When you mention you are a fan of the Saw movies, or for that matter are eagerly anticipating this week’s Jigsaw, the reaction from the majority of folk is easy to predict.

A mixture of disgust, bewilderment and dismay crosses their face as they instantly dump you into the basket labelled ‘mentally challenged’ – in fact the response would probably be more favourable if you casually announced you were planning a murderous rampage.

But why has this series of horror flicks become so castigated, the people that watch them so vilified and reviewers having reached the stage they don’t even bother watching them any more?

Because, if you wipe away the ‘torture porn’ gloss that these movies have been tarnished with, the Saw movies have a hell of a lot more brains going for them than virtually everyone on the planet gives them credit for – in my opinion at least.

Having watched the series again over the past week on DVD to prepare myself for the new instalment, I made the decision to pen a piece praising the Saw saga.

Now I am not about to say every one of the movies is a fantastic work of art, or a critical success (Saw 5 for example is pretty dire) but they are certainly not the shoddy hack jobs most would have you believe.

A case in point – take a look at any successful horror franchise over the years (say Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser etc).

The movie formula for those series is pretty simple – namely a successful original followed by a series of all-too-familiar sequels which see a different group of characters menaced in an identical fashion, usually with no connecting factor other than the famed killer.

Saw though is a very different beast – the series has created a mythology of the six/seven films, with all of the movies intricately sequenced, with characters cropping up and being returned to, hints dropped and events referenced.

In fact, it was only when watching the films again in a back-to-back fashion that I fully realised just how much emphasis was placed on making the whole thing make sense.

You could even go as far as making a case that it would be difficult to follow a Saw film if you had not seen the other chapters, or certainly not get the maximum enjoyment out of them.

Do not for one second think I am trying to paint the Saw movies as some sort of highbrow opus, but the majority of people see the traps and the gore and think that is all the films have to offer – which is simply wrong.

Another barometer has to be the various characters and the impact of the film on the horror genre itself.

Think Jigsaw, think the Pig mask, think Billy the sinister puppet on his tricycle, think the ‘I want to play a game’ tape recordings – all have passed into horror lore in a very quick fashion and there can be few, if any cinema-goers that would not nod in acknowledgement if asked if they were aware who the characters were.

And just look at the sometimes depressing stream of imitators that have surfaced since the original took the box office by storm back in 2004 (yes I am talking about you, Hostel).

These films have replicated the gore all right, but have neglected the humour, wit and cunning of the Saw series and replaced it with tiresome plots, over-the-top nudity and a severe lack of memorable characters.

No doubt when Jigsaw hits the cinema screens this weekend I will be there to see it, and I sincerely hope it does prove to be worthy, as there is nothing worse than a film series that long outstays its welcome.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.