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News Article

The Art of 'Saw'

I gotta admit something, faithful readers – I really miss the SAW franchise. Or at least the event-like spectacle nature of getting a new entry in the Jigsaw saga every October just in time for Halloween. It's been two years since the final chapter and I think a big part of why I'm bummed is personal sentimentality for the series. Let me explain…

Like most of you I grew up a huge fan of horror and would hit up the local video store to devour everything and anything that our beloved genre had to offer. Not too many of my classmates and friends understood or fully accepted my odd obsession; they just all thought I was a complete weirdo. (Fair enough.) But I did have a cousin a few years younger than me who I knew I could corrupt and show the way to the dark side. Sure enough it worked, and although I probably scarred him terribly for a handful of his formative years, he turned out just fine. There was a long gap where my cousin Danny and I were on different paths, as often happens with growing up, but then we both caught the first SAW movie, separately. After discussing it at great length, it not only rekindled our friendship, but our love of the horror genre. And so, from the first SAW sequel on, we had our tradition firmly set in place. Every time a new one would come out, we'd both be there for the Thursday midnight screening the day before the release date. January, we'd trek over to Best Buy to pick up the DVD of the latest theatrical outing. Come September, the director's cut edition would come out just in time for the new theatrical release and we continued making an event out of the whole wacky Jigsaw series.

I was reminded of all this because when I'm not contributing articles to FEARnet or working on Icons Of Fright-related stuff, I work at a video store; and I was doing a bit of research on a limited edition version of the first SAW on DVD, that came with a bonus disc with previews for other Lionsgate titles such as The Devil's Rejects and High Tension. (It was a Best Buy exclusive if you're curious.) With that little tidbit, I thought it'd be fun to revisit all the various editions of the SAW franchise from the beginning up until now, because at the very least they all have some pretty crazy, creative cover artwork. Here we go…

SAW I – Man oh man. Little did I know when I picked up this transparent case with a saw visible on the actual disc and a severed foot as the sole artwork that it'd be the first of many variations I'd own of not only the first SAW, but its many sequels. It's the R-rated cut from the theatrical run and the disc boasts a fair enough amount of extras, most notably a commentary track with SAW creators James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (writer, star). Interesting enough is Wan noticing the color palette a bit off for this DVD, something that was rectified in the Blu-Ray edition.

Several months after this, and just in time for SAW II, Lionsgate released 2 editions of the "uncut" version, something I found kind of odd considering Wan had to stretch out scenes with newspaper clipping montages just to make the feature-length running time! What new material was added in I've never been able to notice. However, we did get two impressive new packages, the first being a traditional DVD cover with the severed limbs, and more impressively the "blood pack" version of the uncut DVD, which came with liquid blood embedded in between the layers of the front cover. (Sadly all the red coloring has evaporated in mine and it's simply clear liquid now.) The most notable addition to this disc is the original SAW short film that got the movie financed.

SAW II – The first edition of SAW II on DVD was similar to the original – it came in a transparent clear case and the disc itself had a saw, as well as an image of "Billy" the puppet. The outer sleeve feature the two severed fingers and that catchy as hell tagline "Oh yes… there will be blood." It also came with the cool prequel comic book SAW: Rebirth, which gave a little bit more insight into Jigsaw's beginnings (hinted at in the actual film).

The second version of SAW II to hit store shelves features a newly remastered alternate cut along with a new commentary by Wan and Whannell. It also featured a second disc loaded with more special features, including Darren Lynn Bousman's student short film "Zombie". It's always fun to see the early films of the directors that tackled this series.

SAW III – This is where things get interesting, since the series could've easily ended here at number 3 and rounded itself out as a neat little trilogy. But at this point, the SAW train was moving full speed ahead and the timing of all these releases was meticulously plotted out. First came the "unrated edition" DVD which was slightly more graphic than the theatrical cut and runs 113 minutes. (Pretty epic for a Part 3 of a series!) Again, similar packaging, transparent clear cover, buzzsaw blade and three teeth hanging from wire, which ironically enough wasn't anywhere in the movie. At this point, they were churning these movies out so darned fast that the initial idea to have a teeth-centric trap was changed but the marketing campaign remained!

