And to commemorate the release of Jigsaw’s newest splatter-fest, the fine folks at Lionsgate have asked us to take a look back at the Franchise in a bit of a retrospective. So, without further ado…
In 2004, writer James Wan and director Leigh Wannell unleashed Jigsaw, a terminally-ill cancer patient with a penchant for torture and blood-stained irony, onto the world. Driven by an effective ad campaign and some pretty big buzz, the little 1.2 million dollar film that took 18 days to shoot went on to make over $102 million worldwide. With such a gigantic return it was inevitable that Jigsaw would make a second appearance…
On October 28th, 2005, the second SAW movie hit theaters, and again it was a box office juggernaut. Leigh Wannell came back as a writer, but Darren Lynn Bousman took over directing duties. Starring Donnie Wahlberg, the movie took Jigsaw out from behind his proverbial curtain (or, more specifically – his creepy-ass puppet) and made him more of a presence, giving him a bit of backstory. They also upped the ante on the trademark traps the movies had become known for – just to get anecdotal, the “needle pit” scene made my skin crawl. Critical reception was lukewarm but the fans didn’t care, costing only $4 million, SAW II raked in over $150 million.
On October 27th, 2006, SAW III hit theaters. Original writers James Wan and Leigh Wannell teamed back up to write the script that Darren Lynne Bousman would return to direct. Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith both come back to reprise their roles and, even though I haven’t seen anything past II, it sounds like the traps get exponentially bigger. What also got bigger was the promotion. With this, Lionsgate finally started pushing the connection Halloween with the tagline “If it’s Halloween, it must be SAW.” Several special posters were made with star Tobin Bell’s blood mixed in with the printing ink – the proceeds from said posters were donated to the Red Cross. The efforts proved fruitful as the movie took it’s $10 million budget and used it to bring in $160 million worldwide.
The first film not to be written by at least Wannell (nor James Wan), Bousman returned to direct a script penned by Patrick Nelson and Marcus Dunston. Released on October 26th, 2007, SAW IV saw the return of Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith, among others. The biggest selling point of the movie was Jigsaw’s death, and his autopsy book ended the film. The promotional campaign for IV wasn’t quite as robust as that of III and the returns subtly reflected that. Made for approximately $10 million, IV was the first SAW film to see a dip in profits, making only $139 million worldwide. Althgough I suppose with such a meager budget, “only” $139 million probably isn’t the most appropriate phrase.
On October 24th, 2008, Americans got the fifth installment of the series. Directed by David Hackl and written by IV’s Nelson and Dunston, V was the first of the series to not be led by one of three guys who helped build the brand. With the added absense of Tobin Bell in a substantial role, the film had a real lack of familiarity and it suffered, both critically and financially. Again, with a budget of $10.8 million and a worldwide gross of just over $137 million, the film made over ten times its budget. But on its opening weekend it failed to reach number one at the box office, losing to (of all things) HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3, marking it as only the second SAW film (along with the original) that failed to open at number one.
And now, on October 23 of this year, we’ll get to SAW VI, written again by Nelson and Dunstan and directed by Kevin Greutert. The plot promises to reveal Jigsaw’s overall scheme and bring back a lot of older characters (including Shawnee Smith‘s Amanda Young), if only in flashback scenes. Another interesting component to this film is the casting of Tanedra Howard, who won the 2008 VH1 Scream Queens Competition.
Will SAW VI resume the franchise’s tradition of taking the top spot at the Box Office? Will PARANORMAL ACTIVITY prove to be this year’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3? You can find out on Friday.
This article is brought to you by Lionsgate and SAW VI, in theaters this Friday.