Saw came, Saw conquered, Saw…stuck around for a lot longer people were expecting. The franchise that popularized the torturous trend in mid-2000s horror arguably peaked early with critics: The original 2004 movie is half-appreciated for hardening the genre and for its infamous twist ending, and half-detested for its empty obsession with gristle, gore, and guts. But audiences lapped up the visceral thrills, and after the first sequel ramped up the pain and plot twists to box office highs, a franchise was born.
With part III, the story went full Search for Spock and pulled off the Saw equivalent of blowing up the Enterprise: It killed off its main malevolent villain, Jigsaw. But ol’ Jiggy is nothing if not meticulous, and was able to continue his warped games of moral vengeance from beyond the grave (not to mention with continuing appearances from fan-favorite Tobin Bell) for several more sequels. But by the seventh Saw, the mythology had become too complicated and the grosses (the money kind) were trending downwards; Saw 3D was ordered to cram several movies’ worth of plot into one whip-lashing finale.
After seven years, the series returned in 2017 with Jigsaw, which enjoyed a critical response that was about as sparkling as could be expected based on previous encounters. But the box office appeared encouraging enough to continue on for a ninth entry. Spiral: From the Book of Saw, a standalone entry starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, is releasing after a yearlong delay caused by COVID. Before we see where Spiral places, we’re ranking all Saw movies by Tomatometer!