It’s almost time to play another game! After a seven year hiatus the “Saw” franchise, the most profitable horror franchise ever worldwide, returns with a reboot entry this weekend, “Jigsaw”. Personally, this is one of my all-time favorite franchises as the film’s main antagonists, the Jigsaw Killer John Kramer and his allies, force those who take life for granted to endure devastating traps to test their will to live. Some of these traps are hit and miss, but many of them are memorable and significant to the background stories of those who are unfortunate enough to face them. So in honor of this weekend’s continuation of the “Saw” franchise I took a look at the best traps set to date. These are the Top 15 “Saw” Traps.
For this list I looked at the 50-plus traps recorded in all of the “Saw” films leading up to “Jigsaw”. Considering how much I enjoy this series and how many traps there were I had to be picky about which ones I would include in the running for this list and even then it was hard for me to narrow it down so I came to a compromise. To simplify my selection I disqualified any trap set to benefit John Kramer personally, so traps like the shotgun shell necklace from “Saw III” and the shotguns overhead trap from the first “Saw” film were left out. I wanted to focus more on traps that were set up to test their victims specifically. Also I extended beyond my normal limit of 10 entries in a countdown because I truly had a hard time narrowing down which ones didn’t deserve to be mentioned in only 10. I’m a big fan of the franchise and, well, it’s my blog so I get to bend the rules if I wish right?
Looking at the remaining traps I considered many factors when making this list. I chose traps that were the most creative, terrifying, deadly and symbolic of the sins of their victims. Most of all though these traps had to be memorable and iconic to make it high on the list. These are the best of the best in a long list of creative traps and games that Jigsaw has set to test the boundaries of survival for human beings. Traps like the needle pit from “Saw II” that are not meant to kill but to simple injure were not considered for this list. Considering that I will be discussing the backstories of those in the traps and possibly the films these traps are actually in a SPOILER ALERT is in order and I made a point to make sure at least one trap from each movie was featured here.
I AM giving an honorable mention to the original game in the franchise, the Bathroom Trap, which is more of an iconic collection of “Saw” traps and a larger game than a specific trap. For the purposes of this list, and considering how many great specific traps I could choose from, it didn’t quite fit with my standards but I wanted to make sure it got the credit it deserved.
What is your favorite “Saw” trap? To see the next batch of traps come into play you can see “Jigsaw” this weekend. I know I will!
15. The Water Cube
A standout trap in “Saw V”, this list starts with one that was actually considered the most dangerous trap in real life as actor Scott Patterson’s head was actually submerged in a glass cube filled with water for the scene. In the context of the “Saw” franchise however this trap was meant to punish Agent Peter Strahm for his persistence in hunting down the Jigsaw Killer’s protégés. Before being placed in this trap Strahm located the body of John Kramer himself, also finding a recording telling him his safety was guaranteed if he remained in the room. Stahm didn’t listen, leading to him being kidnapped by Jigsaw disciple Mark Hoffman and placed in the cube to represent his being trapped in a glass case of emotion with the water somewhat representative of the frustration he feels while hunting down the Jigsaw killer. Even the solution was symbolic as Hoffman (who was unknown as the disciple at the time) had stripped Strahm of everything he had to work with, leaving only the simplest of solutions, a pen, which Strahm uses to perform a tracheotomy on himself and survive. This trap would go on to symbolize Stahm’s sin of having a clouded mind and failing to think outside the box to find the simplest solution to his case right before his eyes. Later Strahm would lose his second test when he is presented with a box of glass shards, only to place Hoffman inside it instead and finds himself crushed by two closing walls, a much less escapable representation of his one-track-mind and failure to think outside the box when approaching the Jigsaw case.
