Saw is an American horror film released on October 29, 2004 in theatres. It is directed by James Wan, written by Leigh Whannel and James Wan, produced by Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules, and Mark Burg, and is distributed by Lionsgate. On 2005, the NC-17 (unrated) version of the film was released as Saw: Uncut Edition. It is about 8 seconds longer that the R-rated version. A sequel, Saw II, was released on October 28, 2005 and another, Saw III, was released on October 27, 2006.

The 10th anniversary of Saw will be celebrated with re-release in theaters on October 31, 2014.

Plot Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Obsessed with teaching his victims the value of life, a deranged, sadistic serial killer abducts the morally wayward. Once captured, they must face impossible choices in a horrific game of survival. The victims must fight to win their lives back, or die trying. . .

Detailed Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

The film starts out with a man waking up in an old bathtub. He squirms, and it appears as though something goes down the drain with the water. The young man gets out of the bathtub and stumbles off into a pitch black room, yelling for help. A disembodied voice responds, and the two converse and the lights turn on. The two men are face to face in an old, grimy, and apparently long deserted, industrial washroom with no windows, and seemingly no way out (besides a large sliding factory door). The man who escaped from the bathtub is a young photographer named Adam (Leigh Whannell); on the other side of the room is a surgeon named Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). They are both chained to pipes, and in between them, in the center of the room, is a corpse, who has died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The corpse holds in one hand a .357 Magnum revolver, in the other a tape recorder.

After brief and very awkward introductions, Adam finds an envelope in his pocket that contains a cassette tape. The tape is labeled with a small piece of paper that reads "Play Me." Doctor Gordon finds an identical envelope as well. Adam uses his over-shirt to attempt to retrieve the tape-player that is in the corpse's hand. After a few failed attempts, he uses the plug from the bathtub, in conjunction with the shirt, to retrieve it. Adam is the first to insert his tape, and as the tape starts, a very low and ominous voice gives a briefing as to why he is there. The voice tells Adam that he lives a pitiful life that involves preying upon other people (perhaps as a stalker). The tape ends with the voice telling Adam that he may be in the room that he dies in, unless he does something about it. Adam is speechless and confused. Doctor Gordon tells him to pass him the tape-player, but Adam refuses; instead, he asks Doctor Gordon to throw his tape to him. Doctor Gordon's tape starts to play, and the same insidious voice informs Doctor Gordon why he is there. Doctor Gordon apparently tells patients on a daily basis that they are going to die. The voice then tells Doctor Gordon that he now has the chance to play God, to decide over life or death. After a slight pause the tape tells Doctor Gordon that "Your aim in this game is to kill Adam." He has limited time to do so, and if he does not kill Adam, his wife and daughter will die. The camera pans to a clock on the wall, and it is apparent that this is no joke. Doctor Gordon now understands the purpose of the other item in his envelope... a bullet for the revolver held by the corpse. After much struggle and attempts to break out of the chains, (they attempt to use a key that was also in Doctor Gordon's envelope), Doctor Gordon reviews the tape. Doctor Gordon listens very carefully again, and at the end of the tape, a very faint voice can be heard saying.. " follow your heart." They are both confused by this, and start scanning the room. Doctor Gordon notices a heart that is drawn on a dirty toilet. Adam opens the lid and reaches into the water (which appears to contains feces). After finding nothing, he opens the back of the toilet to find a plastic bag containing two hacksaws. They test out the hacksaws on their chains, but they do not work. Doctor Gordon realizes what is going on. He states, "He doesn't want us to cut through our chains, he wants us to cut through our feet. "

Gordon (stunned) realizes the person behind this: Jigsaw, a deranged serial killer who puts his victims into situations where they must complete a task to escape death. Yet, not many have survived his traps. Adam isn't satisfied and demands to know how Gordon knows all of this. After a pause, Doctor Gordon tells Adam that Gordon himself was once a suspect, and the last he heard, the killer was still at large.

A group of people in a basement are then shown, where one of Jigsaw's traps are set up. A man is found dead and trapped in what seems to be a maze of razor wire. A female cop named Kerry shows Det. David Tapp (Danny Glover) and Det. Steven Sing (Ken Leung) a tape found at the scene. The scene starts to play out as the man wakes up. The tape reminds him of the time he cut himself with a razor. The man (we now know as Paul) is asked whether or not he did this for attention, or if he really wanted to kill himself. Paul's trap is now set, as he has 2 hours to escape out of a razor wire maze, or else the door to the basement he is in will be sealed forever, and he will die alone. The irony of it is, if he wants to die, he doesn't have to do anything, but if he wants to live, he'll have to cut himself again. Here is where we first hear Jigsaw's most memorable line "Live or die, make your choice." Paul fails to escape, and dies in the process.

