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HomeFeaturesSaw X: Legacy or narrative stagnation?

Saw X: Legacy or narrative stagnation?

The Saw franchise has stood as a pioneer, weaving a story of gruesome games and morality over the span of 19 years and 10 movies.

The original Saw went into uncharted territory, introducing audiences to a world of twisted games and moral ambiguities not yet seen in mainstream horror at the time, inspiring horror fans and macabre artists alike.

Saw quickly grew into a cult classic as fans made rewatching the series a yearly tradition.

“It used to make you feel like you were part of something bigger, lining up outside theatres with other people who like this niche thing as much as you,” said Terry Hunt, a local horror fan who has followed the series since its initial release in 2004.

Over the years, however, fans seem to have fallen away from the series as the films continue the original narrative.

With its latest instalment hitting the screens at the end of September, the discourse around the Saw series has reached new heights, and some fans are expressing an excited, nostalgic feeling seeing one of their favourite series come back.

“Saw was one of the first horror movies I’ve ever seen. It was so different from anything I’ve ever seen before, and it really was what pushed me into the larger horror community,” said Sabrina Vance, a longtime horror fan.

In the latest addition to the Saw franchise, Saw X, the series takes a controversial turn by delving deep into the backstory of its iconic lead character, John Kramer.

In the wake of its release, horror fans are questioning whether the franchise is pushing the boundaries of the genre or simply continuing its tired, traditional story.

Saw X serves as an in-between movie, taking place between the first and second films, adding to the initial storyline.

However, this film is anything but traditional, as it breaks down a lot of what fans have come to expect from this franchise.

These films have been built up to have the man behind Jigsaw, Kramer, acting behind the scenes, usually off-screen for many of the films, though this newer addition breaks that mould as Saw X almost exclusively centres around Kramer and why he is doing what he is doing.

“Saw X returns John Kramer to the root of his mission, showing people the error of their ways and asking them what it truly means to be alive,” said Brian Tallerico in his review of the film for Roger Ebert.

Despite its return to the original vision, many fans are pushing back.

Industry analysts attribute the declining popularity of the horror genre to a preference for film series over standalone narratives, whereas fans and critics suggest that the horror fad may simply have run its course, paving the way for other genres to rise.

The traps have become the focal point of the Saw franchise over the years, becoming increasingly gruesome, varying from climbing out of a needle-filled pit to cutting off one’s own limbs, but some feel Saw X had little to offer from its traps.

“This didn’t feel like a Saw movie; there was so much dialogue, and the traps felt completely weak compared to the ones in previous movies. This was a “lore-builder” we didn’t need,” said Hunt.

With the shift in narrative towards a more dialogue-heavy story, some viewers are questioning the purpose of continuing to add to the series despite the narrative being already completed.

However, some fans are focusing on the balance most series must undertake between honouring a series’ legacy and updating its narrative but not becoming repetitive, a balancing act many series in the film world struggle with.

Many fans are saying the series could have ended where it was, as Kramer has been dead for a long time in the series and there has yet to be any deviation from its original formula.

Despite Saw X taking a slightly different approach to the story by focusing on Kramer, it still follows a formula similar to its initial releases.

“I almost wish they tried to do something different with Saw X to catch us by surprise. I would have rather the producers to try again with a new sequel than go back and reiterate parts of the original story,” said Sydney Pham, a local horror fan.

Despite the fan discourse around Saw X, it scored the highest ratings out of the series, with 80 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, and producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules are already discussing another addition to the series.

“For us, we do have ideas for the next one, we haven’t put pen to paper,” said Koules in an interview discussing the release of Saw X.

After its nearly 20-year run, fans find themselves at a crossroads trying to decide whether the series is now chasing nostalgia or aiming to reshape the horror landscape once more.