This Halloween, Lionsgate is bringing Jigsaw and all his deadly contraptions back to the big screen for a one-week limited re-release of James Wan’s indie horror triumph, Saw. To honor the occasion, I thought it would be fun to take a look back and celebrate some of my favorite traps and set-ups featured throughout the series.

Saw: The Reverse Bear Trap

We’ll just go ahead and start with the most iconic trap of the entire Saw franchise- the reverse bear trap that Shawnee Smith found herself locked inside of during Wan’s original film. Visually, the contraption is a horrific marvel of complicated steel and death, demonstrating just how visceral Jigsaw’s object lessons could be. And when you couple that with image of Smith waking up inside the reverse bear trap- and how she masterfully sells that moment with just the use of her eyes- it became the centerpiece of Saw’s marketing campaign and an iconic totem for the entire franchise that would continue to be revisited in the subsequent sequels that followed.

Saw II: The Needle Pit

Saw II featured a lot of creative and deadly traps but the one that left my skin crawling and always makes me cringe whenever I revisit the sequel is the Needle Pit intended for Xavier (Franky G). Conceptually, the idea of someone having to swim around in a pool of dirty needles is beyond horrific and if forced to make that choice, I think I probably would have just gone with death (thank you very much). Xavier apparently agreed with my feelings on the matter, choosing to toss in recovering junkie Amanda (Smith) into the ghastly pit.  It may not necessarily be the most complex or goriest trap Jigsaw ever created but watching Amanda as she gets all the needles removed from her body after she escapes is a moment that leaves even the most hardened horror fan squirming in their seats.

Saw III: Detective Kerry in the Ribspreader

Poor Detective Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer). After surviving two movies, she sadly found herself locked inside probably one of the most gruesome contraptions the Saw franchise had ever seen- the Ribspreader. As if that wasn’t enough, to escape her doom Kerry must retrieve a key which happens to be sitting at the bottom of a beaker of acid. Kerry, being as tough as they come, manages to get the key out but soon realizes that regardless of her moxie, this isn’t a trap she’s meant to escape from and she ultimately meets her demise in a moment that’s still probably one of the most grotesque (and badass) of the entire Saw series.

Saw III: The Shotgun Collar Linked to Jigsaw’s Heart Rate

In Saw III, Jigsaw’s brain tumor was causing his health to spiral downward at a very rapid pace and considering he couldn’t just go and check himself into a hospital, he and Amanda decided they would kidnap a skilled surgeon by the name of Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) and bring her into their lair so that she could keep Jigsaw alive by any means necessary. Of course, realizing that Dr. Denlon might not be the most willing participant in their plan, Amanda uses a shotgun collar linked to Jigsaw’s heart rate to keep her in line- effectively reminding the medical professional that death is quite literally right in her face.

Again, not the most elaborate trap but it’s an effective one as it really heightens the tension in the scenes involving Jigsaw, Denlon and a fragile Amanda who wasn’t ready to let go of her mentor. Dr. Denlon almost survives the trap too- that is until her vengeful husband shows up and ultimately seals her fate after he slashes Jigsaw’s throat. Saw III has plenty of gleefully gory moments but what happens to Dr. Denlon might be the most grisly of all.

Saw VI: The Shotgun Merry-Go-Round

Saw VI is probably one of my favorite sequels of the series as it does a great job of pulling the stories from all five of its predecessors together and also gave audiences a look at how the health insurance industry ultimately screwed over John Kramer once he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We also meet the man, William Easton (Peter Outerbridge), who ultimately seals John’s fate by denying him the chance to seek alternative medicine to treat his illness so it’s William who gets tested repeatedly by Jigsaw’s traps throughout the film.

And while there are a lot of great set-ups in Saw VI, the Shotgun Merry-Go-Round is probably my favorite; forced to choose between six of his employees who have been tied up, this trap forces William to come face-to-face with the ideals that his insurance company practices day in, day out- out of these six people, which two are the most worthy of living and can William live with himself after letting several of his faithful employees die a horrific death? Saw VI has some of the best set-ups of the series overall but the Shotgun Merry-Go-Round will always be my favorite.

Saw 3D: The Junkyard Car Trap

While Saw 3D wasn’t great overall, the most redeeming part of the sequel was the fact that it killed off Chester Bennington from Linkin Park and who can’t get behind that? Playing a racist named Evan, Bennington finds himself affixed to the inside of a car, via his bare skin, while three of his friend’s lives hang in the balance. Evan must break free before the timer goes off or he’ll effectively kill each of them in mere seconds. While the visual of Bennington’s skin ripping away was grotesque and horrific, what happens to his pals is even worse (especially his girlfriend who gets her face crushed in by a moving tire). There may not be a lot to love about Saw 3D but killing the dude from Linkin Park is by far one of the film’s most redeeming qualities.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.