Saw: Six Characters Who Define the Horror Movie Series
5/5/2021 • 4 min read
SPIRAL continues the SAW story, which began with the movie of the same name in 2004. The story in this long-running set of movies — SPIRAL is number nine — has a lot of consistent characters and forward motion. But flashbacks often fill in backstory and subtly rewrite assumptions about character motivations. Events referenced in one movie might be detailed in another sequel ten years later.
In short, the storyline of the SAW movies is a big part of what keeps fans coming back for more. But it can also be difficult to follow closely. All but the most dedicated viewers might want a refresher before diving into SPIRAL. Here’s a rundown of the six most important SAW characters. We don’t have time to detail everyone, but this will help untangle the twisted SAW movie storyline.
(Note that significant spoilers for all the previous SAW movies follow. We won’t give anything away about SPIRAL, though!)
John Kramer, aka Jigsaw
Played by Tobin Bell, introduced in SAW
He’s been dead since SAW III (like we said, spoilers!) but the original Jigsaw is the father figure to many characters in this series and his presence looms large over all the movies. His pattern of cutting jigsaw pieces from those who fail his “tests” led to his name, while his unique demeanor caused a few would-be victims to become his apprentices.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer (SAW II) and ultimately estranged from his wife, Jill, following her miscarriage (SAW IV), John Kramer attempted suicide (SAW II) which, ironically he survived. Kramer dedicated his life to the creation of horrifying moral lessons. One of the first was deployed against the man who caused Jill to lose her child (SAW IV), and Kramer soon moved on to larger-scale “tests” which snared multiple people.
Played by Shawnee Smith, introduced in SAW
Framed by police detective Eric Matthews (Donny Wahlberg) for a crime she didn’t commit (SAW II), Amanda Young spent time in prison, where she became a heroin addict. Later a patient of Jill’s, Amanda orchestrated a robbery of the clinic (SAW VI) which led to Jill’s miscarriage.
Amanda became one of Jigsaw’s early tests (SAW) but her escape led her to become his first apprentice (SAW II). But without Jigsaw’s discipline, Amanda started devising traps from which there was no escape (SAW III) and she is killed as part of a tangled web of traps and tests (SAW III).
Played by Costas Mandylor, introduced in SAW III
The distinctive traps and calling cards of Jigsaw’s work were bound to lead to a copycat, and the first person to emulate John Kramer’s perverse actions was blackmailed into becoming his second apprentice (SAW V). Hoffman helped Amanda and Jigsaw set up traps seen in previous movies.
As a cop, Mark Hoffman helped investigate one of Amanda’s first solo traps (SAW III) and led to the death of Eric Matthews (SAW IV). He ultimately worked to manipulate the Jigsaw investigation in his favor, using traps and deceit to set himself up as a hero. That works… for a while. But Jigsaw has laid plans that set up a conflict between Jill and Hoffman (SAW V and VI) and ultimately leads Hoffman to a confrontation with one of Jigsaw’s most notorious victims…
Played by Cary Elwes, introduced in SAW
The nature of Jigsaw’s puzzles was perhaps most elegantly captured by the scenario Lawrence Gordon experienced in SAW. Kramer trapped the doctor, who had originally delivered Kramer’s cancer diagnosis, in a room with a man he believed he had to kill in order to prevent the deaths of his family. Gordon only partially played along (SAW). He cut off his foot to escape, promising to bring help for the man still trapped. He wasn’t seen again for years.
In fact, just after escaping Kramer’s trap and falling unconscious, Kramer recovered the doctor and kept him alive, turning Gordon into yet another apprentice. Gordon lent his medical talents to many of Jigsaw’s endeavors seen in SAW II - V. At the end of his life, Kramer charged Gordon with looking after Jill, which brought Gordon and Hoffman into direct conflict, and gave Gordon the chance to dispense some familiar twisted justice.
Played by Betsy Russell, introduced in SAW III
While we learned some of the details of John Kramer’s life in SAW II, we really met his ex-wife, Jill, in the following movie during a brief flashback. As detailed above, Jill becomes more important as her past connections to Amanda and Hoffman are revealed.
Following Kramer’s death, Jill is given materials prepared by her ex-husband that set a new test in motion (SAW V) and which bring her fully into the fold as a Jigsaw apprentice. She attempts to kill Hoffman with the same reverse bear trap from which Amanda escaped in SAW… only to meet her end when that trap is used against her in SAW 3D, aka SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER.
Played by Matt Passmore, introduced in JIGSAW
The SAW movies regularly make minor rewrites to franchise history by introducing new characters. Logan Nelson is a great example. While working at the hospital where John Kramer was tested for cancer, he made a simple mistake that caused a delay in Kramer’s proper diagnosis. A now-familiar series of events followed: Logan was trapped by Kramer and ultimately spared, after which he began working with the master manipulator. In JIGSAW, Logan engineers a game of cat and mouse with a homicide detective who has begun to suspect the identity of the latest Jigsaw copycat.
See SPIRAL to puzzle out who will be the next major SAW character!
All images courtesy of Lionsgate.