The film “Saw” is a 2004 independent horror film that quickly made its way to the top of box office charts around the world. While some audience members believe the film to be a pseudo-snuff film, die-hard fans often assert that it was the first art-house horror flick of its kind and set the stage for one of the most successful horror franchises of the modern age. Regardless of whether a viewer is a die-hard fan or staunch critic of this film, one will be torn on their perspective about the antagonist of this film: Jigsaw. While some viewers will argue that Jigsaw exhibited typical psychopathic tendencies throughout this film, others posit that he was merely attempting to utilize his expertise to help individuals find redemption; this analysis will be arguing for the latter.
There are many examples throughout this film that give the audience reason to believe that Jigsaw is not a maniac killer, but rather a damaged individual with a unique sense of justice. What separates him from a serial killer is that he always allows the victims a chance to survive, although they often have to sacrifice something. He also brings elements of their past into the picture, as a way of making the victims know they must make a change. Finally, the sacrifice that he forces people to make is often directly related to the crime or bad deed that they had enjoyed in the past.
Jigsaw’s victims always have a chance to survive. Jigsaw does not simply kill the people that he kidnaps, rather he sets elaborate traps that the victims must escape from. Although the traps are crude and often painful, they are by no means inescapable. He even states multiple times throughout the film that salvation is often steeped in the pain of sacrifice, which is a piece of wisdom that he was given following his terminal cancer diagnosis.
Not only does he utilize elements from his own experience in his salvation philosophy, but he also pulls parts of the victim’s own past into his traps. For example, he will kidnap people who have heart others in the past and put them in a trap; these traps will force this person to hurt their own bodies in the same way that they have hurt other people. Jigsaw often argues that this dredging up of past acts makes it possible for his victims to find salvation and make sacrifices.
Finally, the traps that he sets make it very clear that in order for people to survive they must make a sacrifice. This sacrifice that needs to be made often results in the person being unable to perform the bad deed that landed them in the traps in the first place. For example, there is a scene in which a man who is hired to spy on people must sacrifice his vision in order to live. It is these acts of vigilante justice that draw the line between Jigsaw’s behavior and that of a serial killer.
In conclusion, although Jigsaw has a twisted view of justice he is merely trying to be a vigilante to help people reach a state of salvation, without resorting to religion. Through his methods of allowing the victims a direct line to their own survival, providing them with insight from the past as to why they were kidnapped, and forcing the victims to make a steep sacrifice, Jigsaw is enacting his form of justice. Therefore, although he is the antagonist of the series. His reasoning is not that of a serial killer but rather that of a damaged vigilante.