Another victim of Jigsaw's is Mark, a man who claims to have injuries and cannot work, yet he is perfectly fine. He has a poison coursing through him, and the only antidote is in the safe in the middle of the room. The combination to that safe is painted on the walls, but it is extremely dark in the room. The only source of light is a candle. He must use the candle to get the combination off the wall, and input it into the safe. The catch is that he is smeared with a flammable substance and the floor is covered in glass. The trap seems impossible, and after putting in only a few numbers, he fumbles the candle, and lights himself on fire. He burns to death, and the corpse is found at the scene of the crime where Kerry, Tapp, and Sing are present.

It is here where we find out that Jigsaw likes to watch his victims in action (there is a small eyehole in the far end of the wall). This is where Doctor Gordon comes into play; a penlight from his office, with his fingerprints, is found at the scene of Mark's death.

The scene ends and we see Doctor Gordon in front of some of his doctors, talking about a patient who has a frontal tumor, who appears to be dying from cancer. This is where Zep, the orderly, comes in and explains that the patient's name is John and is indeed a very interesting man. We see John, a man about 60 years of age, looking older from his disease. He has almost no hair, and lies sleeping in the hospital bed. Doctor Gordon is called down to his office, and he leaves. There he is confronted by Tapp and Sing, and they explain the dilemma to him. Doctor Gordon is forced to go down to the police station with them. He pleads his innocence to his lawyer, and when the lawyer asks him where he was the night in question, Doctor Gordon apparently had business elsewhere. After he is cleared, one of the arresting officers asks him to stay and listen to one of Jigsaw's victims. The victim is being questioned, and Doctor Gordon is viewing from another room. She is the only one to ever survive.

The survivor is Amanda Young. Through a series of questions, she explains her trap. After Jigsaw abducts her, he places her in trap with a heavy metal apparatus (a reverse bear-trap) to her jaw. Jigsaw communicates with her via a talking puppet on a nearby television set. When the timer went off, Jigsaw explains, the trap would rip her jaws open (and destroy her head, if its effect on the mannequin was at all representative) if she did not find the key. The key was in the stomach of a dead man lying across the room from her, her former drug dealer. To get the key, she would have to cut into the man's stomach. Upon further realization, it is revealed that the man isn't dead, but rather heavily sedated with opium. Amanda kills him, retrieving the key from his stomach just in time and unlocking herself just before the bear trap explodes. As Amanda reels from what she has just been through, Jigsaw's puppet appears before her, congratulating her for surviving. "Most people are so ungrateful to be alive...but not you. Not anymore."

Back in the washroom, Adam and Gordon discover that they’re being watched, and Adam finds a picture in Gordon's wallet showing Gordon’s wife and daughter being held captive. Adam doesn't show it to him, though. Meanwhile, Det. Tapp is under the impression that Gordon is Jigsaw. He remembers a few months back, when he was injured by Jigsaw and Det. Sing was killed while chasing Jigsaw down an alley (one of Jigsaw's many traps).

Gordon finds two cigarettes and a cell phone that only receives calls. At this point Gordon remembers when he was kidnapped back at the hospital parking lot. Jigsaw has instructed him to poison Adam with the cigarettes, but after an argument, Adam reveals to Gordon that his family is in mortal danger. They decide to fake Adam’s death, but that plan fails after Jigsaw gives Adam an electric shock through his chain, to ascertain if he's actually dead. At this point, Adam remembers back to when he was kidnapped by Jigsaw, in his apartment.

The cell phone rings, and Alison is forced by her captor to tell Gordon not to believe Adam’s lies. Adam reveals that he was hired by Det. Tapp to spy on Gordon, believing he is The Jigsaw Killer. Back at home, Alison is about to escape. At the same time, one of Adam’s photos reveal that Zep, Gordon’s assistant from the hospital, is the one holding his wife and daughter hostage.

The clock reaches 6:00, ending the time limit. Zep and Alison fight over a gun while Det. Tapp rushes to save her. The fight turns into a chase as Det. Tapp tries to catch Zep before he can get to the room. Believing that his wife and daughter are still in danger, Gordon finally saws off his own foot thinking that it is the only way to save his family, while Adam cries out unsuccessfully, trying to tell Dr. Gordon to stop.

Det. Tapp nearly emerges victorious, but is shot by Zep, who rushes to the washroom and leaves him to die. Free of his shackle after sawing off his foot, Gordon shoots Adam. Very soon after, Zep reaches the washroom and is tackled by Adam, who is injured but still alive and beats Zep to death with the toilet lid. After a tearful goodbye, Gordon leaves, saying he has to get help, or he'll bleed to death.

Adam, however, is still shackled to the wall. He searches Zep’s pockets for a key, but instead finds another cassette. Zep was manipulated by Jigsaw all along. He was being forced to kidnap Dr. Gordon's wife and daughter, or be killed by a poison coursing through his system.

