As hard as it might be to believe, horror fans have spent the last seven Halloweens without a new Saw movie to satisfy their morbid curiosities. The annual horror tradition which started in 2004 ended in 2011 with Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. After seven installments and over $873 million in box office sales worldwide, the #Saw franchise rose to become one of the most successful in history.
Now, nearly a decade later, we're finally getting a long-awaited eighth installment of the franchise with Jigsaw, which hits theaters on October 27th. The continuation of the franchise after so many years (and after the nearly-certain death of its main villain) has left a lot of fans wondering how the story can be revived once more.
The truth is, the continuation of the Saw franchise is still hugely exciting for its die-hard fans, and for those that have yet to climb aboard the Saw train the film should still be a welcome addition to 2017’s stellar horror renaissance and a solid Halloween event film in its own right. For the series' gothic themes to still be so relevant 13 years later and to have so much fan intrigue is a testament to the series' stamina and society’s penchant for cyclical moral debate. Lionsgate successfully curated a lasting brand with respect to the story, the characters, and the traps — and that's not something that's easy to forget. So, let's dissect the aspects that set this franchise apart from every other horror series.
The Main 'Killer' Isn't Really A Killer
It's standard horror practice for the main villain to actually be the person murdering people. Without this standard, we wouldn't have iconic villains such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees (I know, I know, it was his mom in the first film!). But Saw flipped the tables when #JamesWan and Leigh Whannell introduced a villain that never actually killed his victims.
Even though the iconic Billy puppet is widely recognized by viewers, that puppet simply served as a proxy for the real Jigsaw "killer," John Kramer. However, we learn as early as Saw II we learn that Kramer merely places his victims in the traps he builds. The choices they make while inside that trap are entirely up to them.
That fact alone should be terrifying enough to any viewer: no one is actually killing the victims on the screen. They are simply placed in a situation and their own choices determine whether they live or die. We hadn't really seen that formula in horror before, and it was a concept that remained true to Kramer's character until his death. Any subsequent villains might have changed the course of the franchise, but we can't forget that it all started with a murderer who wasn't really a murderer.
Each 'Saw' Movie Is Connected
There are plenty of longstanding horror franchises. We can't always say that every single movie in a franchise is completely connected, however. Many often wind up being repetitive and interchangeable, episodic, or even contradictory. One satisfying thing about the Saw franchise is that each movie connects to the next, which is part of why the overall plot stimulates and motivates fans.
Obviously you can watch the first Saw without watching the original short film, and enjoyment of the sequels isn't based on having seen every film. But the overall experience is massively improved by catching all the films. That trend continued throughout the series as writers developed the characters and concepts.
The Franchise Is Timeless
Saw is one of those things that you either love or hate, but you can't deny that its power has held up against the test of time. Sure, you can look back at the first film and notice its age — but tape recorders, scary pig masks, VHS tapes, and an abandoned bathroom are things that still exist in 2017.
I think we're living in a culture that appreciates the value of nostalgia. To look back at how John Kramer used practical machinery and rather timeless technology to implement his games, it gives the franchise a life that isn't easily extinguished. Just as audiences still love classic horror like Halloween and Friday the 13th, the Saw franchise will remain relevant for decades to come — especially now that we have a new movie to push the games more into the current digital age. It's a little bit of everything at this point.
There Is Always A Way To Continue 'Saw'
While something of a franchise reboot, we are to understand that Jigsaw is a direct continuation of the story left by Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. In keeping with the rest of the series, however, that continuation doesn’t appear to unfold in a predictable or expected way. From what we can gather, this new Saw movie isn't a remake, but neither is it a traditional sequel… we will see what that means come Halloween.
As mentioned before, all of the Saw movies (so far) have been connected to one another, and it looks as though Jigsaw is following the trend by bringing back the Jigsaw killer for another movie. The fact that the franchise can still bank on the legacy of a character that died in the third installment is impressive on its own, and continues to prove that there's always a way to continue Saw.
I have no doubt that, should the time come for a ninth installment (or beyond), there will be some diabolical way to connect new characters back to Kramer or his apprentices. Similar to how Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. have created entire film universes stringing together major iconic comic book characters alongside long-forgotten or tertiary characters, the Saw filmmakers have succeeded in creating their own entire universe that pulls together events and characters from an ever-expanding timeline. That's something you don't see every day in horror, and it’s something we’re excited to revisit this weekend.
Be ready to play the game again when Jigsaw hits theaters this Friday, October 27, 2017.