While the quality of their storytelling might be somewhat debatable, the one thing that the Saw films always get right is the inventive ways they kill off their characters.
Over the course of the series’ 13-year history, Saw traps have become the source for some of our darkest nightmares: insane, violent yet still plausible. While most horror films play around with the idea of fantasy, John Kramer – better known as the Jigsaw Killer – and his murderous methods are terrifyingly human, as if we could confront them in the real world if we wandered down the wrong path.
Seven years after Saw 3D – the seventh film in the series that was meant to act as its closing chapter – John Kramer is back to wreak havoc on the psyches of some more unsuspecting victims. But whether or not Jigsaw, which opens Halloween weekend, will have quite the same impact on the horror genre as its gory predecessors remains to be seen.
Until then, check out our pick of the 10 most hideous Saw traps that have graced the silver screen over the past 13 years, sending audiences running for the door in disgust.
1. The Reverse Bear Trap (Saw)
Perhaps one of the most prolific Saw traps of all time, this hideous invention has been done a number of times throughout the series. First appearing in the franchise’s debut, its first subject was Amanda, a heroin addict who found herself trapped in a head brace that was attached to her upper and lower jaw.
It would snap open, tearing her face in two, if she couldn’t fetch the key from the stomach of her paralyzed cellmate. Amanda became the first subject to ever escape from Jigsaw’s clutches, but if you’re twisted enough to want to see what the Reverse Bear Trap looks like in action, check out Saw 3D. Spoiler: it’s gross.
2. The Flammable Jelly Trap (Saw)
In this dastardly exercise from the debut Saw film, a man who defrauds a health insurance company wakes up, practically naked, in a dimly-lit room surrounded by broken glass and lathered in flammable, sticky jelly. He’s told by Jigsaw that there’s a deadly poison coursing through his veins that could kill him at any minute.
There is an antidote, but it’s locked inside a heavy safe. The combination? Scrawled somewhere on the walls. With only a candle to guide him that could set him alight at any minute, and a carpet of glass between him and the brick walls of the room, he’d have to have been quick-thinking and resilient to win this agonizing race against time.
3. The Pit of Needles (Saw II)
Like a trypanophobe’s worst nightmare, the Pit of Needles trap appeared in the series’ sophomore feature – a film based around a group of people stuck in a booby-trapped, abandoned house by Jigsaw, with nerve gas slowly leaking through it.
Eventually, the surviving members of the group are offered the antidote to the nerve gas, but it’s behind a locked door, and the key is somewhere in a vat of dirty, contaminated needles that somebody must sift through. That person, once again, is "Reverse Bear Trap" Amanda. A little advice: if you faint at the sight of sharp objects, stay the hell away from this one.
4. The ‘Venus Fly Trap’ Death Mask (Saw II)
Picture this: you wake up, disoriented, with a massive metal trap around your neck and a swollen, bloody eye. You’re told you have 60 seconds to free yourself from the trap, but can only do so with the key that’s conveniently been burrowed behind your eye socket.
One of the most brutal and yet simple Saw traps, this has gone down in history as truly heinous even by the Saw series’ standards, due to the fact that the prospect of escaping it seems pretty impossible. That’s proven by Michael Marks, a detective trying to solve the Jigsaw case, when he attempts unsuccessfully to free himself from it.
5. The Vat of Pig Guts (Saw III)
There’s nothing overly violent about this trap, but it certainly doesn’t sound like a great way to go. So far, it’s appeared only once in Saw III, when recurring character Jeff Denlon, in an attempt to escape from a meatpacking plant Jigsaw has trapped him in, stumbles upon a room with a giant vat inside. Another character, Judge Halden, is strapped to the bottom of it with a metal plate around his neck, and a blender-like machine is looming overhead with rotten pigs’ carcasses waiting to drop through.
There’s a key inside a burning hot incinerator that Jeff must try to fetch to free Halden, before he drowns in the stinking dead pig soup that’s poured on to him.
Watch it and admit: Saw traps rarely get as stomach churning as this.
6. The Freezer Room (Saw III)
If you hate the cold, then this Saw trap might be your worst nightmare. A memorable moment from Saw III, it was used to punish Danica Scott, the only witness of a drunk driver’s hit and run that killed the kid of Jeff Denlon, the other man trapped in the room.
In the film, Danica was stripped and hung by her arms from the ceiling of an industrial freezer, with six nozzles spraying water on to her, suffocating her slowly from the cold. The only way she could be freed was if Jeff could squeeze between the cooling pipes and find the key to the shackles that chained her up.
7. The Angel Wings Trap (Saw III)
This heinous contraption from the Jigsaw Killer’s apprentices is one of the most nerve-shredding and ugly traps the series has featured. First appearing in Saw III, it was used to execute Alison Kerry, a detective getting deeper and deeper into the Jigsaw case.
The trap sees the subject suspended in the air, their arms attached to chains hanging from the ceiling with a leather harness wrapped around their ribcage, ready to rip it open at any moment, like a bird spreading its blooded wings. The key to the trap is in a jar of acid, also suspended from the ceiling, so the subject has to go through that ordeal too before being able to free themselves. Can’t get out in time? It gets messy.
8. The Knife Chair (Saw IV)
Is there anything sorer than accidentally cutting yourself a little too deep when chopping food in the kitchen? Well imagine that sensation, slowly - and all over your body. In Saw IV, the Knife Chair trap sees Cecil Adams – a recovering drug addict – be punished for his petty crimes by being strapped into a wooden chair that has blades pointing upwards into his wrists, causing him to bleed out.
To free himself, he would have to push his head forward to reach a plate that would release the shackles – but there’s a twist. In the way are eight knifes, blades forward, that will shred his face apart if he pushes too hard.
9. The Scalping Machine (Saw IV)
One of the first tests in Saw IV, the Scalping Machine is a Saw trap that the Jigsaw Killer invented to spite Brenda, a pimp who’d abuse the plight of sex workers for her own power. A chair attached to a mechanical axis that cranks backwards, pulling the subject’s hair with it, it’s designed to slowly and agonizingly scalp them.
Two people are needed to to solve it, thanks to the fact that the combination to be freed lies out of sight to the person who’s strapped in. Find yourself stuck in it all alone? You’re toast.
10. The '10 Pints of Sacrifice' ('Saw V')
There are 10 pints of blood in the body, so what happens when you have to give up some of it, in a violent manner, to survive? That’s the idea behind this Saw trap, which sees two characters, Malick and Brit, confront a deadly contraption towards the end of Saw V.
Also known as the blade table, it asks participants to enter their arms into a trap that contains a rotating saw blade. Once inside, blood trickles down into a beaker that, once full, will open the door to let the victims escape.
We can survive with half of the blood in our body, so if two people put themselves forward you can both walk away injured, but alive. Or, you could just sacrifice one unlucky soul.
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