than it is so over-the-top that I laugh hysterically while cringing. All it was missing was Mike Shinoda randomly walking by as Chester’s body flies from the car and crushes them both.
18) The Water Box – Saw V
F*ck drowning, you guys. But more than that, f*ck drowning because of a glass box on your head. And even more than that, f*ck having to stab yourself in the neck to survive. I’m three traps in and I’m already swearing to myself that I’ll never do another bad thing again as long as I live.
17) The Carousel – Saw VI
Does it make me a bad person that as I watched this scene again and again, I was more concerned with the idea of having two rods plunged through my hands than the guy’s screaming co-workers meeting a quick-but-horrifying death? It’s not like they were being physically tortured leading up to their deaths. Mentally, sure. But their ends were as simple as BANG! The other dude already had a girl try to gut him with a buzzsaw for a key (as he was trying to stop other people from dying) and then his hands were basically rendered useless. No more high fives for that guy.
16) The Furnace – Saw II
Again, I am not ashamed to admit that I am firmly anti-drowning with a glass box strapped to my head, but I am also not cool with being torched inside a furnace. Call me picky all you want, but if I had to choose the ultimate Saw trap to be caught in, it would be passing away in my sleep at 104 years, and being buried with my baseball cards.
15) The Pendulum – Saw V
This one was just plain mean. Okay, let’s not ignore the fact that the character in this position deserved his punishment (and probably far worse), but tricking him into thinking that if he accepts the crushing of his hands he can walk away with his life, only to say, “Haha, just kidding, bro!” and spill his insides on the floor, is some diabolical terror, Jigsaw.
14) Lovers’ Triangle – Saw 3D
If I could have somehow convinced myself to ignore the situations that have led to a lot of these scenes, I might have ranked this one a little higher, because being tortured into choosing who dies, while struggling for your own life, and ultimately accepting fate, even if it’s your own – ALL WHILE A CROWD WATCHES – is pretty f*cked up. But from the first second, these dudes should have just sat still. If we give Jigsaw* credit for anything, it’s that he really knows how to pick his victims.
*Jigsaw representing a collective identity as the franchise advanced, obviously.
13) The Mausoleum Trap – Saw IV
Forget the mental anguish of this one or any of the other traps that could have been solved through calm, rational teamwork. Don’t sew my eyes or mouth shut, please. That just seems egregious.
12) The Glass Box – Saw V
At face value, a person could look at this situation and think, “Well, that guy’s an a-hole for not getting in the box of glass. Big deal, it’s not like it was full of glass. Hell, he’s wearing clothes, so how would the glass have really hurt him?” Maybe he thought that if he got into the box, it would have shaken him like a martini or something. Either way, when faced with a steel “coffin” like that, your natural instinct is probably, “Don’t get in that.” But these people never learn that Jigsaw is never straight forward. Also, if I had been a victim in a Saw movie, and specifically this scene, it would have been me watching the box lowered while the apprentice smiled at me, and then a snot bubble popping out of my nose, as I crapped my pants and fainted. That’s real.
11) The Blood Sacrifice – Saw V
Me and visible blood do not get along well, specifically when it’s mine, so the thought of having to fill a container with a certain amount of my own life Kool-Aid makes me extremely jittery. Also, how bad would it suck thinking you were so clever in killing the other dipshits to stay alive, only to realize that you not only could have all easily lived, but you would have only needed to give the smallest amount of blood to complete the final trap? You’d probably have to chuckle at that as your arteries are being shredded.
(It’s worth pointing out that as we enter the Top 10, I can’t stop rubbing my arms because I’m still thinking about the razor box.)
10) The Razor Wire Maze – Saw
I despise spiders. Like, if I hosted a birthday party for Mother Nature and invited every living creature on Earth except for spiders, and she was like, “Why isn’t a spider here?” I would lie and say, “I guess spiders just don’t like you” because I think that being caught in a giant spider web would suck. That’s how I feel about this trap, except this is like a spider who crapped out sharp steel.
