Do we owe the Saw franchise respect after six years?

This is the one weekend every year (in recent memory) where a majority of the film-loving community lets out a collective groan. It’s “Saw Weekend,” and in 2009 the Saw franchise celebrates its sixth birthday.


Then again, it’s not that I’m really all that miffed this time around. When Saw IV and Saw V came around, that’s when I was miffed. Now that we’re all the way up to Saw VI, I just feel apathy.

After all, if a movie franchise is strong enough to join the ranks of the Police Academy series and The Land Before Time anthology, it deserves a lethargic tip of the cap at the very least. Then there’s the business end of things. When you can spend somewhere between $1 and $10 million on a film and make at least twice the high end of that in your opening weekend guaranteed, that commands cinematic respect, even if you disagree with the product.

I watched the first “Saw” back in ’05 at the recommendation of a friend in my dorm on a night where we knew of no parties to mooch off of. Then I watched one scene from the second when it came out on DVD and I happened to be in the room. I thought it was creative horror, the kind that really gets under your skin, but I imagine the novelty of that feeling has to wear off eventually if not just seem stupid.

But as much as many of us might frown upon the gratuitous amount of torture horror in theaters these days, very few filmmakers ever have the opportunity to release a film annually with the assurance of making a profit. And they don’t even have to add colons with subtitles to entice their audience – just up the Roman numerals ever year – and the money rolls in.

Last year, Saw V racked in $30 million for Lions Gate in its opening weekend, which would have made it No. 1 for the fourth year in a row had it not been for High School Musical 3. Still, even with the competition, it did just as well as its predecessors, all of which fell in the $30 million range in their first weekend. The competition is nothing near HSM levels this year, so the stage is set for Saw to see No. 1 again.

Look at total domestic gross, however, and the Saw films have dropped from $87 million (Saw II) to $56 million (Saw V). The user ratings have steadily dropped from a 7.7 (Saw) on the imdb scale to a 5.8 (Saw V). Is this the year where fans of the movies decide they’re not getting enough quality in return for their dollar? My guess if the film will take a 10 percent first weekend cut due to this and the economy, but old habits die hard. Why else would I still be watching Smallville now in its ninth Season? What you’re seeing here is hooked fans going right away and then because of the tedium and decline in quality, a consistent drop in the number of borderline fans going a week or two later.

Then again, that’s still $46 million in profit for Saw V, and that’s just domestically. Overseas, Saw films are loved even more, so double that figure. There’s really no end in sight (and apparently the current story line is supposed to take us through at least Saw VIII.)


I don’t know. There’s a fine line when you’re huge movie fan between respect and loathing for successful movies in a genre you dislike. That’s why at this point I just don’t really care. We’re going to get more “Saw” whether we like it or not. We could get upset about that one weekend a year being monopolized, but HSM 3 proved Saw films don’t suck away dollars from competition: They target their fans and that’s it. They’ll get them, get their money and put the next into production right after. Things are only harder for the other horror films that want to come out around Halloween. Why else would Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 come out in August? This might seem weird, but fans of other horror movies should be more miffed about Saw VI than I am.

Perhaps a day will come when Saw movies go straight to DVD and we don’t have to have this discussion about them each time. Perhaps it will go on anyway to break the record for the most theatrical releases in a series (though it’s got nearly a couple decades to beat out James Bond). If it does, the way I see it is that some of us will care – and some of us won’t.


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