14. The Ties That Bind
Next up is the only trap on this list from “Saw IV” (personally my least favorite of the series). I wanted to have at least one from each film represented and this one was my favorite from the fourth entry. This whole film focused on Daniel Rigg, an officer who wanted to help everyone around him and became the subject of Jigsaw’s games as a way to teach him to let go. He was also the final tested officer of the original group of law enforcement professionals who hunted down Jigsaw in the second movie. Here Rigg is faced with a married couple, Rex and Morgan, who have been skewered with spikes. The spikes are positioned in such a way that if removed by either one the other one will have major arteries severed while the one removing the spikes will simply have painful, but healable, injuries. This test was one of several to try and convince Rigg that Jigsaw’s methods were justified and here he wanted Rigg to “save as I save”. By the time Rigg got to this trap the game was already over with the lesson being whether or not Rigg would accept that the winner had been reborn. Turns out Rex was an abusive husband and Jigsaw challenged Morgan to either die for the man who has abused her or finally end his control over her by paying him back for the torture he, himself, caused her in real life. Morgan ends up winning this game and Rigg’s chooses to help Morgan escape, realizing that Jigsaw’s tests are meant to open the eyes of his victims and make them face the things they have to face to survive.
13. Flammable Jelly
Let’s start with one that is sure to get you fired up! Alright bad pun, but still this trap is a good place to begin for this list. One of the original traps featured in the first “Saw” film, this deadly game was featured in a flashback as officers tried to get to the bottom of the Jigsaw Killer’s crimes. The target of this game was Mark Wilson, a con artist who faked illnesses to get insurance money he would use for his own selfish purposes. Seeing this as “burning” others figuratively, Jigsaw kidnapped the man and covered his naked body with a coat of flammable jelly, placing him in a room with glass all over the floor. To escape Mark had to decipher the code to a safe with the cure to a slow acting poison that was placed in the center of the room. The kicker, the walls were covered with countless numbers with only a select few serving as the combination. The icing on the cake was purposely poor lighting, which left Wilson with only a slow burning candle to see the numbers on the walls. Wilson failed to find the right code before the candle burned down enough to set the flammable substance on his body ablaze, killing him slowly. The trap seemed to be symbolic in that it represented the pain and annoyances that real patients have to endure to get the cures they need. Jigsaw tested Mark’s abilities to find a cure when he truly was sick, leading to his eventual demise. This trap was an early example of the not-so-subtle symbolism and brutality that Jigsaw would incorporate into future traps.
12. Pound of Flesh
One of a couple competition traps on this list, the pound of flesh trap was the first featured in “Saw VI” and involved two money lenders, Simone and Eddie, who are challenged to give up part of themselves as penance for years of approving loans to those who they know can’t pay them back. The purpose of the trap was to teach whichever one survived the struggles of giving up parts of who they were to get by in a situation out of their control. It was also inspired by the “pound of flesh” term used by Shakespeare in “The Merchant of Venice” when a moneylender lends money to a rival, setting the security at a pound of flesh from next to the rival’s heart, something that rival was eventually asked to pay up. While Eddie had the upper hand thanks to his overweight physique, thus giving him plenty to work with, Simone ended up winning by chopping off her own arm costing Eddie his life when screws were driven into his temples. This trap was a high point in the later entries of the series and had one of the more subtle symbolic purposes in the franchise as those who didn’t understand its reference to literature may have just seen it as a brutal trap. However, as he usually does, Jigsaw thought this one out and it had a deeper purpose besides causing carnage. It’s also notable for featuring Tanedra Howard, the first winner of the “Screen Queens” reality TV show that challenged actresses to earn a role in the next entry in the “Saw” franchise.
11. The Horsepower Trap
Racism is never a forgivable sin, and it’s actually interesting that it took the “Saw” series so long to blatantly attack racist views in one of Jigsaw’s traps. Created by Jigsaw disciple Mark Hoffman in “Saw 3D”, this trap featured the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park as its main subject, a skinhead racist named Evan whose friends were each positioned to die in several gruesome ways by a high speed car if he couldn’t rip himself from his seat in time to stop the trap. To symbolize Evan’s racist past Hoffman glued his back and arms to the leather seat of the car, forcing him to realize that everyone is the same beneath their skin in order to survive. Evan of course fails, resulting in his death and the deaths of his friends in one of the most blatantly symbolic games Jigsaw or his followers have ever put together. Not exactly the most famous trap in Jigsaw’s repertoire, but it’s a trap that was a long time coming considering the sins of its subject and, for what it’s worth, it proved to be a pretty brutal lesson learned in the final moments of these people’s lives.
