Ranking the Saw Movies

As of this week, I have now completed my rewatch of the Saw franchise from the 2004 original through this year’s Spiral. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen more grisly traps, body parts flying, endless flashbacks, and more tape recorders than a Radio Shack in the 1980s than I care to remember.

Of course, my reviews of this ennead was brought on by the release of Spiral, Chris Rock’s foray into a reboot. I was hopeful that it would stand as one of the bright spots in this dark group of bloody tales. It wasn’t to be. With each placement on this list, you will find my longer post.

Opinions are varied on the overall placement of the Saw pictures in terms of quality. There’s not much debate that the first is the best and it’s a sentiment I certainly share.

After that we see plenty of debate. I still maintain that the first three (in which Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is alive though not well in health or mind) stand above anything that followed. There are ardent admirers of part 6, but I feel IV-VII represented a considerable dip in quality and the sixth is not immune to that criticism. 2017’s Jigsaw was more successful in rebooting the films than the recent Spiral, though it has plenty of flaws.

And with that, here are my rankings in the Saw cinematic universe:

9. Saw 3D (2010)


8. Spiral (2021)


7. Saw IV (2007)


6. Saw VI (2009)


5. Saw V (2008)


4. Jigsaw (2017)


3. Saw III (2006)


2. Saw II (2005)


1. Saw (2004)


The Jigsaw Files: Spiral (2021)

The choice that Lionsgate and Chris Rock (of all people) made to let the Saw franchise live and not die turns out to be a poor one with Spiral. Four years after Jigsaw managed to improve a bit on episodes IV-VII (which mostly felt like one long grim tale), the idea behind ninth installment Spiral (subtitled From the Book of Saw) at least turned some heads. In fact, the story behind its green lighting is far more unexpected and interesting than anything during its 93 minutes. Rock, one of the all-time great comedians, apparently had a chance meeting with a studio exec at a Brazilian wedding and pitched his take on a way to revive the series. The rest is history that will be mostly forgotten based on the weaker than expected box office returns. I bet camera footage of Rock’s pitch would be more satisfying and there would be a wedding reception and Brazil.

While this is the first Saw flick without Tobin Bell, we do have some regulars back. Darren Lynn Bousman (who made II-IV) returns to direct while Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger (Jigsaw writers) penned it. Rock is Detective Zeke Banks and he’s mostly hated by his fellow officers since he turned in a dirty cop years ago. His father (Samuel L. Jackson, who’s slowly but surely appearing in every franchise known to man) is a former Captain who’s revered by his peers. Max Minghella plays the eager rookie gumshoe tasked to work with the hesitant Zeke.

And there are, of course, Jigsaw type killings. Except this time Jigsaw is not mostly dead, but actually dead. There’s no Tobin Bell flashbacks. There are, however, still lots of flashbacks and some of them remind us of plot points that we literally saw about 15-20 minutes prior. A copycat killer is offing coworkers from Zeke’s precinct while reminding them of their workplace sins just before their brutal demises. This naturally involves the kind of traps we’ve grown accustomed to that slice skin and sever spinal cords. The first game begins with a tongue lashing to the nearly departed victim and ends with a tongue slashing.

If the whole idea of a brilliant comedian planting himself in a Saw like universe sounds like it might be weird… well, it is. Rock struggles with being believable in the role. His punch-ups to the screenplay aren’t hard to pick out as there’s mostly unfunny riffs on Forrest Gump and the time of day cheating habits of men vs. women. The bulk of the script veers back and forth between trying (I suppose) to make some statement on police corruption and just being a regular old Saw pic. It surprisingly fails on both fronts. And like every entry preceding it, there’s a twist ending. Some of them (especially in the original) packed a wallop. In Spiral, it’s a shrug inducing one that you can easily see coming.

Jigsaw was the first attempt to revitalize these twisted pictures. It was certainly no horror classic, but I admired moments of it. Spiral, despite the sharp talent involved, is a massive misfire.

