The Pain Train is truly awful for the primary reason that Saw: The Final Chapter is so bad, it's attempting to ring juice out of a gimmick that has long gone dry. The entire concept is built around a big drill on a track that just drives forward and tears Jill Tuck into pieces, and is meant to look good in 3D, and not only does it look awful, it's just a dream sequence, the worst sin.
Though the Saw franchise gained a reputation for having “Rube Goldberg”-like contraptions that ripped people apart, the only one that actually fit that description came in the final movie in the series and despite featuring some fine gore, it's the most over-thought trap in the entire franchise.
Sean Patrick Flanery's Bobby is the primary test subject of the film and while some of the games he ends up playing are quite great, the initial game sees him hanging in the air and having to simply jump away from a pile of spikes. Thematically it has no real baring on his “sins” or the game itself, it's just kind of...there.
The shotgun chair is in fact the only trap in the game where death wasn't actually an option. Detective Hoffman was tricked by Jigsaw into thinking he was in a game which ultimately turned into him becoming his apprentice. The design itself is a good trap, but the... execution... is poor.
The primary crux of Saw V's traps are several different rooms that the victims must survive and easily the lamest is the room wired to explode with glass jars containing keys to get inside of hideaway tunnels. The “twist” of the film is that if the five victims worked together they all could have survived, which is fine in and of itself, but this room seems a little too extensive for a Jigsaw trap anyway.
Not to be totally outdone, one of the other rooms from Saw V's main game requires an electrical current to be finished so that the door can open. How the “players” turn on one of their own to get it open is pretty great, but overall it's too tame considering if they'd “followed the rules.”
This trap is a total 0-60 thing as it requires the victim to stab his own eyes out or have all of his limbs ripped off. It's quite cartoonish in execution and while we don't mind seeing the victim get ripped apart, it's not Jigsaw's best work.
There's so little context for this trap because it's only on screen for a few seconds and it appears to just be two people hanging over several lawnmowers (and surrounded by Christmas-themed lawn gnomes??) and one just has to kick the other into the lawnmowers. Okay, sure, whatever.
I recall when promo photos for Saw IV first arrived online and people theorized that Donnie Wahlberg's Eric Matthews was hooked to a machine where ice blocks would smash his head, a crazy and stupid prediction that actually ended up being right. It's hilarious to see the ice crush his head, but also it's a wicked stupid trap.
In this game, one victim must guide the other across the room while they're blinded and hanging from a rope. The catch being that the only means across are short and brittle beams, so one wrong move and they slip off and die. The trap itself has a cool design but overall isn't really creative.
Saw VI has one of the best thematic series of traps as they're all based around a health insurance executive forced to actually choose who lives and who dies. The first (and least interesting) of the lot puts him up against the janitor of his building, a lifelong smoker, and boils down to a “hold your breath contest.” Again, the trap itself is pretty cool in its design, but the conceit of the idea is goofy.
This trap is what kicked off Saw IV for audiences and it still makes no sense. Two men, one with his eyes sewn shut and one with his mouth sewn shut, are tied to a machine that will pull them together and (seemingly) strangle them. The two end up finding weapons around them and try to kill each other, which would appear to be Jigsaw's plan all along. The problem, of course, is that there is no accounting for why they're even in this trap specifically. There is no thematic reasoning, it just exists.
The simplicity of the trap is peak-Jigsaw and it's a great idea overall, but the way that it's handled in the film is mind boggling because the victim never attempts to actually win what should have been an easy game.
Again, there's little context for this game overall in the film, and it exists as a distraction primarily. If there was anything else to go on besides two drills slowly coming at the victim, maybe it would crack a higher slot in the list.
The trap itself gets points for going back to basics and being a pain-induced game, but where it fails as a Jigsaw trap is two-fold: It gives the victim too much help in solving, and it is not life threatening in the slightest - dude just has to pull out two of his teeth.
The main issue with this first trap in the main game of Saw V is just how quickly it's over. Once the victims know what's going on, it's practically over. Though the head slice that happens at the conclusion of the trap is aces.
The Spike Trap has a good central idea, two victims (a husband and wife) have several spikes through their bodies but for one they're mere flesh wounds and for the other they're mortal wounds that have pierced arteries. In order for the wife to survive, she must pull the spikes from her body which will ensure her husband dies. An all around decent trap, but the poor acting in the scene taints it overall.
Another game where the victim has little choice in their own survival (and about the moment in the series when the traps started to jump the shark), but it's quite silly to see the victim's hair bound in a machine that just yanks it back.
