I’m a damn big fan of the Saw series. The twisty, impossible-to-follow narrative, the performances that belong in a Syfy Original Movie, and most of all, Jigsaw’s complicated, overkill death traps (I wrote a 7,000-word article to prove my love of those). Even though this one comes a whole 7 years after what was supposed to be ‘The Final Chapter’, it feels exactly like it should have come out the year after Saw VII. Now that’s just fine for the diehards, but there was plenty of time to think of something more substantial. I had a lot of fun watching Jigsaw, but it is far from the return to glory I was hoping for.
It’s been a decade since the death of John Kramer aka Jigsaw and 7 years since the Jigsaw games have stopped, but they’re back. Five strangers wake up with buckets on their heads and chains on their necks, pulling them towards a door of spinning saw blades. Their game has begun. As they progress through a barn full of increasingly deadly traps, they learn more about each other and they start to confront their dark pasts to discover why they have been chosen. Whenever one dies, their body is found outside by Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie), each with taunting clues including tapes in Jigsaw’s voice. Has a copycat sprung up again? Or is the one and only Jigsaw really back?
I won’t spoil that answer, but I will say that the twists are handled excellently. I was able to predict most of them, as I’m sure most will (the film asks you to buy a hell of a lot and falls apart with even the smallest amount of prodding), but there is one turn in particular that I thought very cleverly gave fans something that they’d been waiting a long time to see. The movie also goes to some admirable lengths to shed some light on some of the previous movie’s small unexplained details; the pig mask origin is particularly interesting. This is all done while creating a clean break, with no references to most characters or plotlines from previous movies.
As much as I’m attached to characters like Amanda and the huge amount of law enforcement who all failed to stop Jigsaw’s reign of terror, I’m happy to see them left in the past. They’ve only been replaced by more detectives and morticians, though, so it’s not exactly a drastic departure, but the characters are interesting in their own right. That’s mostly because you could easily see any of them being the one who ends up being the mastermind. Detective Halloran’s a dirty cop who could be behind it all, but could also be being framed by the clean Detective Keith Hunt (Clé Bennett). Mortician Eleanor Bonneville (Hannah Emily Anderson) is obsessed with Jigsaw’s past exploits, going so far as to build her own replica traps that could more than just curiosity. Her coworker Logan (Matt Passmore) has been through war and could be genuinely psychotic. The man himself, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), could be back, because why the hell not?
I felt that Jigsaw’s traps were growing increasingly stale by the end of the original series’ run, and they unfortunately haven’t gotten any better during the long hiatus. The usual suspects of spinning buzz saws and limb manipulations are back, but worse is that so is the impossible foresight and luck that would have had to gone into setting up these death traps. One player decides to disobey the rules and this sets in motion two different games involving each character still alive at that point. You can only suspend disbelief so much.
It was worth it for me to finally catch an entry of my favorite horror series in a theatre, and I had a good time watching it, but rather than thinking about what I saw I’m only left imagining what could have been. If it took a few more risks or had actually gone with the fun tone that the marketing implied, it would’ve something more than what we got. Jigsaw does manage to tell a good standalone story that sets up what could be a compelling future for the franchise, if it is to continue. I’ll happily show up if it does, but I hope for a more substantial change to the formula.
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