The future of the Saw series - Where do we go from here?
Updated: May 11, 2019
Few film franchise can boast 8 releases in a series. Even fewer of those are horror films. At the centre of our two sentence venn diagram would be the Saw series.
Long have I been baffled as to quite how the Saw series has ballooned into a colossal film franchise, that could well go over the billion Dollar mark. I imagine that the series gore has more or less carried it , afterall the story isn’t the strongest. It’s a visual spectacle for those people who looked at Avatar, and wondered what the alien animal’s intestines looked like.
With whispers of a 9th film in the works, which is likely to follow directly on from Jigsaw, I’m left wondering how the series can possibly continue much longer. There are several problems that Saw writers have created over the years, all of which make continuing the series that bit more difficult.
Jigsaw is dead. Like, definitely dead, but is he really?
As we all know, Jigsaw is dead - we saw him on a table being cut up for an autopsy at the start of Saw 4. This fatalistic blow hasn’t stopped the Saw villain from carrying out his ‘work’ though. In his absence, we’ve had a revolving door of sidekicks, all carrying out his work - committed to the cause. This extensive Tindr search for a protege has to date been fruitless both diagetically and cinematically, the latter being the most signficant.
We’re at a stage with Saw where the main villain, the most important and iconic part of the series is long gone - indeed a ninth film will be his 5th film anniversary of being dead. Any new villain cannot possible carry the same prestige that the character of John Kramer, played by Tobin Bell, could have. There’s only so many times that you can attempt to subvert this; the flashback game seen in Jigsaw was a little too predictable. We either need a new Jigsaw, who we categorically will not like as much (which seems the route they may be taking after Jigsaw), or to flashback in time unambiguously to when Kramer was still alive.
The gore escalator
Ding dong. It’s on your floor, and it’s time for you to board the gore escalator. This is a problem the Saw team have faced from Saw 2 onwards. If your film is a vessel to carry some hella gore scenes, then you’re inevitably going to have to take as many steps as possible to escalate that gore, to the point that it becomes almost impossible to achieve it. A simple gunshot that we saw in 2 is now replaced by the increasingly intricate mechanisms for people to chop their body parts of, all in the name of blood spatter on the lense. No matter what they choose to do with the story, this problem is going to persist. How do you achieve peak gore in each film, whilst simultaneously avoiding it so that you can improve it next time.
So, where can Saw possibly go to fix it’s structural issues and make it interesting to watch? And more importantly should they?
Time for a reboot?
Film reboots are thick and fast these days. How many Batman and Spiderman origin stories have we seen in recent years? Horror movies haven’t escaped this fate, look at Poltergeist, Texas Chainsaw, and Friday the 13th. Could it be time for Saw to be completely rebooted? It may be sensible, but it depends how they do it. I honestly don’t think a TV series would work, as I mentioned in my Purge futures blog. The Purge has much more potential to be stretched into an episodic structure, which I don’t think Saw could. It’s difficult to escape the perception of Saw as a vessel for gore, which I don’t see working on television. They’d have to shift the formula heavily in order to make it work on the silver screen. Could you imagine Saw as a gritty Scandi-Noir style Netflix series? I’m not convinced…
If the franchise does choose to reboot, I think it’s very likely to be on the big screen. The ‘gore as a spectacle’ formula has been shown to work there, with all Saw films returning a profit on expenditure, even if only moderate.
In terms of storyline, writers would be free of one of the aforementioned constraints, so they could remake a Saw series as they saw fit.
Explore the timeline
Saw is tricky in one regard, we’ve already popped our ‘first incident’ cherry in Jigsaw. We know how it started, and to look backwards into the story we would have to leap around at random which doesn’t leave much room for proper story progression across films. Ofcourse, we haven’t got an overall victim count for Jigsaw, so theoretically we could have a string of related murders in amongst Kramer’s life, but what would we do with these stories? We could have a little character progression I suppose, but we know that Jigsaw isn’t going to be caught. There’s no real threat to him, and so I don’t think an audience would particularly benefit from exploring this option.
In my opinion, this is the most likely option. We’ll finally see Kramer put to rest, and someone else will take over longer term than the other sidekicks in the series. It looks like Jigsaw has squared the series up for this. But, as I mentioned earlier, I can’t see this being particularly popular with fans of the series, which is why I think we’ve seen Kramer return even beyond his death so often. When it’s time to cut the Kramer cord, will it signal the end of the Saw franchise on the big screen?
If I had significant control over the series, which unfortunately for me I do not, I would be looking at other media to tell Saw stories now. Principally, I think that video games based on Saw have the potential to be interesting and perhaps sell rather well. Whilst Saw has been the focus of some video games, these were objectively really very bad. If you make a Saw game action based as they did, then you’re missing the point and just including needless filler.
I wouldn’t look at a console release with a Saw game I would commission, focusing on Steam. As such, I wouldn’t be pushing the game for as much as some of the big games. I think that there’s a fantastic opportunity to create a community around a small, escape room style Saw game released in the Steam store. Perhaps a ‘create your own’ Saw trap might be a good idea - you could put your friends in and see if they have what it takes to survive. I can already hear to classification board discussing how a wanna-be Jigsaw killer could practice in this game, and, whilst I’m not going to wade into the video game - violence debate here, I think that there is enough separation between reality and game to make it both enjoyable and realistic.
Just end it
This I think is the most unlikely option. Saw films are cheap and sell rather well. Why would they end it now? After all, the time to end it is after the peak of the series, Saw 3 probably making the final installment. With little story needed for a film, I don’t see this happening anytime soon. We may see a long hiatus, but Saw will be back and gorier than ever.
What do you think? Is there a future for the Saw films that I haven’t thought about, let me know!