The Impalement Wheel is one of the only 3D moments in the film that is actually worth it, as the victim finds herself bound to a machine that slowly pushes her toward a series of pipes that will pierce her eyes and mouth. What makes the trap lame is that the only way to save her was for another victim to pierce his sides, for just a minute, and he was somehow unable to do so.
The game is a classic because it manages to be both simple and complicated. The victim is naked and covered in a flammable substance. He's stuck in a room with glass all over the floor and told he has a slow-acting poison in his system. In front of him is a safe with the antidote, but the combination is written on the wall... along with thousands of other numbers, and his only light source is a candle. It's a pretty good trap!
The conceit of the main game in Saw III is about Jeff Denlon, a man broken by the death of his son by a drunk driver, and each game sees different people involved in his son's death at his mercy. The freezer room sees Danica, a woman who saw the accident and fled the scene, bound and being sprayed by water that will eventually freeze her solid unless Jeff frees her. A well thought-out game but the weak link is Jeff's self-inflicted pain is just ripping a bit of skin off his cheek. Nothing so extreme as cutting your own foot off.
As far as the person vs person traps go, this one is pretty fantastic. Two bankers that recklessly hand out loans have devices on their head that will screw into their temples unless they give up more of themselves by weight than their opponent. It's quite gruesome to watch the two try and cut pieces of themselves off in order to win, though the competition traps remain something that goes against the original idea of Jigsaw. (To be fair, at this point it was no longer the original Jigsaw creating the traps)
This is the round in Saw VI when the theme becomes even more clear to the audience and the main victim: two people are strung up and standing on ledges, and you can only save one before they're both strung up by barbwire and hanged. Who do you save? The working mother with a family or the lonely, single guy with no family to speak of? It also gets points for Billy the puppet's entrance.
The main character in the last Saw movie actually has a clever reason for being put in a Jigsaw trap: He claims to have already been put in one and survived, a trap that he claims forced him to put hooks in his pectoral muscles and climb up to freedom. In the true spirit of humor, Jigsaw forces him to do this very thing, but what really makes it great is how it rips away hope from you at the very last minute.
Detective Strahm was never meant to survive this trap, which sees his head inside of a glass box that slowly fills with water. Its his clever way out of it that makes the Water Box so much more interesting than its original intention, as he pierces his throat with a pen and gives himself a way to breath.
This trap saw a victim tied into a machine with four pipes pointed at her neck, and a fishing line going down her throat with the key to get her out attached to the hook. The catch of course being every time the volume in the room got above a whisper, the pipes would move forward, so she had to endure the pain of a fish hook scratching the inside of her throat while not making a peep. Needless to say, she did not win.
Again, the competition traps in the entire series seem off-base for Jigsaw's entire purpose, but this one is both interesting and devious as hell. Two men (Ryan and Brad, each bound to one end of a table) both believe themselves to be in monogamous relationships with a woman (Dina, suspended from the air) but learn that she is playing both of them. The trap sees a series of movable saws in the middle that the two men can move to try and slice each other or, what they end up doing, slicing Dina open. It's a ridiculous trap but there is a funny meta commentary here under the surface.
This is hands down, the most disgusting thing in the entire Saw series. Fully grown and decomposing pigs are ground up and dumped on a man who will drown in the gunky liquid. What keeps it from cracking the top 10 is the key can only be gained by Jeff Denlon burning his dead son's possessions. Certainly an emotional scar but not nearly in the league of mutilating yourself.
Unlike the larger game of many of the other Saw movies, the main game in Saw II was a trap in itself. The inhabitants of the house were being poisoned with a slow-acting nerve gas and the only antidotes could be found in the other traps around them. That those traps themselves are mostly more interesting is what keeps this one from being higher, but the fact that it's tangentially connected to the first movie via underground tunnel.
The “choice” theme of Saw VI is pushed to the maximum as six of William Easton's employees are put on a rotating carousel with a loaded shotgun set to execute them all, unless he intervenes. It's brutal, nasty, and honestly one of the best sequences in the entire series.
The trap that kicks off Saw III sees its victim pierced with chains all throughout parts of his body including loose bits of skin, his hands, the tendons in his feet, and even his jaw. Unless he ripped himself free and walked away, the bomb in the room will detonate and kill him. It's gnarly and one of the most gruesome traps in the franchise.
