The goriest horror franchise of them all is back.
Nearly 20 years after it first shocked cinema audiences, Saw is back with a tenth instalment – one which is being billed as a direct sequel to the first film, taking place directly after it in the increasingly knotty franchise timeline.
With John Kramer (Tobin Bell), A.K.A Jigsaw, returning with more gruesome traps to teach some unlucky souls a lesson, we’re looking back through the series to date to pick out the ten that have shocked us the most. Be warned: only those with strong stomachs should read on.
10. Venus Fly Trap (Saw II)
The first Saw largely relegated its traps to ominous flashbacks, but its memorable devices captured audience’s imaginations so much, the filmmakers knew they had to up the ante for the swiftly announced sequel.
From here on out, all the traps offered very little chance of survival, and nowhere is that more true than with the Venus Fly Trap “Death Mask”. Much like the recurring reverse bear trap, this item is fastened round the head, with both sides layered with spikes that will impale the wearer’s skull if they can’t free themselves in time.
The only problem here? The key has been surgically implanted behind the victim’s eyeball – which, for someone who hates eye trauma as much as this writer, makes this one of the more visceral traps in the entire series.
09. Bizarre Love Triangle (Saw 3D)
There was a new Saw film released in time for Halloween every year from 2004 to 2010, so by the time we reached the final movie in that run, the traps needed to get more over the top to keep drawing viewers in.
Released in bloody 3D, the seventh Saw entry more than delivered on that promise in its spectacularly gory cold open, the first death in the series that took place in full view of the general public. This trap depicts a devastating end to a love triangle, as two men tied to a table must decide if they should kill each other with buzz saws directly in front of them, or saw their mutual girlfriend tied above them in half.
In 3D, you see love getting torn apart in all its gruesome glory.
08. Reverse Bear Trap (Various)
As the most recurrent – and therefore, one of the most iconic – trap of the franchise, the reverse bear trap had to make an appearance here.
First introduced in the inaugural movie, the mechanism is designed to spring open rather than shut, a simple-but-effective device which contrasts sharply with many of the more convoluted designs elsewhere. This makes it far more adaptable to any situation than any of John Kramer’s other twisted creations, something Saw 3D proved when it placed his wife inside one, a death that ranks as one of the most haunting in the series.
07. Angel Wings (Saw III)
If you haven’t winced once whilst reading this list, that changes now. Suspended in the air with metal rods hooked into her ribcage, Detective Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer) must retrieve a key to unlock herself before the rods rip her open – quite literally giving her angel wings.
The twist? The key is hidden inside a vat of acid, which from where she’s hanging, is already difficult to reach into before it starts burning off her hand. It’s the first trap in the series where there isn’t a clear path to escape; bad for the victims, but very good for the sickos in the audience eager for the most OTT kills the writers can dream up.
06. Driver’s Seat (Saw 3D)
Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington was placed in the driver’s seat for this next trap, playing a racist skinhead tasked with saving the lives of three others tied to the vehicle in different devilish ways. His mission was to force himself out of the chair (ripping his skin off in the process) to stop a bomb going off, but naturally, it all went wrong.
He made a good attempt – but in the end, it didn’t even matter.
05. A Piggin’ Good Time (Saw III)
Not the most deadly, but certainly the most rancid trap in the series, with the victim drowning in a sea of fresh pig carcasses if they can’t free themselves in time. Saw III has some of the franchise’s most gruesome deaths, but very little can make audiences wince quite as much as liquified pig guts sploshing down straight out of a meat grinder.
Actor Tobin Bell described this as his favourite trap in the series, because in addition to being viscerally disgusting, it does offer one of the greatest moral tests for any victim: can they finally forgive the judge who absolved their son’s killer, even if it means saying a painful goodbye to the memory of a loved one?
04. Shotgun Carousel (Saw VI)
The Saw franchise is surprisingly consistent in its contempt for the American healthcare system, with the political commentary continuing in the latest chapter. Nowhere is that more apparent than this wonderfully brutal metaphor, in which the CEO of a healthcare company must choose which of six victims strapped to this device is allowed to survive.
It’s not exactly subtle in the point it’s trying to make, but hey, we’re not watching these movies for subtlety.
03. The Needle Pit (Saw II)
One of the most painful traps in the franchise, in part because it’s such a relatable anxiety for many, pushed to 11. Nobody wants to get jabbed with a needle, but being thrown into a pit packed to the brim with them, where the key to escape is hidden right at the bottom? Ouch.
02. The Rack (Saw III)
Jigsaw himself describes this as his favourite trap of all, so it has to be included – after all, we know what happens to anybody who disagrees with him. This centrepiece of Saw III is pretty straightforward, but what it lacks in high concept, it more than makes for in execution.
The unfortunate victim who is strapped into The Rack has their limbs broken and ripped off one-by-one, culminating in their head snapping off their body. Good luck to anybody stuck in this one, you’ll need it.
01. Bathroom Trap (Saw)
Finally, we go back to where it all started: the most sinister bathroom in cinema. Two victims are chained to the walls, a dead body between them, and they most saw their own feet off if they want to retrieve the key and get out of there.
The franchise frequently returns to this location, but no callback is quite as powerful as when we saw it for the first time.
Saw X is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 29th September.