Just prior to SAW IV, we got SAW III: Director's Cut, a noticeably different version of the movie that runs 121 minutes and features a few shots and scenes in slightly different order; not to mention reinstating a few music cues by Charlie Clouser that director Bousman preferred. Yet again, new commentaries on this edition and a second disc previewing the next film.

If you wanted to call it quits right here, then there was a fun little box set that came with a 3D Billy head (pictured below) or the Blu-Ray trilogy set mimicking one of SAW III's most famous and cringe-inducing traps.

SAW IV – At this point from SAW IV and on, they thankfully took mercy on our wallets and only released one "uncut director's cut" edition of each subsequent film. So with (*spoiler alert*) Jigsaw dead, we get another clear package, saw blade and Jigsaw's head with the tagline "It's a trap." I actually like this entry in the series quite a bit, but nothing can take away from my memory of a completely baffled and confused audience flooding into the parking lot of the movie theater at 2am trying to figure out how the hell the movie they just watched ended. For the full skinny of what just happened, both commentary tracks are recommended.

SAW V – Oh SAW V… what can we say about you? I remember waiting in the lobby for the midnight screening of this with my cousin Danny and Icons co-creator Mike C and all of us reading aloud the tagline, "You won't believe how it ends." Mike remarked, "Hopefully this year we'll understand how it ends." And we did! As the main character, Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) gives us exposition dialogue throughout the entire film to make sure we understand. I will say this; the packaging is pretty darned cool and deviates from the "Saw" image on the actual disc. For this one, it's Agent Strahm in the water cube trap (a great, great set piece for the entire series) and the disc itself is blue water. So when in place it gives the appearance of a full cube, and when you remove it, it empties.

You have to admit, the limited edition package (which I hunted down and now own) made things a lot more interactive and fun! Check out this video clip to see what I mean:

The UK edition sported the teaser poster image of someone wearing a Jigsaw mask. And here's something I never even knew existed, a box set with SAW 1 through 5 and this really cool packaging:

SAW VI – SAW VI got a bum rap, mainly because of audience's frustrations with the previous entry, but more notably because it opened against a little movie called Paranormal Activity. That said, it's a shame it wasn't as big a hit as the other films prior because it's probably the best of the sequels which offers everything we've come to love about the SAW franchise, as well as finally answering and paying off 3 movies worth of set-up. This one neatly tidies up the franchise, and it could've ended here, but alas, Jigsaw had not gone 3D yet!

The packaging yet again is similar to previous ones, offering the tagline "The game has come full circle," which it had with this entry. I was always a bit puzzled by the UK cover pictured below though. Not sure what the boxing glove hands were supposed to symbolize, but it's worth sharing regardless.

SAW 3D (aka SAW VII) – There was only one loose thread in the SAW franchise, which could've remained that way, but with one last entry to go, fans wanted to know what ever happened to Dr. Gordon, Cary Elwes' character from the first movie. In actuality he was missing in action due to a lawsuit with his management firm and SAW producers Evolution Entertainment, but once that was all squared away and settled out of court, it set the stage for Dr. Gordon to make his grand return to the series, which ends on a very mean-spirited and -- dare I say? -- Fulci-esque note. Regardless, the mousetrap cover is pretty cool, as is the 3D UK Blu-ray artwork below.

And while a complete boxed set of all 7 films isn't available here in the US, it didn't stop one from coming out in the UK. Below is the art for the DVD box set, as well as the Blu-ray edition, both pretty sweet.

So readers – which of the above discs do you own? And which editions are your personal favorite and why? Sign off on the SAW series below in our comments!