By Jack Dignan
Horror franchises don’t die. The hundreds upon hundreds of characters in them may die, but the franchises live on. Even The Exorcist is still going strong, recently releasing a TV show to lukewarm reception. With Saw, the infamous torture porn saga, things were looking to wrap up back in 2010 with Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. But, following the trends laid out by Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and heck, even Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (there’s a new one coming out in a few years), we now have Jigsaw, and it looks as though this franchise is never going to be put to rest.
Despite being the horror fan that I am, the Saw movies have never been too far up my alley. The first two films are flawed fun, but not films I’ve ever come back to, and all subsequent sequels have made me want to put myself into one of John Kramer’s deadly traps. My memory of them has been culminated into one prolonged, indistinguishable film that I really don’t give a shit about. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the 6th or 7th, but quite frankly, I don’t want to. Still, when it came to Jigsaw, I was hesitantly curious, but it’s now safe to say that this is most definitely a Saw film through and through, for better and worse.
By now, you probably know what the Saw films are all about. Even little five year old me, who wouldn’t dare have gone and seen the original film, knew what it was all about. A group of strangers all find themselves trapped inside a warehouse, forced to play games through deadly traps in order to survive, while being confronted with the sins of their past. The games are vicious, inventive and sure to lead to a few severed heads, if not worse. This time, we focus on four survivors; Anna (Laura Vandervoort), Ryan (Paul Braunstein), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles) and Carly (Brittany Allen), all of whom are victims of Jigsaw’s deadly game.
Except, the real mystery here isn’t why these characters have been thrown into such a dire situation, but who’s really behind the killings. As the bodies start piling up and appearing throughout the city, Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and medic/war veteran Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) begin an investigation, but all signs seem to be pointing towards John Kramer (Tobin Bell), who’s been dead for over a decade. What follows is your typical Saw shenanigans, featuring excessive gore, a convoluted plot, a final twist and characters you don’t care about screaming for mercy towards an unknown attacker.
Jigsaw’s main selling point for me was with its two German-born Australian directors, Peter and Michael Spierig. Their older films are hit and miss, but 2014’s Predestination was one of the year’s best. So, their attachment to Jigsaw was sure to raise a few eyebrows. They’re easily the best part of this otherwise mediocre movie. They bring to the table style and elegance not seen in this franchise before, even if they loose the grittiness of the first film, but then again, that grittiness was lost a long, long time ago, so the fact that Jigsaw actually manages to be a competent film is something to admire. An attempt is made at giving this film an actual plot. While it doesn’t work, they do try.
Keeping up Saw movie tradition, all performances here range from subpar to downright terrible, especially when some of the more dramatic plot elements kick into gear. Sure, these actors are good at screaming. However, when it comes down to utilizing the drama, it all falls flat, especially when the detectives are put on the case. The plot flashes between Jigsaw’s game and the exterior investigation, but there’s a significant difference in quality. A lot of aspects of the game are fun to watch unfold, fuelled with grizzly violence and inventive traps that the characters seemed to easily overcome, but the investigation is a poorly written bore used only to fill up the runtime.
Gore is aplenty, but it doesn’t always come in ways you’d expect. Let’s be real, people only go to these movies for the viciousness of the traps. You don’t watch a Saw movie for its plot. With Jigsaw, your gore needs will be satisfied, but they often derive from the aftermath of the incidents, where the bodies are being investigated, as opposed to their actual deaths, where the Spierig brothers insist on cutting away. Still, it’s often quite fun, but certainly not for the faint of heart, all before building up to a final twist that’s as stupid as it is predictable. I didn’t see all of it coming, but you get the general gist of it about halfway through.
I honestly thought this was going to be the Saw movie to put Saw movies back on the map. It looked like the soft reboot/continuation that would’ve elevated this franchise back out of the dust and allowed me to see what I hadn’t seen before. Alas, it’s merely another Saw movie, so take that as you will. Jigsaw isn’t good, but it’s far from the worst Saw film. Then again, that is a difficult task to achieve.
2 1/2 Stars
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