The 'Saw' horror series: Can it bring the pain forever? And should it?

saw-jigsaw-lFor anyone who doesn’t happen to follow limb-dismembering, mechanized-torture horror films, the fact that the sixth entry in the Saw series is being released this weekend will seem unremarkable in just about every way. For decades now, gruesome new horror movies have arrived at the multiplex with big fat roman numerals stuck at the end of their titles. Only the most fanatical droolers of the “horror community” are even still counting. I mean, really, who would seriously bother to keep track of how many interchangeably cruddy Friday the 13th sequels there are? Or how many times Freddy Krueger ever came back from the dead to brutalize a new crop of Elm Street kids? Or how often the Halloween franchise has been scavenged, rebooted, Zombie-fied, and generally flogged to death? Quick, can you name all the Texas Chainsaw movies? How about Hellraiser? Who the hell cares?

Like I said, Saw VI sounds like bloody business as usual. But there’s a big difference. Every one of those other series enjoyed a brief period, of maybe two or three years, in which they really connected with an audience, followed by sequels of increasingly diminishing returns, released in a spotty, opportunistic, every-few-years fashion, during which their appeal was bled dry. The Saw series, by contrast, has been a clockwork blockbuster, a squirm-in-your-seat annual carnival for gore freaks. The first one was released on Oct. 29, 2004, and by the time Saw II came out exactly one year later, on Oct. 28, 2005, the series “owned” Halloween. The release date had become part of the brand, almost as if Lionsgate had licensed the holiday.

For the horror audience, going to a new Saw movie has become an essential Halloween ritual, a kind of torture-porn equivalent of watching The Wizard of Oz once a year on TV. And even though the new Saw film, at least to me, is easily the worst in the series (here’s my review) — it’s the first sign that the whole premise is really running out of gas — I suspect that the simple, power-tool-meets-Rocky Horror ritual of going to another one will trump any bad word of mouth.

Or will it? What I want to know, from anyone who considers him or herself a Saw fan, is: How long can this series go on? And how long should it go on?

That booby-trap-crazy, lugubrious-voiced sicko-genius known as the Jigsaw killer, played by an increasingly reluctant-looking Tobin Bell (I now look at him and think that he’s thinking, “Is this what I’m going to be remembered for?”), was killed off several installments ago, and watching him bring the pain from beyond the grave has become an increasingly strained exercise in back-story convolutions. If it’s our destiny to be watching Saw XVII by the time the next decade rolls around, what should the producers do to revitalize the series? Or is time that the Saw franchise, like its victims, was offered the option of a quick and painful death?

Comments (164 total) Add your comment
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  • Matt

    The first ‘Saw’ was ground-breaking-ly different. The second one had the better premise and twist. The third one starting reaching way to far to connect the pieces and characters together. I haven’t gotten half-way through the fourth one. Ignored the fifth one. And am completely turned off by the fact that they used a VH1 reality show to cast a part in the sixth one. STOP already!

  • @ImStillToni

    I gotta agree with Matt – the first Saw was groundbreaking. Saw 2 & 3 were not that far behind. I’ll even give a pass to Saw IV because the story was so interwoven between them movies I gave it a pass. But I had to stop at Saw V. I have it right here in my house and still haven’t watched it. The storyline grew weaker while the horror became more like torture porn and I totally agree with Matt – VH1’s Scream Queens completely made me write off the entire franchise. Damn shame…they had a good think and let the almighty dollar ruin it (as usual).

    • Birch Barlow

      —I had to stop at Saw V. I have it right here in my house and still haven’t watched it————–
      You have it, but didn’t watch it. So you either 1). haven’t seen it (you shouldn’t comment on something you haven’t seen), or 2). you saw it at the theatre and still bought the dvd (which means you apparently liked it).

      • thin

        Hey Birch, you should re-read that post you’re criticizing, because 1) he made no comment on it other than to say that he had not seen it, and 2) it is entirely possible to have a DVD in your house that you have not purchased. Have you never heard of renting or borrowing?

      • LB

        yes, or gifting.

  • Heather

    The first Saw was amazing because unlike most horror films, it had an interesting plot and a crazy ending twist. At this point though, the Saw franchise has become just hours of gore and it has lost the appeal the first few had. I think this should be the last one.

  • AK

    Really, you all liked the second one? I thought by then it had already gone off the deep end and that’s when I quit. But the first one remains a surprising guilty pleasure of mine.

    • Cait

      I watched most of the 2nd one on TV and thought it was a spoof…until the name of the film came up at the bottom of the screen.

      • Willy

        SAW II was on TV? with all the editing, how long was it, 15 minutes?

  • Quirky

    If the powers to be in TV land can produce 75+ hours a year of grisly CSI murders, then I’m not surprised that someone can make a simple 90 minute torture porn movie every single year like clockwork.

  • Raymund

    People need to stop watching this franchise. That way they won’t have to torture us year after year.

    • Jade, UK

      They’re not forcing you to watch it are they? How are they torturing you if it’s YOUR choice wether to watch it or not.

