To say that the Saw franchise was a big success would be something of an understatement. Seven out of the last ten years have seen a new Saw movie get a release, which is a danged impressive feat when you factor in that the original was a pretty low budget affair that was mostly shot in one dirty room, came from a relatively unknown director, and really only featured admittedly awesome but past their sell-by date actors like Carey Elwes, Danny Glover, and Dina Meyer as its stars.
By the time Saw VI rolled around, six years of Saw movies in a row was starting to feel like a little bit too many puzzle games and mutilations though, and the box office returns faded slightly as a result. What’s the overseer of a huge horror movie franchise to do once interest in their particular brand of mayhem begins to fade? The textbook play is to drum up hype for your next sequel by claiming that it’s going to be the final film, so that’s what Lionsgate did when they marketed the seventh and “final” Saw film as Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. And a new report that there is currently a Saw VIII in development points to the fact that they’re also adhering to the second phase of that textbook play: going back on your promise and finding a way to tack even more sequels on anyway.
First off, what was the deal with producers calling Saw 3D the final Saw movie, right as it seemed like the franchise was becoming an inevitable annual tradition? Back during development of the film writer Patrick Melton shed some light on the subject while talking to Demon FM [via Shock Till You Drop]. He explained, “I have a very strong feeling its going to end with Saw VII. That’s something we’re debating now. You saw in previous interviews or discussions where we thought Saw VIII would be the last one where we had the first trilogy and the second trilogy and then sort of a grand finale wrapped up in two films. But frankly because Saw VI hasn’t performed as well as we anticipated, the idea is well why make two movies when we can make one really excellent movie that wraps up as best we can? And it’s going to be in 3-D which sort of adds to the spectacle. So if you had to ask me, I don’t own the franchise, nor do I run the studio, but I have a feeling, a strong feeling that it’s going to be Saw VII which will be also known as Endgame. And nothing’s official yet, but that’s where we’re hoping things will go.”
Well that’s where things did go, with the purported planned ending of Saw VIII getting incorporated into the ending of what eventually became known as Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, thus wrapping up the series. What’s important to note though is that even if those in charge of the franchise really did have intentions of making Saw 3D the last one, horror fans could still see a Saw VIII coming a mile away. You see, what happens is, more people come out to see the “final” movie in order to see how the series wraps up, box office receipts tick up because of the added interest, and then the bean counters in charge think, “heck, there’s some life left in this series yet, why don’t we make another one?”
So, in keeping with tradition, Bloody Disgusting is now reporting that a post “Final Chapter” Saw VIII is indeed in development over at Lionsgate. Apparently this is all early stage stuff and no concrete decisions have been made as to what direction a new sequel will go in, but due to the end of Saw 3D it’s pretty clear that most fans would like to see new stories play out with Elwes’ Dr. Lawrence character going forward as the new master of ceremonies. Should such a movie eventually get made (and as cheap as these things are to make, why wouldn’t it?), that would add Saw 3D: The Final Chapter to the pantheon of horror movies that put the word “final” in their title and then ended up being big fat liars. For fun, let’s take a look at the others that it joins.
WARNING: this section contains *spoilers* for really old movies you’ve probably already seen.
Perhaps the most successful Final horror movie of all time was the one given to us by the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Using the conceit that the final girl of the film was actually Freddy Krueger’s daughter, as well as the same 3D gimmick that Saw used as a fake franchise capper, the protagonists of this story were finally able to pull the razor-fingered night terrorizer out of the dream world and into ours, where he was promptly killed once and for all, putting an end to his reign of terror over the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio.
Freddy’s Dead isn’t successful so much because it was a good movie—it wasn’t—but it was successful because it set the stage for the followup, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which broke down the fourth wall between the movies and our world and was definitely the strongest Nightmare sequel barring maybe the third film, Dream Warriors.
The Puppet Master franchise is an absolute mess of a series to follow, because not only is there about a million of them, but several of them were prequels of other films, which makes the chronology of the mythology a real challenge to keep straight. One would have to be a real Puppet Master aficionado to have it all down. What’s definitely clear though is that Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter isn’t the end of the series whether you go by the films released or the chronology of the story told.
Despite the fact that the series mostly dealt with the concept of eternal life and transferring souls into the bodies of killer puppets, The Final Chapter led us to believe that the creator of the nasty little things had returned to damage them all irreparably and finally put an end to all of the marionette madness, so of course they just showed back up being sold at an auction four years later in Curse of the Puppet Master, proving once again that you can’t keep a good puppet down. Especially when they don’t have strings to begin with.
Perhaps because the original was adapted from the work of a respected horror author, it didn’t take the Children of the Corn movies very long to claim that they were bringing us their last installment. It was only the second film, Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, that used the almost laughable “final” word in the title and tried to put the series to bed. Adapt one well-regarded Stephen King short, pile up some extra money with an exploitive sequel, and then get out before you end up looking too tacky—that’s respectable, right?
Not when six more shoddy sequels, most of them released straight to video, were released after. Even though The Final Sacrifice ended by leaving the corn fields and thus the corn demons behind, it was only two years later that a couple of demon worshipping little hillbillies moved to Chicago and started causing murdery problems in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.
Without a doubt, the Friday the 13th series is the absolute king of fake franchise cappers, because it has included two over the course of its out of control growth. The first came in 1984 with the release of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Even though killer Jason Voorhees had been put through the wringer in two films before this (or three if you count his drowning in the first) and still managed to keep going, The Final Chapter ended by killing him so definitively that it involved a young Corey Feldman shaving his own head bald and then chopping him up with a machete. There’s no coming back from that, right?
Well, it didn’t stop a Jason copycat from killing people just the next year in Friday the 13th: The New Beginning, and it didn’t stop him from being resurrected due to an errant lightning bolt one year after that in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. If a horror monster’s movies sell enough tickets, it would appear that they can survive just about anything.
But what Friday the 13th’s success has also taught us is that if a rejuvenated series goes on long enough, the process will eventually repeat itself. That’s what happened when Jason was once again put down in 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Perhaps not wanting to be outdone by the “final” Nightmare on Elm Street movie that came out a couple of years earlier, Jason Goes to Hell invented all sorts of myth-building weirdness around a mystical dagger and even included an ending stinger where Freddy’s iconic gloved hand pulled Jason’s iconic hockey mask down into hell in order to convince us that this was finally going to be the last time that Jason got killed.
But while this fake franchise end lasted longer than any of the others we’ve looked at, it didn’t stop Jason from eventually being regenerated for the ridiculous 2001 space odyssey Jason X, and it didn’t stop Freddy and Jason both being resurrected yet again two years after that for their much anticipated crossover movie Freddy vs. Jason. The new Freddy and Jason from the remake franchises definitely have a lot to live up to.
Certainly I’m nowhere near being a horror movie expert, so are there any other fake final installment fibbers that I missed? And, perhaps more importantly, how long do you think it will be until the current king of the horror-themed franchises, Paranormal Activity, decides that it needs a boost at the box office and tries to hit us with Paranormal Activity: The Final Haunting?