My previous posts on the Saw pics can be accessed here:









June 4-6 Box Office Predictions

The first box office frame of June brings a battle of horror sequels as Hollywood basks in the glow of a profitable holiday weekend. With A Quiet Place Part II surpassing expectations, it should be poised for a loud sophomore frame. The competition comes from The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the eighth picture in the billion dollar franchise’s cinematic universe. We also have DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed, a spinoff of the Netflix series and kinda sorta sequel to 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. You can find peruse my detailed prediction posts on the newcomers here:



It feels a bit strange to predict Devil will experience the lowest overall opening of the entire series, but that’s where I’ve landed. I can’t help but wonder if Warner Bros would want a little more daylight between its debut and the sophomore frame of Quiet if they had a do-over. My forecast of just under $20 million should put it in second place unless Cruella has a remarkable hold.

As for Emily Blunt and company, it’s worth noting that the original Quiet Place fell only 34% in its follow-up outing. The sequel may dip a tad further, but a gross in the mid 20s to even low 30s is on the table. Cruella should be #3 in the lower teens range. I don’t have much faith in Spirit and my meager estimate has it in fourth. Raya and the Last Dragon should round out the top five.

So it’s horror sequels and family entertainment and different kinds of spirits in the top five this weekend and here’s how I see it all transpiring:

1. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million

3. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $13 million

4. Spirt Untamed

Predicted Gross: $4.4 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.6 million

Box Office Results (May 28-31)

Originally slated for March 2020, moviegoers proved they were willing to wait for A Quiet Place Part II. John Krasinski’s critically heralded sequel posted a COVID era best Memorial Day weekend debut of $57 million. That easily outshines my $43.6 million projection. Studios must be rejoicing in this encouraging sign for the summer season ahead.

Disney’s Cruella with Emma Stone also opened to pleasing numbers with $26.5 million (ahead of my $22.7 million estimate). Despite being on Disney Plus as well for a premium price, parents and kids turned out for the Mouse Factory’s latest live-action update of an animated classic.

Holdovers populated the 3-5 slots and it was close. Raya and the Last Dragon was third at $2.8 million (I went lower at $1.6 million). Its total is $51 million. Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man took fourth with $2.7 million (I said $2.4 million) for $22 million overall. Spiral was fifth after two weeks at #1 with $2.6 million (under my $3.2 million prediction) for a $20 million tally.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

May 28-31 Box Office Predictions

In what is bound is to be the biggest box office weekend so far in the COVID-19 era, the Memorial Day frame marks the unofficial kickoff of the summer season at multiplexes. There are two genuinely high-profile debuts with John Krasinski’s horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II with Emily Blunt and Disney’s live-action remake Cruella with Emma Stone in the title role. My detailed prediction posts on the pair can be found here:



As I have said a lot recently, we are in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time in a long time where we have two major releases out in the same holiday weekend. Just as entities are opening up everywhere, the same can be said for theaters. I believe AQPII can top $40 million over its four day premiere with Cruella managing low to mid 20s. There is the lingering suspicion that either or both can outdo my estimates.

The rest of the top five will be filled with holdovers and they may experience smallish declines given the holiday. And with that, my top 5 projections from Friday to Monday for a weekend that Hollywood has been eagerly anticipating:

1. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $43.6 million

2. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $22.7 million

3. Spiral

Predicted Gross: $3.2 million

4. Wrath of Man

Predicted Gross: $2.4 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.6 million

Box Office Results (May 14-16)

As anticipated, it was the calm before the potential storming back of big grosses over this past frame. Spiral repeated at #1 in its sophomore outing with $4.5 million. It held up rather well for its genre ahead of my $4 million prediction. The overall gross for the gross out Saw sequel is $15 million.

Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man remained in second with $2.9 million. My estimate? $2.9 million! Total is $18 million.

Third place belonged to Angelina Jolie’s Those Who Wish Me Dead at $1.9 million compared to my $1.7 million take. The two week tally is $5 million.

Raya and the Last Dragon was fourth with $1.6 million, just under my projection of $1.7 million for $48 million.

Godzilla vs. Kong rounded out the top five with $1.4 million. I incorrectly had it outside my top five. At $96 million, the monster mash is inching ever so close to becoming the first $100 million domestic earner in the COVID era.

Finally, Demon Slayer was sixth at $1.3 million (which was my estimate) and it’s at $43 million overall.