10. Pints of Sacrifice (AKA The Blade Table)
The human body on average contains around 8 pints of blood, but for the purposes of this trap Jigsaw wanted 10. The final trap in the Fateful Five’s game in “Saw V” this trap was the culmination of every tests to that point as the game started with five victims and ended with only two left alive. All five were in some way connected to a deadly act of arson that led to the deaths of 8 people. Together they could have limited their deaths and pain, but the trap was also a test of their individual selfish natures as each trap to this point had loopholes purposefully included to allow all five to survive if they all worked as one. This final trap was no different as it called for a blood sacrifice from those who were left. The trap gave the remaining two survivors, Mallick and Brit, the challenge of placing their arms on a saw table to cut into their hands to fill ten pints full of blood. Either of them doing it alone would have killed them, but together they each had a chance of survival and they had to choose fast how they would approach the challenge as after 15 minutes nail bombs would go off and the doors would lock forever. The two manage to pass the test, but only after they realized the other traps were designed for everyone to share the pain and work together to avoid an ever harsher fate for the final trap as five would have sacrificed less individually then two or one. It’s a fun and interesting trap that brings everything full circle for the film and caps off one of the most interesting and unique group games the series ever presented.
9. Freezer Shower
One of my personal favorite traps not because it contains some pretty blatant nudity, but because of the creativity behind it. The Freezer Shower was the first test for Jeff Denlon in “Saw III”, a series of games that challenged him to save those who were, in part, responsible for the lack of justice following his son’s death. Danica Scott was the first person he encountered as he found her chained in a freezer with water spouts pointed at her body. The water would spray in intervals over a course of time and Jeff had to locate and retrieve the key in the room to unlock her chains before she froze to death. Jeff failed at his task, leaving Danica in a solid block of ice to freeze despite him actually retrieving the key and intending to save her. What made Danica a target? She was a witness to the hit and run that killed Jeff’s son but chose to say nothing. In the end Jigsaw decided to make her face her coldhearted decision head on and put her life in the hands of the man whose son she watched die. In terms of creativity this trap is a standout, focusing on a torture method often overlooked in favor of more blood-spurting acts or heat-related torture. The thought of freezing to death is an uncomfortable and, to use a bad pun, chilling revelation. This is by far one of Jigsaw’s most unique and thought out games.
8. The Love Triangle
Noone likes a player, especially Jigsaw, and in this trap from “Saw 3D”, one of the few public executions Jigsaw has ever set up, he forced two men to make a choice between each other’s lives or the life of the woman who played them both. For this trap each of the two men were strapped into one end of a movable device attached to a saw blade. Above them is their mutual girlfriend who, as it turns out, has been playing both of them for her own gains. When the clock starts the two men are challenged to push the saw blades into each other as the woman is slowly lowered closer to the table. If they fail to kill each other the blade will kill the girl. This intense back and forth nearly sees one man kill the other until they realize they can cut their strings from the woman who did both of them wrong and they let her die in gruesome fashion. A great way to open the, at the time, final entry in the franchise this one became iconic immediately as a rare change from the norm putting the dirty laundry of Jigsaw’s latest victims front and center for a public audience to see. It’s also an interesting scenario that truly makes you wonder what decision you would make in that circumstance. Would you save the other man’s life and cut the cord from the woman who has used you or would you eliminate the competition? Sounds like an easy decision, but not as easy as you might think when you’re life and their life depends on it in 60 seconds.