The real Jigsaw, it turns out, was actually Dr. Gordon's patient John and has been pretending to be the “corpse” on the floor. John rises up and tells him the key to his chains is in the bathtub, but had been swept away when Adam first awoke. John has been making people kill themselves to make them learn life lessons, as he himself is bitter from his approaching death from an inoperable brain tumor. Adam is shocked by the moment and John abandons him, turning off the lights and locking him in the room. “Game over,” he says, ending the film with Adam trapped in the pitch-black washroom, screaming into the credits.

Media[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The MPAA originally rated the film NC-17, due to the film's tone; director James Wan had to remove some content to secure an R rating.
  • Leigh Whannell mentions in the DVD commentary that the scene were his character plunges his hand down a filthy toilet is a tribute to Danny Boyle's Trainspotting (1996).
  • Cameo: Oren Koules one of the film's producers plays Shawnee Smith's dead cellmate.
  • Detective Sing pursuing the Jigsaw killer was the last sequence to be filmed.
  • The scene in which Gordon turns off the lights and whispers to Adam was written differently in the script. The characters were to cut open opposite ends of a long pipe with their hacksaws and speak through it. This sequence was actually shot, but later cut because director James Wan decided that the characters being able to cut through a pipe made no sense if they couldn't cut through their chains.
  • Film's pre-production was only five days; it was shot and cut at the same time in 18 days (all of the bathroom scenes were shot in six days). The actors had absolutely no rehearsals. The rehearsal takes were actual footage for the film.
  • Sundance showed the NC-17 uncut version. The actual theatrical R-rated version is cut and more finessed, and the sound and colors were evened.
  • The car chase was filmed in the garage of the warehouse by turning off the lights, adding some fog, and shaking the cars while filming from the front.
  • Principal photography was done in a converted warehouse. The bathroom set was built while the other locations were existing rooms redressed.
  • Was the closing film for the Toronto Film Festival.
  • Originally intended for a straight-to-video release. After positive screenings, it was given the nod to become a premier movie.
  • Director James Wan took a gamble and took no "up front" salary for the movie and opted for a percentage instead.
  • Contains many references to the films of Italian horror/giallo director Dario Argento. The creepy painted puppet is a reference to Argento's Profondo Rosso (1975), while the unseen killer's black gloves are one of Argento's trademarks and can be seen in almost all of his films.
  • Shots cut in the R-rated version, according to director James Wan and screen-writer/actor Leigh Whannell, included ones of Amanda sifting through the intestines, the fat guy struggle through the barb wire just to shorten the scene, and some forensic ones. The color was made more even and the sound was altered because the MPAA had problems with the tone of the original cut shown in Sundance.
  • James Wan and Leigh Whannell wrote the script and submitted it to their manager. The manager then sent it to an agent in L.A. who summoned the two of them for a meeting. They were encouraged to shoot a scene from the script as a short film which they started passing around to studios.
  • According to the DVD commentary, casting agent Amy Lippens asked director James Wan who he wanted to play the character of Amanda. On a whim, Wan suggested actress Shawnee Smith, on whom he had had a crush since his teen years. He was surprised when Lippens came back a few days later and told him that they had secured her for the role.
  • The detectives track down a fire alarm to a warehouse in "Stygian Street". "Stygian" is the name of director James Wan's first film, which also stars "Saw" co-writer/actor Leigh Whannell.
  • According to the DVD commentary director James Wan points out that many of the scare scenes in the film were nightmares he and Leigh Whannel had as kids.
  • The sequel Saw II (2005) was approved for production the weekend this film opened.
  • Every scene was filmed in a set of buildings that were rented out to movie crews. Many of the sets in the film were originally empty rooms with props put in by the crew.
  • Jigsaw's puppet was completely made from scratch by the films creators (it was not bought at a store or a puppet that was altered).
  • All of the bathroom scenes were shot in chronological order in order to make the actors feel more what the characters were going through.
  • According to the official SAW website, in a still image used in one of the flash scenes, Adam's last name is "Faulkner".
  • James Wan and Leigh Whannell returned for several re-shoots, but the original actors were unavailable by that time. Whannell played the parts himself, and Wan used close-up shots of the characters' bodies, avoiding showing their faces. Whannell plays Detective Sing (Ken Leung's character) entering the building with a shotgun, and the body of Sing falling down after being shot. Also, the close-up shots of Shawnee Smith's character's hands in her torture/murder scene were Whannell's, and he wore a wig to make his shadow on the wall appear more like Shawnee's.
  • Tobin Bell lay on the bathroom floor, perfectly still, for six days. He was not replaced with a dummy because the filmmakers could not afford one.
  • The only dummy used in the whole movie is the burned corpse of the man who is in the room, naked, with the safe and broken glass. All other corpses were played by the actors.

Spoilers end here.

Critism[edit | edit source]

  • The current IMDb user rating is 7.6 (out of 10) stars. [1]
  • The crtics' tomatometer, at RottenTomatoes, is 45%. The current user rating is 74%. [2]
  • The average user rating, at Metacritic, is 6.5 (out of 10) stars. [3]

External links[edit | edit source]

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