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|“||I want to play a game.||„|
|~ Jigsaw's most famous catchphrase.
|~ Jigsaw's other infamous catchphrase.
|“||The knowledge of death... changes everything. If I were to tell you the exact date and time of your death... it would shatter your world completely. I know. Can you imagine what it feels like to have someone sit you down and tell you that you're dying? The gravity of that? That the clock's ticking for you.||„|
|~ John Kramer explaining his viewpoint.|
John Kramer, better known as the Jigsaw Killer or simply as Jigsaw, is the main antagonist of the Saw horror film franchise.
He appears as the main antagonist of Saw, Saw II and Saw III, one of the two main antagonists (alongside Mark Hoffman) of Saw IV, the posthumous main antagonist of Jigsaw and the posthumous overarching antagonist of every other entry in the series.
He is a former civil engineer who, after going through several traumatic events, became a deluded and obsessive serial killer with the intention of teaching his victims that life is precious. He is probably most famous for intimidating his victims by using Billy the Puppet, a special small red and white kabuki-like doll. He is aided on his schemes by his many apprentices, including Amanda Young, Mark Hoffman, Lawrence Gordon and Logan Nelson.
|“||Those who don't appreciate life do not deserve life.||„|
|~ John Kramer's most basic motive to justify his sadistic games.|
John Kramer believes that human beings have an instinctual will to live in the face of death and that years of evolution have caused their survival instinct to dull and now, people are unable to appreciate their lives. After losing his unborn child and getting diagnosed with cancer, he unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide, which, as he claimed, opened his eyes about the human race. Now a changed man, he vowed to test everyone's will to live for the greater good. As Jigsaw, Kramer targets those he considers to be ungrateful to live, including criminals and people with extreme personal issues.
Though the nature of his tests are incredibly brutal, Kramer shows no enjoyment in the suffering of his victims. Instead, he believes that it will help them reevaluate themselves, as most of his victims have already hit the rock-bottom in their lives. He is deeply sympathetic to surviving test subjects such as Lawrence Gordon after he amputated his leg to escape and roots that they live.
However, Kramer takes a small amount of enjoyment in his tests as he smiled when hearing the screams of the imprisoned detective Matthews (who previously beat Kramer to near-death, so maybe he was happy to hear him screaming for assaulting him) and targeting the corrupt William Easton for his apprentice Mark Hoffman to test after his death when he refused to treat his cancer despite just claims his mission could never be personal (though it might not have been and he simply wanted to break Easton's biased philosophy, as John wasn't the only victim of William's policy).
Kramer is also deeply distasteful for killing as he does not consider himself a murderer due to always giving his victims a chance to escape their fate. On a technicality, Kramer became too weak to even put test subjects in their tests and relied on his apprentices to do most manual labor for him such as abducting and implicating victims, so he rarely participated in even second-degree murder.
Jigsaw had many victims, a number being patients at the clinic. Some of the most notable are:
Rise of Jigsaw
Kramer was a successful civil engineer who got into property development, in particular, a building called Gideon, the name he would choose for his beloved, future son.
Cherish your life
|“||Cherish your life, your life.||„|
"Cherish your life" was the motto of John's rehab clinic (being the concept of all his traps), which his wife ran. His rehab clinic was the place where his pregnant wife was attacked by Cecil, who attempted to rob it for drugs on Amanda's request. From his car John saw Cecil running away, discovering his wife injured after going inside to see what had happened. John rushed her to a hospital, but while his wife survived his child did not. As a result, John became enraged and detached. As if things weren't bad enough, he was soon diagnosed with colon cancer by his doctor, Lawrence Gordon. He attempted suicide by driving off a cliff. Surviving, but with severe injuries, he then decided to dedicate the rest of his life to teaching people to appreciate their own lives through physical and psychological torture, starting with Cecil.
Jigsaw usually builds deadly traps for his subjects, which are often a symbolic representation of what Jigsaw perceives as a flaw in the person's life. Jigsaw calls these tests "games", and tells the person the "rules" of the game usually by audio or video tape. The rules are tasks that the person must perform in order to pass the test and survive; however, the tasks often involve extreme self-mutilation (although there have been occasions where it is possible for the subject not to harm themselves if they are clever enough, such as the Hand Trap). On occasion, Jigsaw has used psychological torture for the subject's test.
The subject of one of Jigsaw's games is therefore always presented with an opportunity, the aim of which is to reinvigorate the potential of the subject, jump-start the survival instinct and instill a celebration or "savoring" of life. Jigsaw intends through these traps to force his victims to prove to him that they are "worthy" and "deserving" to continue living, and also for them to learn to abandon what he perceives to be their vices. Jigsaw often expressed a desire for his victims to succeed, but stressed that their fate was always in their own hands. The video and audio tape instructions for his games often echo this idea: "Live or die. Make your choice."
These traps come in 6 forms:
- Standard Traps — Devices or scenarios to a victim or victims, usually with the effect with causing serious bodily harm or death if not removed by completing a given task in a specific time period. Examples are the Reverse Beartrap and Death Mask.
- Competition Traps — Traps involving two or more victims who can survive these traps but only at the expense of the other victim's failure. Examples are the Bathroom and Pound of Flesh.
