“Torture Porn” was a thing in the 2000s, something I’m still trying to wrap my head around. Admittedly, part of slasher films’ appeal is the outlandish death scenes. However, that was the exclusive appeal of torture porn. Before you accuse me of being an old man yelling at clouds (which I am, btw) I’ll acknowledge one series that stood apart: “Saw.” The “Saw” series helped launch “torture porn” and was insanely popular, spawning nine movies in less than two decades, and becoming an annual Halloween tradition from 2004-2010.
Even for people who don’t like “torture porn,” its storyline is iconic and helped establish Tobin Bell as a horror legend. Dying from an incurable disease, the central character Jigsaw (Bell) does what any normal, well-adjusted person would do, and forces innocent victims to play elaborate games to save their lives. With these pieces in place, “Saw” was basically a license to print cash. While almost all of them made a lot of money, the series hit its peak with “Saw III,” which banked $163 million in 2006, or $236 million today. “Saw” quit while it was ahead with 2010’s “Saw 3D,” came back for 2017’s successful legacy sequel, “Jigsaw,” and then produced the franchise’s lone bomb, “Spiral,” in 2022. Starring and conceived by Chris Rock, this pseudo-sequel/spinoff didn’t connect and probably confused audiences too. With $39 million worldwide on a $20 million budget, you could say “Saw” found itself between (Chris) Rock and a hard place.