Detective Eric Matthews (originally scripted to be named Eric Mason) is a fictional character from the Saw franchise. He first appeared in a fake documentary entitled, Full Disclosure Report: Piecing Together Jigsaw, featured on the Uncut Edition of the original film. He officially appears in Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV. It was originally stated that Donnie Wahlberg (who portrayed Eric Matthews) would not be reprising his role in Saw III due to creative differences, but this turned out to be a hoax conceived by Lions Gate Entertainment to throw off fans of the series trying to dig up details on the film.
Eric's first appearance was in the fake documentary titled "Full Disclosure Report" which was featured on the Saw: Uncut DVD. A reporter stated that Mathews' extensive force and bad temper might be one factor that was holding police back from solving the Jigsaw case. A clip of Eric entering his car was shown as a reporter asked Eric for some information on the case, also asking about the reports of Eric's brutality. Eric responded by pulling out his gun and yelling, "What brutality?". A fellow officer then pulled Eric back to his car.
Eric appeared in Saw II as the father of Daniel Matthews, and as an ex-detective doing desk work. He was called to the scene of one of the Jigsaw Killer's recently discovered games, where Eric was asked by his ex-partner, Detective Allison Kerry, to identify the victim, who turned out to be Michael, a police informant used by Eric. While leaving the scene, Kerry pointed out a message written on the ceiling, which stated, "LOOK CLOSER DETECTIVE MATHEWS." Annoyed with Kerry for bringing him to the scene to be goaded into the investigation by the message, Eric announced that he had enough work to do, while having to deal with his wife's divorce lawyers.
Later, while trying to sleep, Eric remembered the brand name of a padlock used on the device that killed Michael. With this information, he decided to tag along with Kerry and SWAT Commander Daniel Rigg to an old warehouse that they believed to be Jigsaw's latest lair. Finally coming face to face with Jigsaw inside, Eric was put into a test. Eric was told that he had a problem to deal with, and uncovered numerous computer monitors that displayed a camera feed that showed his son, along with seven others, being held captive in a house. Confronting Jigsaw, Eric was told that Daniel was in danger of the nerve gas that was being pumped into the house, but that if Eric were to sit and have a conversation with Jigsaw for long enough, he would get his son back. Eric, under advice from Kerry, reluctantly sat and began his test. During his conversations with Jigsaw, it was revealed that Eric had once been a ruthless and brutal police officer who used extreme measures to complete his assignments, going so far as to plant evidence on suspects and shoot down unarmed suspects. However, Jigsaw seemed to state that Eric at least felt alive during those times, but was now cowering behind a desk. Eric eventually left the conversation with Jigsaw to watch his son's progression through the house with the seven strangers, only being convinced by Kerry, who was revealed to at one point to have been Eric's mistress, to threaten Jigsaw's work as a way to find his son's location. When that did nothing, Jigsaw revealed that the seven strangers in the house with Daniel were in fact seven ex-convicts who had been arrested by Eric after being framed with false evidence. Eric, under Rigg's advice, began to aggressively attack Jigsaw, punching and kicking him repeatedly and breaking his finger in order to find out where his son was being held. Jigsaw stated that Eric's game was over, and that he would take Eric to the house. Together, they escaped from the building without Eric's team, and drove away in a van. Jigsaw gave Eric directions to the house along the way. Leaving Jigsaw in the van, Eric went through the back door of the house, and found the corpses inside in a state of decay, as if having been there for an extended period of time. He managed to get into the foundation of the house, where he stumbled across the bathroom from the first film, where his son had already been to. Expecting to find Daniel there, Eric was attacked by Amanda Young, dressed in a pig mask, and rendered unconscious. It was revealed that the feed of the house that Eric had seen was not in fact live, but had been a recording. Daniel had been locked in a safe that had sat a few feet away from Jigsaw during Eric's test. When Eric woke up, he was shackled by the ankle to a pipe in the bathroom. Amanda revealed herself to be Jigsaw's apprentice before sliding the door shut, leaving Eric to die.