7. Speak No Evil (AKA Silence Circle)
“Saw 3D” featured a slew of interesting traps geared towards torturing a man named Bobby, who was posing as a Jigsaw victim in public to gain fame and notoriety and even set up a community group for those who have escaped Jigsaw’s games. What better way to punish him than to put Bobby through his own test right? Bobby had to endure four tests, three representing the old adage “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” before taking on the test he originally pretended he passed for his public fame. The first of these tests is the most memorable, the Silence Circle, which saw Bobby’s publicist, Nina, strapped helplessly into place with a fish hook logged in her throat. Any sound made in the room once the trap was activated caused a series of spikes to move closer to her neck and the challenge was Bobby had to pull the hook from Nina’s throat and she had to avoid screaming from the pain. All this represented “speak no evil” as his publicist had chosen to help him spread his lies about supposedly surviving a Jigsaw trap. This trap was just the start of Bobby’s grueling game which would ultimately end up with the death of all four people whose lives were in his hands, making Bobby, the final target of Jigsaw to date, the only person presented with a series of tests to completely fail every test of his game.
6. The Rack
This trap was all about symbolic representation of pain caused to another. The third “Saw” film’s test of a man named Jeff eventually brought him to his third trial where the fate of the man who killed his son in a hit and run was placed in Jeff’s hands. Attached to the trap, which Jigsaw himself called “The Rack” as one of the few traps he specifically names and the one trap he calls his “personal favorite”, is a man named Timothy who hit Jeff’s son with his car. Jeff felt Timothy didn’t pay enough for his crimes so Jigsaw challenges him to decide when “do unto others” applies to this situation. When the test begins the Rack begins to slowly twist Timothy’s arms and legs one by one before finally moving to his head. Jeff is challenged to retrieve a key, positioned in front of a shotgun, to free Timothy before it’s too late. A trap that punishes both Timothy and Jeff, this was the culmination of much of Jeff’s suffering where he failed to succeed despite finding the urge to save Timothy in the end. This was an important trap as it drove home Jigsaw’s mission by trying to teach Jeff to let go and forgive. This would be followed up by the final test that challenged Jeff to spare John Kramer’s life, a test Jeff would fail thus killing the only person left he had to care about, his wife. Despite everything that went on during the tense scene featuring the Rack, in the end Jeff learned nothing.
5. The Furnace
“Saw II” upped the anti by focusing on a house full of people from all walks of life, each with their own sin, that were all connected as subjects of detective Eric Matthews, a corrupt detective who was faced with his own test over the course of the film. One of the men in the house was arsonist Obi, who, as we found out in later films, assisted Mark Hoffman in kidnapping the victims in “Saw II’s” Nerve Gas House game. Trapped in the house himself Obi is the first to be challenged with his own specific trap, a brutal and poetic game that represented Obi’s willingness to “burn those around him” with his lies and deceit. The trap challenge Obi to enter a furnace to retrieve two antidotes to the nerve gas in the house, one for himself and one for another of his choosing. However the second one came with a price. Upon grabbing the second needle a latch was activated, locking Obi in the furnace and turning it on with only a hidden off switch, marked by a devil as part of a clue within Obi’s Jigsaw recording, that could turn it off. Eventually the other victims found a way to break the glass but it was too late and Obi failed his test. Obi’s death was a memorable start to the second film’s central game that showed us and the other players that their sins would truly come back to haunt them over the course of the film.
4. The Venus Fly Trap (AKA The Death Mask)
One of many traps where the solution was the poetic punishment for the sin, this trap that kicked off “Saw II” required a brutal sacrifice to survive. The subject was Michael Marks, an informant who worked with detective Eric Matthews to frame numerous people for crimes they didn’t commit. The trap saw him secured into a piece of headgear with one half of a spiked mask on either side of his head. Marks was given a minute to find the key to unlock himself from the trap before it closed onto his head, working similar to a Venus fly trap. The kicker was that Marks had to sacrifice his most powerful tool to get the key as it was hidden behind his eye. Armed with a scalpel and his will to live Marks nearly goes through with it but is unable to make his decision in time as the mask closes in and ends his life. This trap was the first fans saw after experiencing the original movie, and ushered in a new age of more brutal traps for the Jigsaw killer. Similar in design to the Reverse Bear Trap, the Venus Fly Trap has become just as iconic and was a memorable test that showed Jigsaw was not a one trick pony. He had many more designs and creative tests up his sleeve.
