A couple of weeks ago I was asked to review instalment eight of the Saw film series and in analysing the film I begun to consider the untapped potential within the franchise. All the pieces are there to make great horror cinema, but rather than scaring me senseless it provoked unintended laughter and sympathy for performer and consumer alike. Rather than spit lyrical all things wrong with the films, I decided I'll put my words where my mouth is (wait, what?) and see if I can’t not find a way to ‘fix’ the franchise.
Now I say fix, but each film in the series has made money and they’re a way away from going ‘direct to video’, but whilst Jigsaw turned in sixty million on a ten million budget and opened up number one at the box office, it was also the lowest opening yet for a Saw film and suffered poor reviews. My point is these films make a little when they should make a lot, they’re entertaining when they could be iconic and land somewhere between Friday the 13th and Final Destination when they’ve got all the makings of a Halloween. As I said, I’m not gonna sing about it - I’ll just say how I’d do it.
For all the quality lying dormant in the series; the character of John Kramer aka the Jigsaw killer, the traps, the marketing, the gore, Billy the Puppet, the ‘Hello Zepp’ theme and the time manipulation across the series timeline, there are two key elements to a great horror film that no ‘Saw' film has yet featured; a worthy protagonist and a deep dive into the Kramer family history. Since they killed John off in film three, I’d use both elements to refresh and rebuild.
Taking into account but largely ignoring films 2-8, I’d make it a game of whodunnit built around the idea of John Kramer as a martyr inspiring copycat killers. Bad traps and executions turn America’s sense of morality against itself, as angry young men attack ethnic minorities and angry young women retaliate against oppressors - all in the name of John Kramer, a man who fought back against the ills of society (I’m going broad strokes with the political allegory). Jigsaw’s living family are contacted to help quell unrest, including obscured relation and niece Laura Kramer, a junior defence lawyer for a small human rights firm (fighting for the disenfranchised through the system rather than in spite of it). She denounces Jigsaw, his methods and his followers - which leads to her clients being ‘trapped’ by followers - who demand confessions and her allegiance to Jigsaw (or it’s literally their heads). As the police struggle against the clock, Laura has to use her smarts to uncover who on the inside is working for the spirit of Jigsaw. Spoiler alert; it’s not her mysterious new boyfriend, but rather her quiet younger brother Joseph, back from University (having studied Civil Engineering? Too much?) and keen to carry on Uncle John’s work. Thus the game begins again with the cult of Kramer led by little Joey and his bloodlust to turn sin on the sinner.
God bless the United States of Jigsaw.