  • Austin

    My comment is this. I saw it. I loved it. The fifth one was a downer, but the sixth one brought the momentum back up. If people really don’t want to watch them, then don’t. There is an audience for the franchise, and looks to me like they aren’t going to be canceling anytime soon. If you don’t like it; ignore it. Don’t tell people to stop making money just because you hate it. Seriously, try the sixth one out, it’s really not bad.

  • Dan

    The first three were great in my opinion. The fourth one was meh, the fifth one sucked. The sixth one, however, was the best one, in my opinion, since Saw II. See it.

    • m.

      haven’t seen the 6th one, but i agree about 1-3 been good, 4 weak and 5 sucking.
      So my hopes for 6th just raised.

  • Justin

    These movies are completely ridiculous. It says something about us as a society that we turn movies about watching people get tortured into success. This happens to real people all over the world every day but surely that’s irrelevant, right?

    Ridiculous.

    • JustinSane

      It says something about us as a society when we feed off reality tv, celebrity gossip, dim-witted half hour sitcoms(2 and a half men) and crime/hospital shows that rehash the same crap. Want to know what this says about us as a society? We’re HUMAN.

    • Ian

      I couldn’t agree more. All the low-lifes that watch this crap should get a hobby, a girlfriend, a job or all of the above.

      • Trace

        I own all 5 Saw films. Loved the first 3….hated 4…thought 5 was pretty bad too. I loved the 6th one. Best one since the second one in my opinion. Now according to you I have no life. But I have a job, I’m also a college student, I have a boyfriend. and I have several hobbies. So please don’t bash the fans just because you don’t like the franchise. It’s disrespectful.

      • Jade, UK

        We’re not sad because we like to see a franchise you don’t like. Everyone goes the pictures to see films they like.

    • t3hdow

      Torture has existed many centuries before any of the Saw films, and earlier generations of people are arguably more brutal than we are with nowhere near the hyperactive media we have. A few Saw films won’t turn half the populace into complete psychopaths.

    • Pants McCracky

      Well, at least now the masses are watching torture and murder in fictional movies rather than in real life. Progress?

  • Bill

    The first one is an under-rated suspense masterpiece, with much less gore than you’d think. Very Hitchcockian.

    The second one is like the transition of ALIEN to ALIENS. Amped up, more characters, more jolts. But in a good way. A worthy sequel.

    The third one is decent, but the dimishing returns set in. Still, the way it folds back to the first movie, it creates a nice trilogy.

    The fourth and fifth movies are weak, and somewhat forgettable. Much more on-screen gore, but a whole lot less clever. And the killer in both installments is such a weak “reveal”. Bad casting choice.

    And the sixth? I think they’ve really.. prdon the pun.. bled the concept dry.

    • Mr Bunny

      You’re f’ing kidding? Hitchcock is spinning in his grave and Ridley Scott just got a cold shiver w/ that estimation (opinion). You can’t substitute acting and brains w/ eyecandy and whatever flavor of the we(a)ek is on the menu presently. It’s a cash cow, nothing more.

      • Bill

        Im a HUGE Hitchcock fan. And yes, I stand by my original comment. It’s not an American film classic, but the first Saw movie is a great suspense ride. With good acting. And real suspense.

      • Bill

        It follows the Hitchcock formula of putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations. And Jigsaw, in the first movies, is a classicly good movie villain. I think a lot of people that bash Saw have never even seen it. The first movie was NOT “torture-porn.” Most of the icky stuff is off-screen, and there’s actually very little of it. It’s more the anticipation… a hallmark of Hitchcock. It’s too bad each successive Saw movie devolved…

      • Birch Barlow

        The first movie was excellent. The concept was unlike the typical horror film. It is a classic. Certainly, the series has suffered from its own success. The desire to refresh it every year has taken a toll on the story. Then again, who remembers Psycho 3?

  • Aaron

    I’ve only seen the first one–against my will–but in terms of revitalizing the series, I’ve always wondered if there’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure way to put these movies together because Saw seems like the perfect concept for that kind of test run. Maybe shoot several different endings depending on the outcome of a certain torture and randomly send to them different theaters (a la Clue.) Or maybe each theater has an option an hour into the movie to vote for which character goes next and that version of the last half hour is then screened. Saw just seems like the kind of template for the audience to “get involved” with the “story.”

  • .

    I saw the first one and thought it sucked. I’m amazed there’s a 6th one.

  • Jose

    First of all, if people pay to see it, it belongs in theatres.

    Second of all, DO YOU REALIZE HOW BENEFICIAL THE SAW BLOOD DRIVES ARE??? yes, it’s a promotional gimmick first, charity function second, but that doesnt make it inherently evil.

    and finally, “I mean, really, who would seriously bother to keep track of how many interchangeably cruddy Friday the 13th sequels there are? Or how many times Freddy Krueger ever came back from the dead to brutalize a new crop of Elm Street kids?” ME. I DO. DEAL WITH IT.

  • mark

    if u want a real scary movie, see paranormal activity. scares you without the gross stuff

    • Megan

      I agree with you. Blood and guts are always needed for a good scare. I really enjoyed Paranormal Activity.

  • Megan

    I agree with everyone else. Saw 1-3 were good, 4 for a good enough. I never saw the the 5th one and I don’t plan on seeing the 6th. Wikipedia shows there will be at least 2 more. PLEASE STOP!

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