The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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It's finally official: We won't have 'Saw' to kick around anymore

July 22, 2010 |  5:20 pm

Saw If you've ever seen a couple of "Saw" movies--there have been six so far, with a seventh on the way later this fall--you know that calling the movies torture porn is one of the nicest things you could say about them. The gruesome films, which have made hundreds of millions of dollars for Lionsgate and the franchise's producers, are full of enough violence, sadism and sexual degradation to make Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films look like "Sesame Street" episodes.

So it's with a great sigh of relief that I read this post from USA Today that says that the films' producers will use a Friday Comic-Con appearance to announce that they're hanging up their razors, chain saws and other torture devices and heading for the hills. If the films didn't make you nauseous enough already, you'll really gag when you read the participants patting themselves on the back for exploiting their sadism-starved audience, with Lionsgate president of acquisitions Jason Constantine boasting that the movies were clearly worthy because they "became part of pop-culture discourse."

The truth is that even the series' most gullible fans have grown tired of the gore and mayhem. "Saw" reached its peak with its second and third installments, which each made more than $150 million worldwide. Since the third film was released in 2006, the franchise has been in a steady decline, with "Saw VI" dropping off precipitously, only making $61 million worldwide, less than half of what No. 5 made. The new film, "Saw 3D," is clearly a last-ditch effort to cash in on 3-D mania before the series closes up shop.

After being re-edited, the new film received an R rating from the toothless MPAA, which rarely punishes filmmakers for making movies crammed with extreme violence and mayhem. In fact, "Saw" producer Mark Burg bragged to USA Today that "Saw 3D" is "more violent than any of them." Tobin Bell, who plays Jigsaw in the new film, adds that the series' critics can say what they want, but "we must have been doing something right." On that point, we agree. The "Saw" exploitation team is finally doing something right--by calling it quits.  

Photo: A scene from the movie "Saw VI," released in 2009. Credit: Steve Wilkie / Lionsgate