9) The Wheel – Saw 3D
Three things I love about this specific part of Bobby’s “tests”: 1) He enters the room and first looks through the hole in the wall at his lawyer on the wheel before walking through the doorway, and I laugh so hard every time; 2) I don’t blame the guy for checking the sharpness of the spikes, because Jigsaw could be bluffing; and 3) The lawyer’s freakout is the best and most accurate of all Saw victims. Kudos to her. As for the actual method o’ death, the idea of utter helplessness as you are slowly impaled through the eyes and mouth until your brain is pierced and you die is not among the most pleasant things I could imagine. For example, I’d rather think about this puppy:
If Jigsaw is ever planning something like this for me, save the time in strapping me down or whatever, and just turn on an Iggy Azalea song. I will run face first at those spikes.
8) Drowning in Pig Sludge – Saw III
Again, I am firmly against being drowned, and if you vote for me this election season, I will dedicate my term in Congress to making sure that none of us is ever drowned. Especially if that drowning would come inside a giant vat of pig juices. I’m not trying to be picky, but having two jugs of Zephyr Hills poured into my metal head box seems a lot cleaner than pig poop and pee.
7) The Acid Death – Saw VI
I guess if you’ve just gone through a series of “games” that have broken your spirit and probably driven you insane, it might be in the back of your head that you’re not going to actually make it out alive, no matter what you do. But to meet your end by being pumped full of acid, while horrifying and mindlessly painful, would probably still elicit a “Seriously, dude?”
6) The Wisdom Teeth – Saw 3D
Have you ever played a video game where you have to search for the combination to something, but you don’t have the patience for that so you just sit there trying to enter in a series of random numbers, despite the fact that there are thousands of possible combinations? I will do that every time before I use a pair of pliers to yank out my wisdom teeth, because A) I don’t even know where the hell they actually are in this big mouth of mine and B) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE.
5) The Scale – Saw VI
If shedding some blood to fill a container sounds like the most awful thing ever to me, how the hell do you think I’d react to the idea of chopping off my own flesh to tip a scale in my favor? Especially against this guy who was like, “Oh you need some flesh? Here you go!” The only way I’d win this one would be if pee and poo count, because this scared d-bag would be letting it fly, friends.
4) The Angel Wings – Saw III
The thing about this one is that even if you have a lock on your chest and back, and you were already opening those locks before I finished this sentence, you still have a needle inserted into every rib in your body. The feeling of inevitability is always a bitch in the worst situations, but that moment that you realize that you’re about to be split open by having your rib cage opened like a book has to suck a little more than anything else. Call me crazy. And the whole key in a jar of acid part just seems like too many toppings on the pizza.
3) The Needle Pit – Saw II
I know what you’re thinking – “How is having to stick your hand into a pit of syringes worse than being torn in half by your rib cage and watching every organ and drop of blood fall to the floor in front of you with your last living vision?” Because needles are the WORRRRRRRRRRRRST.
TIE – 2) The Reverse Head Trap – Saw, Saw 3D
Sometimes the classics are the best. Hell, this one was so good that they used it in two movies, and I don’t blame them. Watching someone’s head pop open like a can of plastic snakes is pretty hilarious, but I also would not appreciate it being done to me, so I tip my perfectly intact head to the makers of these fine films out of respect, as they have made me appreciate the way that my jaw was created to not open that far. Still, I have to say that the opposite is just as bad…
TIE – 2) The Flytrap – Saw II
My problem with the flytrap isn’t that the spring-loaded action causes the two halves of the “helmet” to snap closed on the victim’s head, driving spikes into his face and skull, which may or may not kill him instantly. Instead, it’s the idea that before this device was applied, Jigsaw surgically implanted a key behind the victim’s eyeball and made it so that the only way he could save himself was to remove his own eye with a scalpel to retrieve the key. I’m like Rachel from Friends, in that I can’t even do the puff test at the eye doctor on the first six tries. Yet Jigsaw wants me to remove my entire eyeball to find a key? Nice try, pal. Have fun cleaning up the giant puddle of pee that I just left behind.
1) Sawing Your Own Damn Foot Off – Saw
For all of the complexities of these traps, the menacing sense of “balance” and “justice” behind every target that Jigsaw and his apprentices have chosen, and the all-around gore that they produce, forcing a guy to cut off his own foot with a crappy, old hacksaw so he can save his family is pretty intense. Especially since we found out seven years later that things didn’t necessarily go back to normal for Dr. Gordon after that fateful day in the world’s most disgusting bathroom.