What rules about the Glass Coffin room is how all the victim (Detective Strahm) had to do was follow the instructions and enter the coffin, but since his stubborness gets in his way, he ends up being squished by the moving walls of the room and suffering probably the most painful death in the series. Also, this trap has one of the best final shots in the series.
This device was Jigsaw's very first trap, and in fact, he started out with a great one. To escape, all the victim has to do is push his face through some intersecting knives in front of him. Unfortunately the device was kind of faulty and the victim escaped without actually “beating” the game. It still looks like it hurt.
The culminating event of the main game in Saw V sees just two survivors left, both tasked with filling a jar with 10 pints of blood via a box outfitted with buzz saws and suction tubes. Like all of Jigsaw's games it can be survived and won, but with perhaps the most permanent damage and one of the most painful.
The secondary game in Saw III sees Dr. Lynn Denlon given a simple task: keep Jigsaw alive. Should she fail to do that, the device around her neck will detonate six shotgun shells right into her face. It's not pretty before and it's definitely not pretty after.
The victim had the device hooked into her ribs and had to pull the key out of a jar of acid, melting her hand down to the bone. Though the actual way out of the trap is maybe not as bad as others, the end result is horrifying in its gruesomeness and gore but also strangely beautiful - perhaps the only Jigsaw trap that could double as an art installation.
Jigsaw's second trap is one of his best and the best example of his mission. The victim was a man that cut his wrists for attention, not to actually take his life, so in order to survive this trap he has to cut himself again. A path through a full thicket of razor wire awaits the man and though he tries his best to get through, it doesn't work. The most baffling thing about this trap is that the police seemingly left it up after their investigation (as seen in Saw V)
Though not technically a Jigsaw trap, the device does fall in line as it was Detective Hoffman's introduction to the killer. Hoffman created an elaborate trap (which was un-winnable) in order to get revenge on the man that killed his sister. The man had to crush his hands in hydraulic presses or have himself split open with a pendulum, and though he does what the game asks of him, he is still killed.
One of the more elaborate games in the entire series. One victim has to make her way across a maze with boiling hot steam as another player can open the path for her only by having the melting hot steam blast different parts of him. She manages to escape but has a secondary device attached to her with the key hidden inside the other victim's body. Before she can cut it out of him though, the device triggers, sending spikes into her brain.
One of the most visceral traps in the entire series. It has a tub filled with thousands of dirty syringes and the key to a safe with a nerve gas antidote - it gives new meaning to needle in a haystack. Amanda Young, a recurring character in the series, is thrown in wearing nothing but thing clothes and no shoes and forced to dig through the glass and needles to find the key, which she does, but it's still too late.
To some, the acid trick at the end of Saw VI may seem too over the top, but it was one of the only gimmicks in the entire series that took me by surprise the first time I saw it. The “Game” sees the family of a man who died from being denied his health insurance given the choice to kill the man that made that decision, a choice that the deceased man's son willingly chooses. After flipping the switch, a large metal grid flies down and hits William Easton in the back, piercing him with hundreds of needles, and then filling his body with acid, and melting him like the Wicked Witch of the wst.
Jigsaw's own favorite of all his various traps, the device sees its victim bound with their limbs in rotating cuffs, all of which will twist 360 degrees unless Jeff Denlon removes the key from a box with a shotgun pointed outward. As Jeff wrestles with the satisfaction of seeing the man who killed his son die, he eventually concedes and tries to get the key out, but it wouldn't be Saw if things went perfectly, would it?
What is so tragic about the Razor Box is how the victim found herself particiapting while succombing to the effects of the nerve gas. As a result she saw an antidote within reach, albeit through which she would have to put her hand through interlocking razors to retrieve, and gets stuck, doomed to bleed out in a box within minutes.
The most iconic trap in the series doesn't even get properly used until the last movie in the series, but that doesn't mean it's not an engineering marvel, as twisted as it sounds to say it out loud. Not only is it wicked cool in concept, it just looks plain awesome.
But as great as the Reverse Beartrap was, the Death Mask at the start of Saw II edges it out by just a hair. The victim's task is simple, cut the key out from behind your eye and set yourself free. Since he was unable to do that though, one of the coolest-looking traps closes down on his face and kills him.
Naturally the trap that gives the entire franchise its name is the best in the series. It's easy to forget how many moving pieces are in play for the “Bathroom” and just how long the two participants have to “get out,” but it really was Jigsaw's masterpiece, even if the power of Dr. Gordon's rusty amputation and the final scene was watered down by subsequent sequels and reveals.