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Do we really need another Saw movie?

By now, creatively hacking off limbs is so blasé.

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cinemas and would stop defining so much of mainstream horror.

 

So when I saw the trailer for the franchise’s comeback, Jigsaw, a couple weeks ago during a screening for Blade Runner 2049 (2017), I couldn’t help but be surprised. Not only because I thought I’d never have to hear the phrase

“I would like to play a game” mumbled by a doll again, but also because things have shifted so much in the horror zeitgeist in the aftermath of the 2010 demise of Saw. More ambitious pieces like Get Out (2017) and It (2017) have become become genre definers. “Torture porn” is so mid-2000s.

 

As such, the comeback feels abrupt and kind of unnecessary. Are there really new, persuasive reasons to watch terrified individuals getting tortured and maimed for 90-plus minutes?

 

I find the Saw movies to be wasteful and repetitive feature-length dares friends watch together as if they were endurance tests. They completely trivialize violence, and with the public already so desensitized to the increased explicitness of carnage in entertainment, this further onslaught of nasty imagery benefits no one.

 

It could be (and has been) argued, though, that the Saw movies, along with other designated torture porn films like 2005’s callous Hostel or 2009’s grimy The Human Centipede do have artistic merit and value. By depicting characters suffering through unthinkable atrocities, our ability to empathize with their experiences as viewers thus redefine what it means to be scared senseless by a horror movie. And extreme depictions of violence, it could be said, are as much a stylistic choice as Wes Craven’s usage of self-referential dialogue in the Scream quartet (1996-2011).

 

It’s true that the horror genre has remained so timeless because there are so many ways to freak out audiences, too. Without the diversity brought in by disparate subgenres, it would, after all, perhaps be deader than the cheery Technicolor musicals that burgeoned during the Hollywood Golden Age.

 

But based on the direction the Saw series has worked toward since the original premiered in 2004, it’s clear that it doesn’t care about playing audiences like pianos as much it does outdoing a previous entry’s body count. They give the horror genre, already so polarizing to begin with, a bad name. And because good movies of the genre are already so hard to come by, it’s disappointing that Jigsaw will be among the few easily accessible horror offerings we’ll receive this October.

 

But maybe the franchise’s newest entry will be a reinvention, even though it’s the seventh(!) chapter. According to promos, the film will take place a decade after the death of the series’ antagonist and focus on the emergence of a new serial killer who has a similar modus operandi (profile) to the eponymous villain. It will also be directed by brother filmmakers Peter and Michael Spierig, whose Predestination was among 2014’s best science fiction features. 

When gore is the thing you’re marketing most, however, potential for quality is slim. 

 

If you must watch a sequel in a series far past its prime, I’d suggest you look in the direction Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, released last Friday. Though I suppose I couldn’t say that title five times fast even if I really tried, and I suppose sitting through a hurricane of unfunny zingers can wear down a cinephile’s soul, both are preferable to gratuitous decapitations and jaw rippings. Plus, Perry’s a lot cuddlier than a tricycle-riding Muppet.

 

 

- OCTOBER 27, 2017 

 

This piece also appeared in The Daily.

T

o quote Ira Madison III, “keep it.” 

 

Today marks the unanticipated return of the infamous Saw franchise, a six-movies-in-six-years-long exercise in monotonous gore that came to an end seven years ago. Because bad box-office returns for Saw 3D (2010) seemed to be the final nail hammered into the saga’s coffin, I had gotten used to the fact that this unabashedly lurid sextuplet was finally banished from