3. The Shotgun Carousel
This was the standout trap from “Saw VI” a film that heavily focused on the crimes of the healthcare and insurance industries in its narrative. One of several tests for William Easton, a health insurance executive who was being taught lessons about the industry’s lack of attention to the true value of life. This trap was the most epic as Jigsaw captured six of Easton’s associates who are charged with finding errors in policies and working to prevent those who truly need coverage from costing the company in the long run and short run. Easton is forced to make the same choice these six people make every day, save only two and the others four are left to die by a shotgun. The challenge forced Easton, and the two who survived, to face the results of their own misdeeds as all six tried to use their flaws against each other to earn their survival. Each associate tries a different lie, but in the end Easton can only save the ones he deems most valuable to the world around them and has to watch as one by one they are executed before him. This trap has become one of the most popular in the franchise due to its “no win” scenario and its design. In a film that was frankly bogged down by heavy-handed attack on the medical industry, this was probably the one trap of the entire film that everyone could watch, cringe, and scream at while having full appreciation for the poetic nature of its design.
2. The Reverse Bear Trap
The most iconic “Saw” trap of all, the reverse bear trap was one of Jigsaws first widely known contraptions and the one used to test his eventual protégé Amanda Young who was a drug addict. In her initial test Young was faced with a choice, let herself die as the trap, hooked to her bottom and upper jaw, forces her jaw open or dig the key out of her cellmate, a drug dealer paralyzed by and opioid overdose. This test was the first recorded test that someone actually survived. Young became the first to win a Jigsaw game and was taken on as his adopted daughter and successor in the aftermath. While not the most symbolic in terms of its connection to Young’s actual personal sin, the Reverse Bear Trap was the first time we as the audience saw a more complex devise from the Jigsaw killer. It wasn’t just a room or a simple tool, it was an actual designed machine that was an early example of just how brutal Jigsaw’s traps and games would go on to be. The trap was so iconic that it has been featured in numerous other films throughout the franchise, including as a trap used against Mark Hoffman who in turn used it on John Kramer’s wife Jill in “Saw 3D” making her the first official victim in the film canon to die as a direct result of the trap itself.
1. The Angel Trap
I’m not the first to consider this trap the best of the best and I probably won’t be the last. One of Jigsaw protégé Amanda Young’s infamous inescapable traps, the Angel Trap was one of the first featured in “Saw III” and involved Detective Allison Kerry, a woman Jigsaw believed related more to the dead than to those in the world of the living. To punish her for her sin of neglecting the living world he had Amanda Young test her with a fitting symbolic trap, strapping her to a device with a padlock around her waist. Also attached to her were several brackets hooked to spikes connected to Kerry’s rib cage. To escape she had to fish out a key from a glass of acid to unlock the padlock and remove the brackets otherwise, after 60 seconds, the machine would activate with two arms spreading outward like wings, ripping open her chest cavity in the process. In a case of brutal torture brought on by Amanda Young’s abuse of her master’s methods, Kerry actually completed her test, but the devise secured to her would not budge thus making the game unwinnable. Kerry, acknowledging her fate, prepared herself for her death and the device did its dirty deed. Kerry actually saw Amanda moments before the trap went off, which helped her understand that her fate was sealed from the beginning. In my opinion, this trap was brutal, well designed, symbolic of its victim’s sin, and had the added impact of helplessness brought on by being inescapable. The brutality of this game overall makes it a top-notch entry in the “Saw” canon and earns it #1 on this list of best traps in the franchise.