And that’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

The Jigsaw Files: Jigsaw (2017)

Parts IV-VII of the Saw experiences mostly felt like one long slog of a movie as the devious trappings torch was passed from Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, still seen in flashbacks) to Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). The look of the films remained drab and cheap. By the time 3D technology was utilized in 2010 with the seventh edition, the series had worn out its welcome with audiences (though they were still profitable due to their minor budgets).

Lionsgate (despite titling the previous pic The Final Chapter) decided to reinvigorate the franchise seven years later with Jigsaw, which brings in new players while finding a way to keep Bell briefly onscreen. The Spierig Brothers join the fold to direct and there’s new screenwriters in Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger. Some things have not changed. From beyond the grave, John/Jigsaw still expects his subjects to talk and he ultimately expects them to die.

Taking place a decade after Kramer’s demise, it seems a copycat killer is among us. Detectives Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Hunt (Cle Bennett) investigate as do forensic pathologists Logan (Matt Passmore) and Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson). Everyone but Hunt seems to be a suspect at different junctures. Logan’s backstory involves torture in the Middle East. Eleanor is more thrilled by Jigsaw’s past exploits than repelled by it. Halloran is a dirty cop. This constant game of who’s behind the mayhem coincides with a more familiar one taking place in an abandoned barn.

Jigsaw, or whoever is paying homage to him, toys with five unlucky players in the farmhouse setting. Their backstories, as we anticipate by now, involve their own nefarious activities that their captor seeks confessions to. Reading these plot points might lead you to believe there’s nothing much new in this reboot. You wouldn’t be far off. However, Jigsaw does manage to have more of a sense of humor about itself than what we’re used to. The behind the camera work from the Spierig Brothers exhibits a bit more energy than anything in the preceding four flicks.

On the other hand, the plot twists in the third act are rather eye rolling and that’s been an issue since the genuinely shocking one in the original. Let’s face it – every Saw sequel has tried to wow us in the last several minutes and only part 1 truly succeeded. The games deployed in Jigsaw are rather run of the mill as well.

Simply put, part VIII of the Saw saga is a small step up from its immediate precursors, but not a giant leap. Per usual, Jigaw’s faith in mankind still needs some work.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Spiral (2021)…

My other Jigsaw Files can be accessed here:








The Jigsaw Files: Saw 3D (2010)

The Jigsaw Files continues with 2010’s Saw 3D (also known as Saw: The Final Chapter) and it is of course not the final chapter as evidence by Spiral currently being #1 at multiplexes. Lionsgate termed it the endgame after the disappointing financial performance of Saw VI. Like all horror series, it’s never truly dead. As in all Saw flicks, even if characters are dead, they still manage to appear in the abundance of flashbacks we have seen time and again.

In the early moments of the seventh entry, we do see something very rare and that’s daylight. One of the traps from Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) actually happens in a setting that’s not a dingy dungeon. It happens in a crowded business district where spectators get to witness Hoffman’s handiwork. I must admit it was odd to see one of these games play out in a location that doesn’t make the grossest porta potty you’ve ever experienced look like the Taj Mahal.

That’s about the only new development to be found. Saw 3D brings back director Kevin Greutert for the second time in a row along with familiar screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The plot primarily hinges on Hoffman’s freshest game targeting Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery). He makes his living by claiming to be a Jigsaw survivor and reaping the book sale profits. The problem is he’s lying and that doesn’t sit well with Hoffman. The investigator trying to halt everything is Gibson (Chad Bonella, overacting even for a Saw pic).

Since this is the “last” chapter, we do finally get some answers on just what the heck happened to Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). He was last seen footless all the way back in the 2004 original. Yet the answers provided aren’t exactly satisfying. This is also marks the least screen time for the OG gamesman Tobin Bell. His ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) easily doubles his minutes. As mentioned before, the switch from Bell’s Jigsaw to Hoffman always marked a shift in quality for this franchise.

In 2009, a little movie called Avatar set all kinds of box office records. This may have been a factor in the 3D technology being employed here. I didn’t see this in the theater and I suppose the flying body parts coming at you on a giant screen could have added something…

I kind of doubt it. Seven features in, the Saw productions have run out of creative juice. One could argue that happened after the third one and I wouldn’t argue. The return of Elwes isn’t the boost as you may wish. Saw 3D has one foot planted in monotonous traps and departed voices from the past. That other foot is long sawed off and sought after thrills from #7 are tough to find.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Jigsaw (2017)…

My previous Jigsaw File posts can be accessed here:







May 21-23 Box Office Predictions

The Memorial Day weekend of 2021 could well be a return to impressive box office grosses with the high profile unveilings of A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella. However, this preceding frame will not be memorable at all. There are no wide premieres on the slate and that means no picture is likely to even top $5 million (or even four).