- Tests — A test that involves a victim being given "rules". The outcome of the test is affected by whether or not the victim follows the rules and wins, or breaks the rules and loses. Losing often results in some sort of loss such as suffering serious injuries or the death of loved ones and/or friends. Examples are Zep's Test and Eric's Test.
- Trials — A series of tests and traps that the victim(s) must face involving psychological torture from the beginning of the trials up until the Final Test. Examples are Rigg's Tests and William's Tests.
- Final Tests — The last test in the Trials. Culminates in a final decision that is designed to directly relate to and put to use what the victim has learned from their Trials. Examples are Jeff's Final Test and Ice Block.
- Security Traps — Traps designed for security reasons. They can be used to halt the progress of the victims and prevent them from proceeding, or to protect Jigsaw and his apprentices from the police or other attackers. Examples are the Quadruple Shotgun Hallway and Magnum Eyehole.
- Jill Tuck: John was married to Jill years before taking up the role of the Jigsaw killer. Their marriage was generally happy until Jill miscarried their unborn child, Gideon, after being struck by a door by Cecil, a junkie who was robbing her clinic. John became very distant and after being diagnosed with cancer and surviving his suicide attempt, he began his role that would gain him the name Jigsaw. Still, despite his change, he still loved Jill, guaranteeing she would not be connected to his crimes, and leaving instructions in his will for his associate to carry out revenge if Jill was killed.
- Amanda Young: One of his earlier victims, John kidnapped her and placed her in a device known as the Reverse-Bear Trap, which she had to escape. After freeing herself, John approached her, as she believed he genuinely helped her become a better person with her test. Believing he truly saved her, he took her up as his apprentice and she followed his commands as he taught her to carry out his work when he died. He showed much care for her as she showed devotion to him, and was sorely disappointed upon learning Amanda was designing traps to be inescapable, going against his philosophy. He still saw hope in her and was willing to test her again, for her to spare someone's life and was saddened as she failed and died.
- Mark Hoffman: John abducted Hoffman after learning Hoffman had tried to pass a murder as another one of Jigsaw's killings. He chastised Mark on making his trap unwinnable, that every person deserved a chance to fight to survive. But John saw potential in Mark, and took him up as an apprentice. John acted more critical towards Mark's work, as Mark wanted to design tests his own way that differed from John's. John was also unsettled by Mark's brutality and overall disregard for human life.
- Logan Nelson: One of John's doctors who accidentally switched his brain x-rays with another patient's which prolonged the time before he was diagnosed. Jigsaw kidnapped him during one of his earlier games (before the events of Saw), but freed him after deciding he didn't deserve to be killed because of an honest miscalculation. The bodies from the game were never discovered, and Nelson would later take up the Jigsaw name and recreate the same game to see if he was "as talented" as John was.
- One thing about John Kramer that definitely stands out in comparison to other serial killers from popular horror films is that while he does kill many people, he doesn't wish for them to die even though he acts indifferent to their deaths. He even doesn't enjoy seeing them die on his traps, given his philosophy that he just tests the people to make them appreciate their lives. This arguably makes him one of the most complex horror film villains of all time.
- Most of his victims are people who were callous toward the life of others (like William Easton) rather than people who lacked the will to live (like Paul Leahy).
- Though it's confirmed in Saw IV that John constructed Billy the Puppet as a toy for his unborn son Gideon, some fans have noted that the puppet design was very disturbing and horrific for what was meant to be one of the toys of a newborn child. Tobin Bell had expressed interest in exploring Billy's backstory in the ninth Saw film, but Spiral was ultimately an stand-alone film to the previous installments and didn't include neither Jigsaw nor Billy.
- A character modeled after Jigsaw and Billy the Puppet, named Pigsaw, appears in the Peruvian online game website Inkagames as the titular antagonist in the Saw Games, a game series based on the Saw franchise. Rather than a human, Pigsaw is a living puppet who wears a blue outfit (while grey on the TV) and kidnaps fictional characters, Spanish YouTubers and other famous celebrities.
- There's a popular, humorous theory since 2014 that John Kramer is an older Kevin McCallister, the main protagonist of the Home Alone films. The theory indicates that after his encounters with Harry and Marv, Kevin becomes mentally disturbed and starts making more complex and lethal traps over the years. Both Macaulay Culkin and Saw director James Wan have given their approval to the theory.
- Jigsaw is mentioned in the 2018 horror film Blood Fest.
- Despite enjoying playing Jigsaw, Tobin Bell has stated that he would be willing to move on from the role to allow other actors to play Jigsaw. However, most filmmakers associated with the franchise have stated that they have no intentions to recast the role.
- Billy made a cameo appearance in the 2017 anime TV series called Love Tyrant.
- Spiral is so far the only film in the series where John doesn't appear, but he is mentioned several times and a photo of his autopsy from Saw IV is seen. Despite this, Darren Lynn Bousman and his crew discussed about having John appear in the film until the final day of filming. One idea considered by Bousman involved Tobin Bell singing a Johnny Cash cover during the ending sequence so they could at least have Bell's voice in the film, but the idea was discarded for feeling too gimmicky. In contrast, the Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger considered to have a post-credits scene where John met a young William Schenk after his father's death and gifted him with Mr. Snuggles, but the idea was discarded as well.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw