Saw is a horror movie franchise that currently consists of six films. The franchise began with the 2003 short film, which was created by director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell to pitch it as a feature film, which was successfully done in 2004, with the first feature film being released at the Sundance Film Festival and released theatrically the following October. The sequels have subsequently been released every October, the Friday before Halloween, to get the ticket sales up. The creators still remain with the franchise as executive producers.
The movies revolve around the fictional serial killer, John Kramer, nicknamed ‘JIGSAW’; he was introduced briefly in Saw and more so in Saw II. The character, rather than kill his victims outright, kidnaps them and traps them in situations, which he calls "tests" or "games", to test their will to live via cruel physical or psychological games. The people he, or his protégé’s test, have usually committed some sort of crime, or as John view’s, are wasting their lives; such as being illegal addicts, dealing in prostitution, corrupt businessmen or murderers' etc. Something John despises because he is dying of cancer; many view the character as a cruel vigilante. The Jigsaw Killer, whose name is a misnomer; as he never directly kills anyone, instead putting victims in situations where they must make the decisions to live or die in his torture traps.
Despite the fact that John (played brilliantly in the franchise by Tobin Bell) was murdered in Saw III, the films continue to focus on the posthumous effects of him and his apprentices, while showing more of John's character via flashbacks. Developing his character brilliantly. The movies also have an unusual talent of getting better and better, with the last three released being taken into a more thriller esque style, and giving the audience an intelligent and original set of horror movies.
The movies are often compared to Hostel and classified as “gorno” by the media, the creators of Saw disagree with the terms used to describe the franchise such as "torturepxrn." The Saw films actually have less actual cruelty than a lot of recent films in the sense that most "violence" is self-inflicted by the characters, regardless, (and sometimes completely inevitable); for example, in the first film, an addict (Amanda Young, played by the fantastic Shawnee Smith) is kidnapped and wakes to find herself in a room with a reverse bear trap on her face, unless she can cut the key out of a dead guys (he is in fact only sedated) stomach in sixty seconds, then she is told via a video, that the trap will go off and she will die. She succeeds in removing the trap and then realizes the value of her life and believes that her experience has made her a better person.
The original Saw movie is a contradiction in terms though, as both victims who are kidnapped are not wasting their lives or taking them for granted. One is a surgeon and the other a photographer. The reasons given for them being kidnapped aren’t strong enough, and although the film is well done, this is its biggest flaw. The film is very tense and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. Some people are put off by the gore and more importantly, the cruelty of the Saw movies; the original film shows much less of this than the sequels, and concentrates on tension, dialogue and storyline. The film is more a setup for the sequels that follow though, to a degree, and the ending can leave some viewers frustrated.
Overall though, the original Saw is a very good film, and well worth watching, if only to watch the entire franchise.