Saw X is the horror franchise’s first hit in a long time. What now?

Disciple of Jigsaw Eliza Janssen was, like many surprised critics and horror fans, impressed by the Saw saga’s recent tenth entry. Here’s the direction she hopes the scary series turns towards.

It takes a lot of time, attention, and guts to really, properly see Saw. The OG film is one thing: it instantly jump-started the careers of Aussie director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell, and made low-budget, twist-laden “torture porn” one of the biggest horror subgenres of the 2000s. Watched in isolation, it’s still an ingenious, energetic little indie-style scarer, with thrills that were easy to replicate for a string of wallet-packing sequels. Perhaps too easy.

Even the most dedicated disciple of John Kramer (returning series supervillain Tobin Bell) couldn’t have expected that, in the year of our Lord Jigsaw 2023 AD, we’d be up to Saw 10—or Saw X, rather, as the franchise’s erratic Latin titling conventions dictate. From 2005 to 2010, a new entry to the franchise was released every dang Halloween, with longer waits between later chapters Jigsaw, Spiral, and this latest grisly slice.

Is there really enough sanguine substance here, to justify parent company Lionsgate wheeling out old mate Billy the Puppet yet again, his appearances now numbering into the double digits?

My verdict is—with all possible love and respect—nah. The Saw saga is the telenovela of modern horror franchises, never deigning to flat-out “reboot” or “re-quel” its original canon in the manner of more prestigious properties such as Halloween or The Exorcist. The continuity is so heavily burdened with flashbacks and expositional bad-guy monologues, it feels impossible to imagine new audiences remembering who the fuck Zep Hindle or Jill Tuck are without a ‘last time on Saw’ intro montage.

In another fave franchise trick that’s reminiscent of televised soap operas, the series’ greatest arch-villain is constantly resurrected, despite carking it way back in Saw III. In fact, Bell’s twisted engineer Jigsaw gets given more screentime and personality than ever in Saw X, emerging as basically a misunderstood anti-hero.

The dude has held a grudge against the universe—and any money-grubbing medical scammers—for his terminal cancer diagnosis since the Bush administration at this point. In this latest Saw midquel, taking place between that OG film and the first sequel, a team of false ‘miracle workers’ get hacked up for daring to get Kramer’s hopes up. ‘Vigilante’ is a good look on this guy.

Back in Saw VI, too, Kramer’s apprentice Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) focused his wrath on corrupt medical insurance execs. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jigsaw and his underlings return to this vein of righteous, blood-soaked vengeance: it’s a neat way to marry John Kramer’s petty personal gripes with a broader, societal anger at systemic evil and dysfunction.

The cheaply-made Saw movies have always punched way above their weight in terms of box office and fan acclaim, while consistently revolting critics. That’s why X feels like such a promising injection of fresh blood, raking in more money than the last two Saw sequels and earning the franchise its highest-ever ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Yay!! But will success—and a little newfound sentiment, positing Jigsaw as a relatively heroic, good-hearted old guy—spoil the series?

My pitch is that the franchise must stick close to its confounding, canon-worshipping roots: slavishly returning us to that OG crime scene of Saw 1’s grimy bathroom as much as possible, and constantly revealing new characters to be apprentices, hiding in implausible plain sight. If Cary Elwes’ Doctor Lawrence Gordon can be retroactively revealed as a longtime helper to Jigsaw, why can’t any of our other slain/disappeared fan faves spring back from the dead, too?!

Come to think of it, we haven’t seen Detective Hoffman die in a definitive way, either. Surely, this Hoffmaniac says with fingers crossed, he’s gotta get a final brilliant send-off in Saw 11, 12, or lucky number 13. Hell, the series’ mad screenwriters can probably find some way to even work in the disappointing, mostly-disconnected events of Chris Rock’s spin-off Spiral, too.

That brain-melting obsession with continuity is reaching levels of self-parody at this point, so why not take it to the extreme? I’d love to see a sci-fi Saw sequel set decades into the future, where new apprentices of the long-dead Kramer are still signing on to slice up unfortunate sinners via teleportation mishap, or smashing ’em to death in self-driving cars or somethin. Picture Billy the Puppet behind the wheel of a Mad Max-esque apocalyptic tricycle.

One final note, in case Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures are listening: I wanna see a Saw sequel where the victims are all horny S&M fetishists. It’d be amazing to watch Jigsaw or one of his apprentices get increasingly furious as each trap is quickly—and enthusiastically—survived, with participants having a grand old time as they impale, slice, and smoosh themselves.

Make the next movie in this unkillable franchise a fucked-up romcom between Jigsaw fanboys, and I’ll be there with barbed-wire bells on. As if I’d miss even the most generic-looking sequel, anyways…now play that iconic third-act twist theme music!