Spiral, the continuation of the Saw franchise, surprisingly failed to generate much heat in its debut (more on that below). A drop of over 50% should be anticipated considering the genre, but it should manage to stay atop the charts for a second weekend in a row.

Holdovers will dominate the rest of the top five. Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon could shoot up from #5 to #3 depending on the dips for Those Who Wish Me Dead and Demon Slayer. Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man should hold tight in the runner-up position.

And with that, my top 5 take on a weekend where theaters will be a quiet place:

1. Spiral

Predicted Gross: $4 million

2. Wrath of Man

Predicted Gross: $2.9 million

3. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.7 million

4. Those Who Wish Me Dead

Predicted Gross: $1.7 million

5. Demon Slayer

Predicted Gross: $1.3 million

Box Office Results (May 14-16)

I was misguided in my belief that Spiral, which brings Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson into Jigsaw’s cinematic universe, would enjoy a more significant cut at multiplexes. The ninth entry in the horror franchise disappointed with $8.7 million, well below my generous $16.1 million projection. Moviegoers clearly weren’t all that interested in a return to this bloody series. A horror sequel that should gets genre fans back in their seats awaits.

Wrath of Man dropped to second with $3.7 million in its sophomore frame (I was close at $3.9 million). The action thriller stands at $14 million.

The Angelina Jolie thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead, which is simultaneously streaming on HBO Max, debuted in third with a dull $2.8 million. I was higher at $3.8 million.

Fourth place belonged to Demon Slayer at $1.8 million compared to my $1.3 million forecast. Overall tally is a sturdy $42 million.

Raya and the Last Dragon rounded out the top five with $1.7 million (I was lower at $1.4 million). Total is $46 million.

Lastly, another new thriller Profile couldn’t cut it as it earned a tiny $730,000 for a ninth place start. I said $1.2 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw VI (2009)

The Jigsaw Files continues with Saw VI and it’s often cited as one of the better (if not best) later entry in the franchise. Rotten Tomatoes says so as its meter (39%) falls only behind the 2004 original. Me? I don’t really fall into that category. The sixth edition certainly improves upon IV and a bit over V, but my complaints in this midsection remain the same. Chief among them is that the handoff from Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw to Costas Mandylor’s Detective Hoffman as the mastermind behind the games is a bumpy one. Nothing in Saw VI changes that dynamic.

Speaking of changing dynamics, a little side note about this blog series. Back in 2009, I purchased the first five Saw flicks on DVD and did a little mini marathon back then. 2021, since Spiral was coming out, warranted this blog group. I had, however, only viewed the quintet of these devious blood spattered experiences. So Saw VI and the three pictures that follow are original viewings.

When we last left Hoffman, he had dispatched FBI agent Strahm to a brutal demise and he seemingly has the keys to Jigsaw’s demented kingdom. The central game in this entry involves the medical industry and that does provide for a slightly fresh dynamic. William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) is an executive in that profession who made the unfortunate decision to deny John/Jigsaw’s requested experimental procedure post cancer diagnosis. As you can imagine, Jigsaw enlists Hoffman to exact revenge and this involves William having to play God in considerably more violent scenarios.

Meanwhile the various subplots continue to pile as high as the body count. Jigsaw’s ex-wife (Betsy Russell) becomes more of a central figure. Shawnee Smith’s Amanda gets some posthumous attention. And those flashbacks (a common occurrence in the franchise) go into overdrive here. It’s almost as if screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan were struggling to justify VI‘s existence and that’s likely true. Kevin Greutert, who edited all five earlier pics, gets his shot as director. Oh… and Steve Martin’s son-in-law from Father of the Bride and its sequel pops up in a key role.

