Nothing to write home about, but a fairly-decent entry into the seemingly-endless Saw franchise.
When James Wan’s original Saw film came out in 2004, it proved to be a massive success. Sure, there was no finesse to its gruesome scenes of a man sawing off his own leg, or a woman gutting a man to retrieve a key, but there was at least a sense of style and originality to the proceedings. Few are going to name it as their favourite movie (and lets face it, we should be worried if they do) but it was serviceable. It worked.
But then came the sequels. Six of them, in fact. And with each one, the franchise grew further and further away from Wan’s original vision, becoming more and more convoluted and showy with their presentation of the series’ signature death traps and hammy acting. When Saw 3D was announced to be the final chapter in the series, there were likely very few that truly believed that one day Billy the Puppet would return to our screens for more. And, as it turns out, we weren’t waiting long. Seven years after Saw 3D, here’s Jigsaw. But which film does it resemble more? The cheesy, overblown gore-fest of the ‘Final Chapter’, or the tense, frightening 2004 original?
Truthfully, it’s somewhere in-between, for better or worse. The amateurish, seizure-inducing editing is gone, replaced by the more atmospheric and immersive touch of the Spierig Brothers, directors of Ethan Hawke vehicle Predestination. As a result, the whole thing has a cleaner look to it, and replaces the straight-to-video grindhouse aesthetic of the last few entries with a more conventional horror vibe, which is refreshing. That said, there’s still plenty of gore on show here, but for the most part it’s more restrained. In one scene, one of the victims (played by Mandela Van Peebles) is drawn into a giant blender-like contraption and is promptly spiralized, but we don’t see the results until a bit later, and only very briefly. This is a far more effective way of conveying the brutality the series is well-known for while still maintaining the stylings of the horror genre. Since the traps are arguably the star of the whole series, it was a nice touch to see some of the old favourites brought back in a scene, and most of the new traps are intriguing enough, if a little undercooked.
The human cast are, once again, pretty interchangeable. Laura Vandervoort plays level-headed and secretive Anna, and she’s arguably the most interesting of the four main ‘victims’, who are otherwise given very little characterisation. Paul Braunstein’s Ryan in particular is very thinly-sketched, with only one brief scene in the entire film shedding any light on why he was chosen for Jigsaw’s game. Outside the walls of Jigsaw’s cosy torture barn, the attention is focused on a group of detectives, but their story is easily the weakest part of the whole thing. The ending springs two massive plot twists upon the audience, and for the most part it works very well, making you reassess the chronology of the series once again, but the reveal of the ‘true’ killer was limp, and their motivations were given in a bumbling expository rush to the extent that the friend who accompanied me to the screening had no idea what had happened. Evidently, the series has no intention in moving away from its shock reveal factor, which is a shame, because personally I think the film would’ve worked better with the single twist.
All being said, Jigsaw is nothing remarkable, but it does at least breathe some new life into the franchise. With an inevitable sequel instalment (Jigsaw 2? Jigsaws?!) always on the horizon, its difficult to assess any of the Saw films on their own merit, but with some decent cinematography and acting, this is probably the best film since the original.
Jigsaw (2017), directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, is distributed in the UK by Lionsgate, certificate 18.