Eric managed to free himself from his shackle in Saw III, mere minutes after having been locked away, by smashing and breaking his foot to the point that it could slip through. Flashbacks later in the film showed him escaping the bathroom. Limping through the basement hallways, screaming for his son, Eric quickly passed Amanda, who hid herself and began panicking. Eric attacked Amanda and severely beat her with ease, despite his injuries. When he demanded to know where Daniel was, Amanda spat in Eric's face and kicked his broken foot, then began to walk away. Eric taunted her, saying, "You're not Jigsaw, bitch!", which prompted her to turn back toward him. It is unknown what she did next, but she seemed to believe that Eric was dead as she told Jigsaw that she "returned the favor" for him taking her life from her. Jigsaw corrected her, saying that he had cleaned up her mistakes.
He is also spoken of by Kerry during the film, describing the guilt that she felt after his disappearance and having hallucinations of him.
It is revealed in this film (which takes place concurrently with Saw III) that Eric had been missing for six months. As Daniel Rigg began his own series of tests, he learned that Eric was still alive. Flashbacks show that after he taunted Amanda, she did not kill Eric and instead beat him unconscious out of anger. He was dragged into a cell by another man, where he was imprisoned until the time came for Rigg's tests. During this time, he was supplied with food and a heavy iron brace for his crushed foot. He and Mark Hoffman (the man who imprisoned him) were at opposite ends of a seesaw scale; Eric stood on a slowly melting block of ice with a chain-noose around his neck, while Hoffman was strapped into a chair with an electrode by his feet. If Eric slipped off the ice, he would be hanged and the runoff water would tip to Hoffman's end and electrocute him. Tired of being used as a pawn, Eric was ready to give up, saying "I don't want to play anymore" and twice attempting suicide by jumping off the block.
These attempts were thwarted by Art Blank, another man in the test who was forced to watch over Eric and Mark. Once the 90-minute timer for Rigg's tests had run out, Art would be able to release them and himself. Eric realized that if the door was opened ahead of time, two large ice blocks would swing down from the ceiling and crush his head. Art gave him a gun and one bullet with which to stop anyone from coming in. As Rigg approached the door, Eric shot out through it and hit him in the stomach. Rigg entered the room with one second to spare, releasing the ice blocks and killing Eric.
A flashback of his death is seen in Saw V, and his picture is on display at a memorial for the officers who had died up to that point.
Eric had originally been written to be killed by Amanda in Saw III after she marched back towards him after his taunts. In the original script, Amanda had stabbed and slashed Eric repeatedly in the neck, killing him. According to the Saw III DVD commentaries, this scene was filmed but removed against the director's will from the movie, so that he could be kept alive for Saw IV, since the other main characters of the franchise were killed off.
During an interview, Wahlberg offered his opinion of Matthews:
I think he's a selfish person. He's the type of person who's incapable of concerning himself with other people's feelings including his son's. In his mind, he probably has bigger issues. As we discover, he's not the most ethical person in the world. It all makes sense if you think about the first movie and what Jigsaw's mode is; what his MO is. This is a guy who doesn't really care anymore and he's kinda mailing it in. It's no mistake that he's brought into this case. It's by design and I think Jigsaw probably knew that this guy wouldn't want to get involved in the case and that's why he singled him out. When his name is on the ceiling, he's basically saying, "You are going to be my next subject." If my character was a little less selfish and a little less self-absorbed wasn't in a world of self-loathing, he might have been smart enough to realize that he was being pulled into something. That's sort of like life. We are at time so worried about ourselves we miss other stuff; and if you get carried away with that like my character does, it could really get you. In most cases and in real life, we figure it out before it's too late.
In the same interview, Wahlberg commented on the appeal of playing this character:
He didn't care about himself. I hope that audience would get that he cares about his son, but that doesn't mean I expected the audience to have sympathy for him. If they believe that he knows he made a mistake, that's good enough. I didn't want the audiences to say, "What an asshole!" I don't know if women in the audience care about Cary Elwes from the first Saw film. I think they still thought he was a bastard even if he didn't sleep with that woman. His mistake put him in that predicament and in real, if you mess around on your wife, you're probably not to going to end up chained up in the bathroom somewhere with a saw, but you can still make a mess out of things. What I kept zeroing in on with my character and his son is when I talk to my son, I tell him I love him every time I hang up the phone. I say, "I love you," when I drop him off at school, only because I want to make sure that the last things I say to him is something wonderful. That's one of the things we added to the script. That was one of the best moments for my character, to see what was the last thing he said to his son. When Jigsaw asks him that, that was something I had to have in that scene. If you are a parent, you will probably say to yourself, "That's not good." That's the thing that you have to live with.