At this point as a Saw watcher, it’s all about how compelling the games are. The characters have ceased to be very stimulating. There’s one involving a playground roundabout that gets a couple points for creativity. Despite the corporate greed angle (predatory lenders get their comeuppance too), Saw VI is once again a mundane ride that plays on mostly familiar ground.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)… as if…

You can peruse my previous postings in this series here:






The Jigsaw Files: Saw V (2008)

This is rather faint praise, but Saw V is an improvement over the cluttered experience that was Saw IV. We still get backstories that will seemingly never end. The loss of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), even though he returns in flashbacks, finds screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan desperate to mine material. On the hand that isn’t severed, there’s some decent work by the supporting actors in the fifth edition. On the severed hand, our two leads carried over from the fourth edition are still a bore.

The Jigsaw Files keeps swinging along and here’s the first four if you didn’t catch them:





Saw V introduces its third director in David Hackl, who did production design and second unit work on episodes II-IV. Darren Lynn Bousman’s involvement in the series had seemingly ended but he is back behind the camera for the upcoming Spiral. Melton and Dunstan, who scripted the predecessor, are back.

It was at the conclusion of #4 that we learned Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) was Jigsaw’s second accomplice to his wicked games. He’s taken center stage now as the hero who brought down Jiggy while FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) suspects foul play. Naturally the departed mastermind has thought of a way to make Strahm look like the new villain.

In the meantime, the living and deceased co-conspirators have a new test. They have selected five strangers, picked to live in a dimly lit dungeon, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite… and start getting real bloody. It’s up to them to figure out what they have in common while trying to maintain limb and life. Hint: the quintet probably have a criminal connection. This is where we find some decent performances from Julie Benz, Meagan Good and Greg Bryk as they try to avoid catastrophic countdowns. The whole subplot is a bit of a callback to Saw II and that’s not always a bad thing in this case.

Detective Hoffman’s backstory is a predictable one as to why he got mixed up with the non killing serial killer. This franchise seems hellbent on providing motivational recalls for all its offenders and at this point it’s mostly filler.

I am, quite frankly, struggling somewhat to add more about Saw V. As stated, it is less jumbled (and a tad less perverse) than what preceded it. The scenes with the five new contestants on this Real Stomach-Churning World have an occasional sharp energy. The Hoffman/Strahm dynamic remains considerably duller. And the fifth entry is overwhelmingly average.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw VI (2009)…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw IV (2007)

If you think an inconvenience like death is going to stop this sadistic madman and bulk tape recorder purchaser, then you don’t know Jigsaw! And so begins my dive into Saw IV in the Jigsaw Files. My posts on the previous three entries are here:




One general feeling I couldn’t escape is that the fourth time is not the charm (if such a word can be used in this franchise). The time to entertain is through. It’s time to wallow in the mire of mostly uninspired new traps, limb splitting demises, and needless backstories and time shifts. The biggest flaw of all might be an over abundance of plot. Watching a Saw movie shouldn’t feel like keeping up with Lost. And I don’t care that two actors from that show were in the original.

Darren Lynn Bousman is back directing for the third time in a row and this is his final contribution. There’s new screenwriters in the mix with Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The script picks a secondary character from II and III to play Jigsaw’s latest game. Officer Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is charged with saving Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) from doom. None of these law enforcement leads are particularly compelling. Rigg, according to Jigsaw, has a bit of a savior complex and his tests involve leaving behind nefarious types probably not worth rescuing.

Takes one to know one. After all, the dude with the ultimate savior complex is Jigsaw himself. And Saw IV delves deeper into his backstory that we weren’t sure we wanted. After seeing it, I’m sure of it. He does have an engineering background which explains some stuff, but his previous marriage to drug counselor Jill (Betsy Russell) isn’t all that engrossing. It helps explain his motivations, but does it matter at this point?

There are callbacks to previous pics and the most notable involves Donnie Wahlberg’s Detective Matthews. Last seen with a mangled foot courtesy of Amanda (Shawnee Smith), this detective’s story is finally given an icy closure (in an admittedly garishly effective moment). We also know that time is relative in the Sawmatic Universe and this plays into the anticipated twists in the final moments. It all feels more contrived than ever before. It’s now down to bland supporting players from better installments taking the lead and that contributes to an overall secondhand goods vibe.

I could go on with the dull plot points feasting on themselves and the tiresome traps, but seriously… how many damn tape recorders did Jigsaw own? He had to have been Best Buy or RadioShack’s most prolific customer/serial killer.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw V (2008)…