Just when you thought it was safe to be a morally compromised human being out in the world today, SAW’s Jigsaw looks like they’re back in SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW. Pitting Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson against the infamous killer, the film technically counts as SAW 9, though how it connects to the rest of the series is to be determined.
That, of course, leaves the door open for SAW fans to revisit the legacy of the killer that prompted their victims to live or die based on their own choices. With eight movies to get through, we’re going to provide you the short, short version of Jigsaw’s history.
Plus, you can rent several of the entries in the SAW series through AMC Theatres On Demand, to see some of these gory happenings in the flesh. For now, let’s run through the legacy of SAW and its mysterious killer.
In the original SAW, we learn that a killer is loose in the Pacific Northwest, and he’s got some rather unusual methods. While not technically a murderer, the figure known as “The Jigsaw Killer” captures his prey and locks them inside a “game” where they must make a life-altering choice: either atone for a fatal flaw in their life, or die in the trap that's been created around them. Eventually, we discover Jigsaw is disgruntled engineer John Kramer (Tobin Bell), and he reveals his reasons for the torturous games throughout the SAW series — as well as the fact that he’s not the only one carrying on this violent legacy.
Saw II (2005)
Expanding his games in SAW II, Jigsaw takes things to the next level, as he locks a group of strangers in an abandoned house. In the sequel, we learn that the reason John Kramer became Jigsaw is because of a failed suicide attempt, after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Appreciating the gift of life after a moment of great pain and sacrifice, he was determined to teach others that same lesson. With his engineering prowess and "moral code," he eventually gained some disciples who pledged themselves to his work — the most notable being a woman who seemed like a random testimonial in SAW, but became one of the series’ most memorable characters in SAW II: Amanda (Shawnee Smith).
Saw III (2006)
Throughout each of the first three SAW movies, Jigsaw/John Kramer looks increasingly rough. Because of the brain cancer he’s been battling, he’s in need of some medical attention in SAW III, which leads to the abduction of Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh). Hoping she’ll be able to save him, Amanda and John use his rehabilitation as a game, which is playing out at the same time another victim, Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), is winding his way through a game of his own. Ultimately, these two games intertwine, as Lynn and Jeff are an estranged couple who lost a child to a drunk driver, who was given a light sentence. Against John's instructions/rules, sometimes Amanda has gone rogue and used her skills as a disciple of Jigsaw to murder people, rather than giving them a chance to learn from their mistakes. A chain of events is set off that leaves Amanda and Lynn dead, and convinces Jeff to flunk his final test and kill John Kramer in retaliation.
Saw IV (2007)
The ever-unfolding history of John Kramer’s disciples continues to expand in SAW IV, where we are shown that Amanda isn’t the only person that’s been following Jigsaw’s bloody gospel. After a grisly game that looks to test the moral code of Lt. Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent), we find out that another apprentice lives in Lt. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Posthumously given his orders per a tape hidden in Kramer’s corpse, Lt. Hoffman becomes the active apprentice of the moment, though another lies in wait. It’s also revealed that the late John Kramer was partially driven to his twisted ways after his ex-wife, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell), suffered a miscarriage at the hands of a drug addict she was helping to treat. That in turn caused their marriage to fail, and ultimately drove him to suicide after his ill-fated diagnosis. With Lt. Hoffman as supposedly the only remaining Jigsaw apprentice, he sets his sights on trapping someone who’s starting to uncover his identity, FBI agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson).
Saw V (2008)
As the active apprentice of John Kramer in SAW V, Lt. Mark Hoffman is trying to cover his tracks and remain hidden as the investigation into the Jigsaw killings continues. Throughout his current games, we find out that Hoffman became a disciple after killing his sister’s murderer with a copycat trap he used to frame Jigsaw for his own deeds. Of course, Kramer couldn’t let Hoffman get away with this, but ultimately he brought him on board as a proper disciple, who would help him plan the traps for SAW III and SAW IV. Using his talents of framing others for his own dirty work, Hoffman tries to make it look like Agent Strahm is really the new Jigsaw killer. Strahm survives a trap that Hoffman laid out to kill him early in the film, but in his cockiness, he is killed by the last trap.
Saw VI (2009)
Long gone in the world of SAW, John Kramer has six people he’s singled out for one last game. His wishes are being carried by Jigsaw apprentice Lt. Hoffman, as well as Kramer’s ex-wife, Jill Tuck, with one major target at the center: an insurance company executive who, in John’s eyes, helped contribute to his ultimate death. By the end of SAW VI’s overall game, there’s one rivalry that outweighs Kramer’s revenge plot against the insurance titan: Hoffman v. Tuck. As it turns out, Hoffman was only shown five of the six targets, with himself being the last test subject, a promise Kramer himself made from the grave in SAW IV. Hoffman escapes, and the game is set for one “final” chapter.
Saw: The Final Chapter/Saw 3D (2010)
The adventure meant to close out the entire SAW franchise, SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER (also known as SAW 3D) pitted the three remaining Jigsaw disciples against each other in one final showdown. While most of the film focused on the power struggle between Jill Tuck and Mark Hoffman, a third apprentice was revealed in the biggest twist of them all. One of the survivors of the very first SAW film, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), was discovered to be working with Jigsaw ever since his successful game. With Hoffman killing Jill, using the ever-iconic reverse bear trap that the SAW series has been fond of, and Gordon fulfilling his oath to protect and avenge Jill in John Kramer’s absence, the good doctor locks the failed disciple in the bathroom that started it all — and without the courtesy of the hacksaw that allowed him to remove his foot and ensure his survival.
Ready for one last mind bender? A decade after John Kramer’s death, and almost just as long since the release of SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER, JIGSAW tells a story of the very first game that John Kramer ever cooked up in the name of his terrible legacy. Though the film frames this as a contemporary narrative, the truth is revealed at the end, along with the person who is actually the very first Jigsaw disciple in the SAW universe. Before Lt. Hoffman, Dr. Lawrence Gordon or even Amanda were ever studying under Kramer’s steady hand, a man by the name of Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) was selected to train up as a Jigsaw disciple. Though his eventual fate is unknown, it’s assumed that JIGSAW would have led to more adventures in Logan’s career as the new disciple.
We’ll eventually see how all of these exploits connect to SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW, when the film makes itself known to the world. For now, though, the crucial history is available for you to read through our recap and rewatch through AMC Theatres On Demand.